Teaching for the Tests

Last night I was having dinner with my sister when she got a text from a friend saying her 9 year old son, who is in third grade, was not doing well in school.

His mother proceeded to explain to my sister that though he was held back from kindergarten and she works with him diligently, he simply doesn’t grasp the content in his class.

This should be an easy fix. The teacher should work with him one-on-one or suggest a tutor or exercises for him and his parents to do together. But that’s not what happened.

Instead, this third grader will not be receiving help from a school tutor because he doesn’t meet the “requirements.” And, rather than the teacher giving specific instructions for his mom and dad to help him, the school has another plan:

Dumb down the material so he passes the class.

Instead of 30 math problems for homework, he will only have to do 15. Instead of 25 spelling words, he will only have to know 10.

I wish someone would explain to me how this is helping this 9 year old.

Will 50 math problems and 10 spelling words help him in the long run or are they giving him a limited number of problems so he can get those remember how to do them and then do better during testing so the school looks better? 

Situations like this often make me wish I had gone into education so that I could teach these children, not so they will succeed at testing but in everything they do in life. I don’t want this little boy to grow up and, when he encounters something he can’t do well, expect people to lessen the work required. When I struggled with something as a kid my parents and teachers (who, consequently, were the same people) made me do more of it so I learned more. Repetition was key at my school/house.

I am so thankful for teachers (some I know personally) who aren’t brainwashed by the school system to believe that testing is the end goal. No, last time I checked, the success of your students didn’t stop at testing but in life.

I hope and pray those teachers, the ones who love their students, who bend over backwards to do everything they can to promote a love of learning, will continue on that road despite the pressure to give into a testing-centered philosophy.

-Sophie

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