Telling youngsters that learning for the sake of learning can be the end goal itself without the promise of a high paying job in the unforeseeable future is a hard thing to sell in this age of consumerism. But maybe, just maybe, if education focuses on the, usually, innate curiosity in young people and in having teachers who generate excitement about the subject area(s) they teach, there will be less of an expectation that standardized testing is as a reliable measurement as it is made up to be.
Education may be a big business to some and certainly testing company executives are reaping the benefits of testing, but for most people, especially the students, there is little pay-off. High standards are not achieved as the result of testing, but as the result of setting high expectations despite testing.
There is plenty to be said for the need to expect higher achievement across the board for American education, and it’s no secret that Americans of all ages, not just school age, compare poorly with other nations in just basic knowledge in subject areas such as math, history and geography.
The statistics generated from FCAT scores in Florida have often been used as measures to point out improvements in certain areas or in certain schools, but when the percentages of reading levels go down from 4th and 5th grades, drop again in 6th and again in 7th and 8th, it doesn’t look promising for the futures of these kids or of any of us. No, the lowering percentages are not huge and, Yes, it could be said that reading gets harder as children move forward in school, but it would make more sense to think that if kids are learning to read effectively in the lower grades, their capabilities would improve as they advance.
With the hesitation steps of the Florida Governor to adopt the Common Core Standards it might seem that Florida would advance its education criteria to meet the standards that will be required of most students in America, yet even if he ever makes up his mind to follow the plan, will the new tests really be an improvement for any child in Florida or in the rest of America? As far as I can tell, the only improvement will continue to be to the pockets of those involved in the big business of testing. Testing figures can be skewed and interpreted to show what agrees with whatever agenda is being promoted, but who is speaking for the children? Are teachers, parents, the community, the students themselves speaking up? And is anyone listening?
Some argue that testing is stressful. Sure, so is a lot of stuff. I’m not against tests, a little stress, or pressure, but that pressure needs to come from students who are intent on driving themselves and through teachers who know their students and the capabilities each one has. Successful learning comes out of going beyond what can be asked on a multiple choice test. It requires thinking, making comparisons and connections and striving to gain knowledge to discover a myriad of things whether it be how to make the money a student desires, or how to give back to the community. It requires learning how to be a human who does not expect all the answers to every question to be a check in a box.