Test-Takers Don’t Change the World

NOTE: I am not a resident of Florida. But while these results do not affect me, nor my child, personally, I believe they are symptomatic of  an issue that does.

Recently, the State of Florida noted a significant drop in student test results for their writing basic skills test. The drop was contributed to a communications failure with teachers, and the passing grade was subsequently lowered so that more children passed.

Apparently, the percentage of passers dropped from 81 percent to just 27 percent because teachers did not know how the test would be scored. Thus, becoming the basis for the rant you are about to read.

For years, teachers have been encouraged to teach to the test. Standardized testing has taken the power of teaching from the educator and put it in the hands of the test writers. Teachers have been told that if the students pass the test, they keep their jobs. If the students fail, they are fired.

As a result, we are a nation of test-takers. We learn what we need to know to pass the test, and then promptly forget it in favor of the next testing subject. Our government seems to believe that education is based on pieces of paper, not knowledge. Students are passed through school, some who don’t even know how to read, because it would stunt their social development to hold them back.

The diploma was never meant to be the goal. The test was never meant to be the objective. The diploma, the degree, and the certificate are not pieces of paid for paper, but a symbol of the knowledge you obtained over the course of your education. The test was supposed to symbolize the things you learned, it wasn’t supposed to be the only thing you learned.

Our education system in the United States is a mess, and it is only getting worse. The FCAT reflects the problem. The concern, it would appear, is less about the fact that their students can’t write, and is more about some failure on the part of the test designers because they didn’t tell teachers exactly what they would be grading. They blame the low scores on a new focus on grammar, punctuation, word choice, and relevance.

As a parent, I understand concern, but the concern shouldn’t be for the test your child is taking. Your concern should be that their schools are not teaching them to write. If a child knows how to formulate an argument and communicate it in the written word, it doesn’t matter if you know what they are looking for ahead of time. They will pass because they have the skill, not because they practiced to take the test.

Education is not a sport. There is no practice. The training is the objective, not the game at the end of the week. These children are being failed, not by tests, but by people who didn’t take the time to teach them to really learn. They are being failed by the people who decided tests were more important than the sort of academic skills that can last a lifetime.

You do not lower standards so that more students pass, you bring the students up to the standard. Teach children, not for the test, but for the education, and it won’t matter if they don’t know what is going to be on the test ahead of time.  Teach them to learn or condemn them to a life of ignorance.

Test-takers don’t change the world.

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