Trying to raise my kids the best I can

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Another thought on Standardized Testing

I was thinking about standardized testing again. (I'm not sure why. I guess the wheels in my brain are just always turning). If you recall, I wrote a post about this subject several months ago, in which I made an argument for a much shorter test (the one here in Massachusetts takes weeks to complete). The argument being that there should be a basic standard that all kids should be able to meet. No excuses. Which is really the point of standardized testing. To ensure a minimum standard for all kids. The range of academic achievement could still be measured through optional tests that could be used by communities and parents to judge their schools. But the state mandates would only address the requirement that all students pass the minimum standards.

OK, but on to my new idea.

One of my frustration with the public school paradigm (which, I'll be honest, I completely disagree with. But I guess that goes without saying, since I'm an unschooler) is that there are eight forms of intelligence and public school only measures two of them (but teaches five, if gym, music and art aren't slashed in budget cuts). As the Japanese have discovered, there is more to success than just book-smarts. Individually, our society, and the world, in fact, doesn't succeed because everyone is mediocre at everything. We achieve great success when there is a basic standard for all and then each person achieves greatness in their own personal strengths. Whether that is musical genius or animal husbandry, athletic achievements, or computer software programing. So I was thinking that on top of the basic standards measured in the previous post, there could be another type of measurement for exceptional talent. Where children from all schools could compete in national competitions -ones that already exist- like spelling bees and 4H club livestock competitions, geography bowls, engineering design competitions, etc. And the placement of exceptional student work could be rated and compared. This, of course, would put the poorer schools at a disadvantage- at least at first- because the richer parents are already supplementing their kids education with these extra curricular activities. But perhaps, therein lies the crux of the disadvantage that poor schools are facing. Perhaps THAT is the difference between the successful rich schools and the unsuccessful poor schools. Perhaps, if the underachieving students are given a chance to shine in their own perspective gifts, it will open up a side of them that can be more open to success in all aspects of their life. Of course the poor schools will have difficulty funding these sorts of endeavors. But perhaps that's exactly what we need to shine a light on the glaring problem of inequality of funding. Perhaps the current system is masking the true differences between the school funding. There are certain standards of funding equality that must be met between all public schools. And certainly there are scaled down ways of achieving these goals for the poorer schools. For instance, teams of students often compete in technology competitions. So separating the "gifts" into several teams is still an improvement over none at all. And the children who can pursue on their own, their own special gifts, could be given a rearranged schedule to allow for practice.

I came back to edit this post- to add to it - the thought that pushing kids to pursue heavily hobbies they'd just like to try or dabble in, would be detrimental. So, even though I think this would be an improvement, it's no solution. I guess the best solution is to make the laws more homeschooling friendly and make our society more homeschooling friendly. :)

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