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Why I Didn't Fall For the Teacher's Praise of My Kid

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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.

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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.

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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.

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