Thursday, March 12, 2009
Have Your Child Tested
With a Private School Entrance Exam
A smart thing for parents of children in public schools to do once a year is to visit a competing private school. Just do a little comparison shopping! Look at the schoolwork at your child's grade level, the art work on the walls, the conduct of the teachers and students . . . just get an idea of how your child's public school experience might be stacking up.
But here's an even smarter idea: have your child assessed by the local private school!
Private school entrance exams are being given this time of year. They're usually free, though you probably should pre-register in advance. The entrance exam for Grades 1-6 at Brownell Talbot is at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 21, for example. Parochial schools all are offering pre-admission assessments at about this time of year.
If your child does great, that tells you something. But if your child bombs. . . .
An even smarter, bigger idea would be to offer free assessments city-wide. That would give parents a true idea of where their child stands, and where there might be major gaps in the child's skills, understanding and progress that aren’t reflected under our current overstandardized system.
Since math curricula are ''aligned,'' or closely tailored, to the assessments that the kids are given in our public schools, all the scores tell us is that the student mastered that particular curriculum. But if that particular curriculum is dumbed-down, then the score is basically meaningless. A student who gets an 80% on a really challenging test may actually be doing significantly better than a student who gets a 100% on an easy one.
And that's what’s happening, bigtime. The math stats from standardized tests are really not that reflective of the students' real math knowledge and skills.
Wish we had someone on the ball in this arena the way they do in Spokane, Wash. My friend, education activist Laurie Rogers, and Debbie Knutson, who runs a tutoring business, are offering free math assessments for students in Grades 2-12 on March 21 in Spokane. Each test will take 30-45 minutes.
The assessment will be ''aligned'' with traditional math standards at the various grade levels and rigorous international math standards. These assessments will NOT be dumbed down. But the organizers are predicting that test results may expose the weaknesses of the math curriculum in the public schools, if a lot of kids do poorly who, in contrast, get A's at school.
The March timing is intended to give parents a head's up on how far behind their child may be and in what areas. That way, they can arrange for summertime tutoring – preferably outside of the school system, since its curricular choices are what have most likely hampered the child's progress.
All of this dumbing down is another indication that too many administrators are more interested in looking good than in doing well. Even President Obama, a hard left wing politician who enjoys teacher union support has recently decried states that dumb down standards. (Obama also expressed support for more charter schools and for more aggressively closing down dysfunctional schools.)
President Obama is inching toward some sense on educational issues. He's for more charter schools, higher standards, closing down worthless schools. As yet, he hasn't come out for the big cure, vouchers.I suspect he doesn't feel confident enough to alienate the substantial support he has from teachers unions. He has let slip, in the past, however, that vouchers might be worth looking into and may have merit.I think if he could find the political will to break with the teachers unions, he would be for vouchers too.
"The math stats from standardized tests are really not that reflective of the students' real math knowledge and skills."
When I was in school, we took standardized tests once a year. They were, perhaps, a healthy way for my teachers to get an outside opinion and statistical analysis of our performance compared to all of the other takers of that test across the country. The tests had nothing to do with the day-to-day curriculum of the schools that I attended. They had nothing to do with the funding that the school would or would not receive. The results of the test had nothing to do with whether or not I would pass on to the third grade. My day to day performance and good grades insured that I would not be held back (not left behind).
I'm writing to express the opinion that, just as overwhelming government regulation of industry stifles the free market, so too does overwhelming regulation of the educational system stifle the creativity of our children, the ability of our teachers to teach and the future of our country which seems bent on our raising a generation of the barely competent. I feel that the problem is not the "dumbing down" of any given test but the idea that standardized tests given to children of an incredible variety of cultural, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can even be considered as THE guideline for the education of any child.
Ardan, I'm with you. I wish we could get rid of the Goals 2000 / Outcome-Based Education / No Child Left Behind debacle, and return the power to the parents and the teachers. But how? The Big Government types and the union types don't seem to want to listen. Grassroots parents and taxpayers have no clout with the politicians. State senators and local school board members are so brainwashed, they equate more spending with more quality, even though the methods that will HELP kids the most are the simple, inexpensive ones that don't create more revenue stream for the schools, so they and their political partners won't change. The GOP talked about getting rid of the U.S. Department of Education, but didn't, and the Democrats seem to be all for stripping away what's left of local control, and letting the educrats run our K-12 schools into the ground from Washington, D.C. So honestly: what are we to do?Post a Comment