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Your Child Deserves Better: Standardized Tests

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Your Child Deserves Better: Standardized Tests

By Linda Dobson

Despite public outcries against the utility and efficacy of standardized tests as a measure of “education,” and despite a growing movement on the part of informed parents to have their children skip test administration days, like an invading army of zombies from a second-rate movie, standardized tests have taken over the school experience of today’s children.

I don’t know what aspect of this is worst. Is it that untested topics of learning – which include science, history, geography, and important life skills – aren’t tested and therefore go ignored? Is it that for a growing number of teachers, their jobs depend on the students’ grades? Or is it the stress visited upon children who need to Google the free-ranging games of childhood previously enjoyed when there existed such a thing as free time?

The War Between Children and Standardized Tests

worried student standardized tests

"We learn how to do the FCAT all year, all throughout elementary to high school."

As has been the case since children were herded into institutionalized classrooms about 150 years ago, they have absolutely no control over what is happening to them, day after day. They do, however, have opinions, especially when, at long last, they arrive at the back end of their sentences, er, I mean school days.

Tampa Bay Online shares with us “FCAT Anxiety” by Keli Sipperley to get a glimpse of reality for today’s children and young adults. The FCAT is Florida’s version of the standardized tests given to all children in the state. Let’s start with the younger crowd.

My sons, who never give me a hard time about going to school, tried their best to avoid going one day recently. The sixth-grader hung out in the bathroom, complaining of a stomach ache, consenting to breakfast only after I threatened to revoke hockey privileges.

My fourth-grader moved slowly, coughed frequently and claimed to have caught a cold overnight.

They fretted over the types of questions that would be asked on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), the math formulas they couldn’t remember, and they confessed that when they don’t know the answers, they just pick A or C.

“I’m a pretty good guesser,” my oldest said.

Though they attend a small charter school that places very little emphasis on preparing for the FCAT, the anxiety it induces still rears its head come testing time. And they’re not alone.

“I hate it. It’s torture. I get really nervous,” said Madison Gray, 10. “Last year, in fourth grade, one of my teachers … was always saying, ‘They’ll throw this at you on FCAT, and they’ll try and trick you,’ and it started making me really nervous. And on the day of the writing prompt, I came in crying.”

Does your child deserve better?

Looking Back at the Impact of Standardized Tests

Yes, the standardized tests craze that is finally garnering attention, likely thanks to the economic importance they now hold (teachers’ pay), has been around long enough to leave a mark on those who were stuck in classrooms where true education took a backseat to memorizing – then regurgitating – answers to questions on standardized tests.

We learn how to do the FCAT all year, all throughout elementary to high school, and by the time we get to college, we’re like, ‘What is MLA; what is APA? I don’t know how to do any of this,’ because we’ve been so focused on writing five paragraphs for the FCAT,” said University of South Florida student Jessica Murray, 18.

“The classes all revolve around preparing you for the FCAT,” said Jake Piniella, 14.

“I thought that’s what I was in school for — to learn for the FCAT — so I could keep moving,” said University of South Florida student Allissa Cummings, 18.

“From the first day of school, you’re thinking about what’s coming up, instead of what you’re getting out of school,” Adam Clark, 20, said.

Lincoln Tamayo, headmaster at Academy Prep, a private school for low-income Tampa Bay-area students, says he sees the effect FCAT-centric classrooms have had on fifth-graders entering the school below grade level.

“It has nothing to do with their aptitude, but when you’re spending months and months on end just preparing for a statewide test, I think you are losing a great deal in your education,” Tamayo said.

Does your child deserve better than to spend 13 years in school only to graduate with the realization of what a worthless waste of time it was to prep for standardized tests? “I thought that’s what I was in school for, to learn for the FCAT.” And until they finally get out into the real world, this is their idea of “education.” No wonder so many are questioning the value of a college education, receiving an additional four years, and its cost.

For students who go to school each day under the impression that they are doing little more than learning for the sake of a test, the risk of losing them to the question of “Why bother?” is a real one, she says. Especially when their exposure to other opportunities for real-world learning is limited by financial resources.

“We have to provide opportunities for those students to see another world, to aspire to be better,” rather than leaving them to think their future is to return to a life of poverty, Lubrano says. [Lubrano is a former teacher and assistant principal with 30 years of experience in Hillsborough County schools.] With the focus on test-centric learning, “too many of our students are left there, and they’re not motivated. They don’t see a way out for them.”

See also A Childhood Is a Terrible Thing to Waste: School Induced Stress.”

All children deserve better. Your child deserves better. Heck, taxpayers who foot the bills deserve better. But nothing – no thing – is going to change until parents, empowered with knowledge and emotionally fueled with the notion that what’s happening to their children in schools is not education, stop the never-ending supply of students required to perpetuate the standardized tests that have taken over the hallowed halls of academia.

It’s up to parents to do what is necessary to make a true education a family priority, even if it means providing a homeschooling environment. When does your child deserve better? Now.

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One Response to “Your Child Deserves Better: Standardized Tests”

  1. […] reporting stomach- and headaches as a result. All of this together is a large reason why so many kids hate school these days. Standardized tests do nothing to foster a child’s natural love of learning. In […]

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