my thoughts on standardized testing…

August 9, 2013 — 2 Comments

In between the intoxicating scent of sharpened pencils and the thrill of school supplies I also opened the letter from the school board.

I have been doing this every year since my oldest was in third grade. I should have learned my lesson, I should know by now, but fool that I am I always open it in the car, alone without any friends or confidants.

Truth be told I am deeply disappointed.

My daughter has struggled with school from the time she entered into the system.

This child gets up every morning, brushes her teeth and eats her breakfast. She goes to school and sits in class. She pays attention while the teacher moves through information at lightening speed. We cover lots of ground in our schools but we seem to be terrified of depth.

She takes notes as best as she can and she studies as much as she can. We have tutors, and help from teachers. We study, most of the time in peace and sometimes we slam doors. We sometimes cry into our pillows because the deadlines for reports are glooming.
In other words, we do what most parents and children do. We move though the ebb and flow of it. Tripping and falling, and by grace getting up – to try and try again.

She is the hardest working child I know, while she gets frustrated she has not given up. She keeps persevering.
She learned the word in 1st grade, by some miracle, when she was given the “Perseverance Award” for working her a** off. Since then she says:

“I am going to try my best and persevere”

Bless her heart. It breaks my heart. Here is why.

It seems to me that we are stuck in this system, on this master wheel. Teachers who love to teach are forced to teach to the test. Children who cannot keep up will fall under the wheels and eventually get ground up by the viciousness of this system. Nobody cares about how children learn, well they may care but they most certainly cannot do anything about it.
We have an entire generation of children who are taught to test well. In California we call it STAR testing. Really clever acronym, the irony is painful. There are no stars here.

I know children who score brilliantly on the standardized test but are completely under-challenged in the area of their talents, for an entire school year they are like little jackrabbits hopping across the vast prairie while never digging in to find the treasures through learning. They are bored and are flailing.
Kids perhaps never reaching their full potential or exercising their creativity, because just like the child who is struggling, this system is not for them.

I am wondering who it is for? Whom is this serving?
Look, I am all for tests. I went to school in a system where we endured regular, systematic testing. Designed to measure our success and to give the teacher a realistic picture of what his/her students are learning.

I am not comparing school systems and I am not saying that I have a solution. But I am confident that this is not good. And, I know that the goodness lies in the creative approach of those who work in this field of pedagogy —> teachers, professors with the help of parents.
Not ever, not once, not even a little bit does the solution lie in politics or with lobbyist.

This standardized test comes back at the end of summer, at the onset of the next school year. What exactly is being accomplished with this?
Is anybody going to go back to re-teach the material that obviously was missed?
No, because this isn’t about children. It is about money. It is not about the future. It is about the win, it is about this moment, right now.

The most short sighted vision, the most dangerous focus is the one directed solely onto this moment.

We may live in a world where the mantra “NOW is all you have” is our anthem but in raising children this may be the most misunderstood way of life.

Have we lost our dreams, have we lost our way? Indeed, now – as in this moment is all we really have, but every “NOW”, every moment connects to the next moment. We call that — our future.

NOW is all we have….

… to teach

… to challenge

… to redirect

… to inspire

… to instill values

… to probe

… to educate

… to love

… to discipline

… to show

… to develop

… to create

… to …..

so that we have a future in our children.

This standardized test tells me that this system is not interested in education, in the process of giving and receiving systemized instruction. It is not interested in the future, it is only interested in the NOW. The ‘now’ that is associated with the immediate payoff and accolades. Are we entirely blinded to the injustice that we perpetuate with this standardized method?

I am not informed enough to give you statistics about the scores of inner city schools.
Nor will I get deeply into how parents with children who have special learning needs fight to get their children the help that is needed for them to learn. They fight against the system, the dragon that calculates the costs for a child’s education and tells the mother that “We believe your child has reached her potential” — in third grade????

This system is nothing more than a mannequin dressed in a cheap suit, wearing cheap cologne.

Have we lost our sense? Do we forget so easily what we are called to do here?
What gift have we been given in our children? What legacy are we living for and with them?

The responsibility that comes with the gift to love and raise children is far greater than the standardization of a system.
Standards will never raise us up, they are more like a target to aim at.

We are raised up by something far less tangible and entirely more spiritual.

We are raised up by the purpose given to all of humanity. A common thread that holds us all together. Call me romantic, but I believe and feel in my heart that I am connected to you.

We are called to be for one another.
To recognize the good in humanity and inspire one another to move forward, into freedom, into progress, into equality, into salvation, free from the bondage of safety found in standardization. We must empower our children.

I refuse to be cheap. I refuse to accept and perpetuate the banal approach to life.

May we all find the strength to raise our hand and raise our voice for our children.

This is not about making anyone wrong, especially not teachers. It is about standing in solidarity with our children and the hope that they hold.

grace and peace to all.

2 responses to my thoughts on standardized testing…


    That is painful. I used to work as a speech pathologist in public schools, and it hurt to see how the tests short change everyone.

    My oldest is starting kindergarten at a small co-op which has grown enough to hire teachers and one admin and parents do everything else. It’s still a financial stretch for us, but I love the teachers emphasis on play and art and music and outdoors. That’s where I want my kids.


      I really appreciate the options that parents are creating for their children. Hope you and your little one get to have the best experience in Kindergarten, it’s a fun year.

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