Sunday, July 23, 2006

Make Your Mark Heavy and Dark. Or Fail. Your Call.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in testing: to a point.

I do not believe that a student who can't pass a simple test of basic skills should be graduated from high school. I do not believe that a student who can't pass a simple test of basic skills should be promoted at all, in fact.

There are certain basic skills that all people simply must have in order to care for themselves, and for others, in this life. Those who allow themselves to become adults, yet do not have these basic skills, are potentially. . . societal leeches. It is just simply a disgrace to become an adult and not have the ability to support oneself. Perhaps my point of view differs only in the direction of the Pointing Finger of Blame.

I blame the student, with a hefty amount of blame for the family, as well. A little blame for the teacher, and a big pointy middle finger at administration. But mostly? I blame the student.

Yes, we have some pretty lousy schools. Some of them are lousy because they hired lousy teachers. However, I believe that many of our "lousy" schools are bad because of the political pressure of certain families who WILL NOT ALLOW their kids to be challenged, punished, or in any way whatsoever held responsible for their own actions, and by a society that insists that it is not a kid's fault if he/she behaves badly: it's SOCIETY'S fault, poor kids, poor poor kids, and they crush, kill, destroy, disrupt, vandalize, talk back, threaten, bully, sleep, sell drugs, take drugs, rape, harass, street-talk, mug, skip, and otherwise renege on the unwritten school/society/student contract because of somebody else, not themselves. The poor things can't help it. It's not their fault. They're victims of the system. It is this lack of backup from families, and administrators who are unwilling to buck the political system of a community and crack down HARD on offenders, that are our worst problem.

Parents are busy. They're working. Daycare is eating up their money and they NEED the school to keep their kids. I've been there; I know.

But hey. Our schools are already feeding the kids breakfast, lunch, and supper, and staying open till after dark to accommodate working parents. We are expected to not only teach the kids how to read, but also how to treat others, feel good about themselves, behave, and many other things that the family is supposed to do but many times doesn't, nowadays.

But the school is held accountable for these things the family is supposed to do. When did that happen? I find that reprehensible.

In the 'smart class' (you will find no PC here; it cheapens us all) you will find a group of kids who all have a background of poems, songs, nursery rhymes, and 'experiences.' In the slow class, you will find a group of kids who all have no background in anything at all, for the most part.

I used to give assessment tests at the start of each year. It would blow your mind to bits if you all realized how little some families do for their children, before sending them to school, beyond setting them in front of the tv and walking away.

Our Pre-K's can tell you all about the latest Jerry Springer guest, but they don't know what happened to Humpty Dumpty. They can tell you all about Fitty Cent but they don't know how to say 'please' or 'thank you.' They see something and they grab for it.

They're sitting beside your child in school, and they're stealing erasers, paper, pencils, and money from the teacher's purse. Some of them don't even know they're being bad.

This same mentality is found in the upper grades, as well. Anything they see that they want, is just grabbed. When the hormones kick in, this becomes an even worse problem.

And if the parent is called, the teacher is either cussed out for waking him/her up, or we are given a tirade about how "that 's the school's problem, I sent him to school to be taught, I cain't do nothing with him, and don't call me again, dammit."

Some brats are so far gone that even the knowledge that one more call to mom's place of employment will result in her being fired doesn't faze them. They're entrenched in selfishness to the point that instant gratification in all aspects of life is their daily expectation. They're entitled to whatever they want.

These behaviors cross all ethnic lines; no one group can be singled out. Some of the very worst are rich white offspring of professionals. (I guess I just singled out a group, huh. Bite me.)

Getting back to the tests. . . . .

Why can't we just go back to the amazing, off-the-wall concept of LEARNING ? That's right, a child comes to school, behaves properly, and is exposed to all kinds of awesome concepts and facts and projects and and miracles and outer space and underground and inside a book and imagination and experiments and research and how to care for himself/herself and others so that when the student becomes an adult, he/she will be able to support and care for himself/herself and others, and use any leisure time to cultivate himself/herself culturally and to volunteer to help others?? And the big standardized test at the end of each year would simply cover those things that every person of 'that age' or 'that level' simply MUST KNOW in order to be a contributing member of society. No pass, no promote.

And music. Oh, the music the schools used to expose us to, and art. I still remember the smell of that pile of clay we all kept in our desks.

I learned dozens of major classical music pieces, in lower elementary school. They were disguised as simple, catchy songs.

But there is no time for the arts any more, or even recess in many schools. Every minute must be devoted to preparing for those tests, and that is wrong.

We are doing our students no favors by passing them along because of their age or their size or their parents' standing in the community. We are doing them no favors by tailoring their curriculum to a test that doesn't measure their ability to comprehend that they are in school to learn the things that will help them be the kind of adults that contribute to the world, not take from it.

I believe in testing. I just don't believe a test is the purpose of education.

In real life, 'test' isn't the final blow. In real life, "this is only a test" means that we shouldn't worry. We give a test so people will be able to understand and use the concepts in real life. It's what happens AFTER the test that is important. Those students who pass the test, are ready to move on to the next level, where they might use those skills and apply them to new things. Those who do not yet have the skills, should stay where they are until they have them. What good is it to move them ahead when they do not yet have the skills, ie tools, to comprehend the next level?

Some people are still playing junior varsity their senior year. So what? They weren't ready to move up. Do people make a big deal out of that? (besides irate parents who know their kid is a superstar in disguise, that is.)

Don't move 'em up till they demonstrate that they are ready to move up. That takes work. Some kids don't know how to work. Keep them back until they learn. We've already got enough adults who don't know how to work; we don't need any more.

ISTEP is only a test. It's a piece of paper.

Education isn't about a standardized test. The test just measures how seriously a student takes that education. It measures who paid attention. It measures who CARES.

Those things are important. The test isn't the goal. The test is only a test. Don't panic; it's only a test. If it had been a real situation, you would be at work, facing a problem that only a person who got number seventeen right on the test would know how to fix.

Sit up straight. Pay attention. If your kid's teacher calls you, tell her to throw the book at your kid, and do it again when he comes home. Don't allow any misbehavior at school. Annie Sullivan had to put her hands on Helen Keller to get her to calm down and behave; if that is what it takes for your kid, then do it. Some people require a little physical pressure; some don't.

Above all, we must not continue to shy away from our responsibilities as parents. We must not send our kids to school, or anywhere else in public, and not require excellent behavior. We must back up our teachers in the area of discipline; if that means you have to drive thirty-six miles after work to pick up your teen because he got 'afterschool' for talking back, then so be it. If you are angry at the school because of that, you've got a big, big problem, daddy or mommy, and with that attitude, it's only going to get worse.

Educated people are as much superior to uneducated people, as the living are to the dead. ---Aristotle.

I know I say that all the time, but it's absolutely true.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:43 PM | |


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