The other day I was
horrified when I came across an article detailing the environment of a Kindergarten classroom in Chicago. It read like something from a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel turned movie. I imagine, if one were to envision how young children were brainwashed to accept their
roles as assigned by a malevolent dictatorship á la the popular "The Hunger
Games" or "Divergent" series, this is what it would look like.
Except it is happening in real life. Right now. To American
children. It is not limited to one classroom, one city, one state. It is all around us. And we should be outraged.
Thankfully, the environment in my daughter's public school classroom
is nothing like the article I read. I know, because I volunteer at her school
regularly and have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with her teacher.
The children in that classroom are engaged. They are learning. And
having fun doing so. I have seen it with my own eyes. They are not being trained
to take and love tests, but to enjoy and appreciate the process of learning:
exploration, experimentation, and the attainment of knowledge.
If it were not so, my child would not be at her current school.
Were she struggling, that would be important to know, as well as in what areas and how we might help her at home.
However, as is happening across the country, the high stakes
testing environment being created in our nation's schools is taking a toll on
my daughter and her peers.
My first-grader takes regular, computerized assessments several
times a year. The system used is designed to track student progress and performance based
on Common Core State Standards. It also boasts the ability to predict future
performance on the statewide assessment that begins in the third grade.
I have flat out told my child her scores on these assessments are
of no importance to me. What I care about is that she is enjoying learning, making progress
and giving her best effort. She also knows we are considering opting her out of
the state assessment when she is older. She also knows why.
The other day I received a very enthusiastic email from my daughter's
teacher. She wanted me to know how well my child had scored on the most recent
assessment. Apparently, the teacher had made a very big deal about my child's
test score in the classroom as well.
In front of her peers.
I probably did not respond in the
manner the teacher expected. I was polite, respectful, but clear. I'm not interested in my
daughter being given the message that her value lies in a test score. Nor am I
comfortable with her being singled out in front of the class.
I know certain praise, while well-intended, can backfire, especially
as it relates to intelligence. It can also lead to a divide between my
child and the other students, impact her social relationships, which in turn
will affect her self-esteem.
Expectations are being placed on young children that are not developmentally appropriate.
I am thrilled to know she is moving forward and showing
measurable gains in important skills. The detailed report that was sent home
with her assessment scores offered very insightful and helpful information
about my child's abilities.
Were she struggling, that would be important to know, as well as
in what areas and how we might help her at home. I'm not against assessments per se. It's the intense focus on the testing, the pressure it creates and the domino effect it has on the school day.
Expectations are being placed on young children that are not
developmentally appropriate. Everything that has been established about early
childhood development over decades of empirical research is being ignored by
education reformers focused on profits and data
mining. Experienced educators are being pushed out or choosing to leave, because they cannot stand to see what is happening to kids.
It is pure madness. Parents need to be aware of what is going on.
They must get involved. Complacency is not an option.
This generation of school-aged kids will not have the opportunity to relive its childhood.