Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It's the Test, Stupid

I'm not in favor of SATs, MCAS, ACTs, or any other "standardized test." I'm in favor of learning.

When I think of standardized tests, I remember my graduate school Research Methods course. In the class, we learned about quantitative vs. qualitative surveys for gathering data. And if I were to choose a method for accurately determining whether children were learning, I'd choose qualitative every time.

If you've ever gone through any kind of SAT prep, you'd know that there's much more "how to guess at questions you don't know the answer to" strategy discussed than how to beef up your vocabulary. A relevant anecdote: A relative of mine is a nurse, and began her career in the late 70's. When she went up for certification, she said, "they taught us how to take the test" and while she passed with flying colors, she said it took her a few years to really put her learning into practice. Her verdict was that by being taught to take a test, she was lacking in actual skill and practice that would help her in her career.

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, Nate and I were discussing Duke Ellington, Hannibal, and domestic economics. We started with Ellington, because we were setting the "wake up" CD in the alarm clock to his music, and I know nothing about Ellington. So Nate gave me a 30 second biography, and promised to find me a book on him. Then we covered Hannibal, and I realized it was a long time since I'd learned about Carthage. And I made a mental note to look him up today on Wikipedia.

Off topic? Perhaps, but really, I consider a moment like this an example that I am learning. Instead of simply passing by Hannibal, my reaction was to learn more, refresh my memory. When I encounter things I'm not familiar with, I'll read a book, find a film or documentary, or simply Google the topic. My mind is set in a learning pattern. How would you measure that?

I'm saddened by the number of people in the world who don't care about learning. I'm saddened that we put kids through school only to pass multiple choice tests, without inspiring them to think critically and learn for themselves.

And please don't think I'm putting this burden on teachers. I'm putting it on everyone. I think parents should be more involved in encouraging their kids. For example, I learned a lot about animals from my father, including identifying bird calls, and recognizing different species of fish and turtles. But then, my father worked down the street from our home, and was very available to me during my childhood. Most parents are tied down trying to make a living, and can't afford to spend time with their children. This is where I blame the super-rich for distorting the economy, the government for not increasing minimum wage, and all the companies who outsource jobs to Asia and take work away from our citizens. If we had more jobs, good jobs, the wealth in the country would be better distributed. If we had universal health care, employers could pay workers more, because they wouldn't have to take from the paycheck for insurance.

In a depressed economy, the best investment to be made is in education. We should be paying our teachers more, putting more funding into education, particularly early education, and encouraging a new generation to learn more. Learning is the fuel of the next generation's economy.

1 responses:

ccroceiii said...

Depressed economy?

Stock market still growing (forgive me if I can't pull the rate off the top of my head it is single didgit growth after years of double didgit growth). I can understand how you are confused as you live in a state run by corrupt Democrats. Things will get MUCH worse around here. So... depressed economy... yeah, I guess you have a point. (See,I can go completely off the topic, too.) Oh, by the way, we have the test the little f*cks because we can't beat the information into them anymore.

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