Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Hegemony of the Testing Establishment

In nine years (cumulative) of public schooling, we have been, for the most part, highly satisfied. The caveat to this satisfaction is that we have bright, compliant children who love school and their teachers and do well on tests. So satisfying them, and by extension us, is not that difficult. But we have been lucky to have five fabulous principals and only one dud teacher. Sure the girls are occasionally bored or annoyed, but I don't have a problem with that: sometimes life is boring and annoying, and learning to stick your nose in your book and ignore it is an excellent skill (one I've certainly mastered).

I occasionally peep over the fence at the creative, integrated, child-centered curricula at the private schools where people I know teach and send their children, and I worry that I am depriving my kids of the kind of education I believe in, but, you know, they've done lots of cool stuff too: built a doghouse for a Habitat for Humanity House, written long stories about trips to London and New York, planted seeds, taste-tested apples, built beach dioramas and put on a play about tidepools and gone on a field trip to the beach, played Bingo in Latin, surveyed their classmates about who likes ice cream and who doesn't. Fun stuff.

Sometimes, though, I am reminded that I have signed my children up for a dozen years of testing, to little real account, and it makes me crazy. Today was one of those days. E's math homework was absolutely appropriate: which dog has more spots than the dog in the doghouse, continue the pattern, which picture has five crayons. Except that at the top of some of the problems it said "test prep," and the kids had to identify which answer was correct by coloring in the little circle (A, B, C, or D) under the answer. I had to explain to E that this was what she was supposed to do. M's spelling homework included analogies. Analogies? Help you learn to spell how? Oh yeah, they don't, they just teach you to take the SAT, and prove nothing at all about your intelligence except that you can do analogies.

Makes me crazy, I tell you.

1 comment:

Libby said...

I think they took the analogies off the SAT anyway, so they are not only giving them too much test-prep, it's the wrong test prep. (Though, I have to say, I absolutely love analogies myself. They were my favorite part of the test...and I love that Lorrie Moore story, too, that's all about analogies, though I can't remember the title and I'm in too much of a rush to google...)