172 out of 180 school days have been used for testing this year in Miami-Dade County, Florida. This doesn’t mean that each individual student tests 172 times, but that for each of those days a test is scheduled to take place. At my school in particular, we have tests that occur at intervals to ensure our students are on the right track, let’s call those tests BM’s. Students have about 3 BM’s a year in each Reading and Mathematics. Moreover, those who have not done so well on tests are placed in intensive classes, and in Intensive Reading those students are required to take an additional Reading test anywhere between 2-4 times a year. Let’s say a student, we’ll call her Sally, has been identified as a weak reader. Sally will take 5 Reading tests a year to prepare her for a final, state-mandated standards assessment in April. Just for reading. Sally will also take 3 Math BM’s, and one End of Course Exam each for Math and Science. That’s 8 exams for Sally.
But there’s also the high achieve and their tests. A sophomore, say Samantha, with advanced classes will take the same End of Course Exams, same BM’S and same state-mandated Standards Assessment as Sally minus the reading test given to those in Intensive classes. What Samantha has, instead, are tests for her advanced classes. Take Advanced Placement European History? That’s an exam. So that is also 8 exams for Samantha. (Understand, though, that most students who take advanced courses typically take more than one at a time.)
Reading that seem like a bit much? Imagine what the kids have to suffer through.
Earlier this year I was asked why I would read a novel with a class of students who couldn’t pass our state standardized test. I was shocked that the answer wasn’t obvious. I chose a novel (Mockingjay) because we, this system, have taught our children to hate literature. We have taught them that if they cannot comprehend, within our time restraints, a piece of text we deem appropriate for them, then they cannot read and are falling behind. What a way to push someone away. Then, we proceed to continuously test and label these kids. All I want is for them to fall in love with reading*, to fall into a book and be carried away, to be moved, to join into a conversation with someone who lived decades or even centuries before them. I want them to pursue knowledge to be curious, and to communicate well. This can happen, can only happen, if they learn to appreciate the discipline. What good is a reading test if most kids can’t read? Why do we make it increasingly difficult when we have a hard time getting a large amount of students to pass what is deemed an easier test?
In a year, we: pre-test, analyze data, teach to a test based on said data, give a post-teaching test, analyze second set of data, teach to the data, give them an official test, and then test them again, after all of that…for pure shits and giggles.
When are we going to allow them to explore? Allow them to follow curiosity into the great unknown?**
And if we don’t allow them the time to be curious and to search, then they will lack innovation and ingenuity. And won’t that leave us -all of humanity- stagnate?
And won’t that… I dunno…suck?
*I do appreciate tests and assessments to a certain extent. This is not to say that I am completely against tests of any sort.
**Now, as far as I know about Montessori school, this is applicable to them, One of my favorite people sends her children to Montessori and when I asked Mia, her lovely brilliant 2nd grader, what grade she got on a project she did for Black History Month I was astounded, and giddily happy, when I was informed that they didn’t receive grades. At least not in any conventional – read detrimental- fashion. They allow their students to explore. Imagine that!