Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Standardized Tests - Your Rights and the Impact on Your Child

My thanks to Melissa Taylor from Imagination Soup for drawing my attention to her post which detailed an interview she had with Susan Ohanian. Susan is a staunch opponent of Standardised testing in the US and commentator on how the fixation has caused a trickle down effect that's gradually eroding undirected creative play and the development of any non-quantifiable skills in pre school environments.

You may ask why am I posting about a US problem and how does it relate to naturalistic play and environments? I'm glad you asked. Australia has always had a habit of scouring the world for ideas that have been tried and failed dismally in other countries and then attempting to implement them in the face of logic and generally at great cost and frustration of the community.

Currently we have NAPLAN, which, according to its million dollar website....tests Australian School children  in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. It tests the types of skills that are essential for every child to progress through school and life, in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy...(and) is the measure through which governments, education authorities and schools can determine whether or not young Australians are meeting important educational outcomes..... This report shows final NAPLAN results by gender, Indigenous status, language background other than English status, parental occupation, parental education, and location (metropolitan, provincial, remote and very remote) at each year level and for each domain of the test.

I could go on at great length about the egrerious mistake that is NAPLAN but Google the words NAPLAN and funding and you'll see what it's about -Money.

The passages below are Susan Susan responses to questions about the purpose, validity and efficacy of Standardised testing in the US.  

'The standardized tests are taking over more and more of every child’s day. Some districts have pre-K screening–so parents can know if their children are “on track” for the rigours of the kindergarten curriculum. Kindergarten, which means “children’s garden,” was intended as a place for children to engage in creative play, learning important social and developmental skills, a place where they learn to care about one another and help one another. Now it is a place of worksheets, homework, and curriculum rigour. Look that word up in the dictionary and ask yourself if you want that for your child at any age.

Research shows that test scores are a much better measure of family income than of student ability. We don’t need grades based on standardized tests to determine how schools are doing on those standardized tests. We can look at the zip codes of the students and predict the rating by the poverty index of the community.

In an effort to boost test scores, teachers often feel pressured to devote more time to test prep, thus narrowing the curriculum. When curriculum is reduced to subjects that are tested, children are deprived of the varied experiences that allow them to find new interests and talents.....More testing means more testing. It means that a child’s opportunity to experience a rich and varied school experience is reduced to the narrow range of items that can be tested.

Hiding behind a smokescreen of “preparing workers for tomorrow’s global economy,” these so-called education reformers treat children as commodities and teachers as mere functionaries in an accounting system. We need to protect our children, and this means asking for schools that nurture curiosity, imagination, independence, laughter, joy.'

Finally I'll let Sir Ken Robinson make my point for me about what happens when you stifle creativity.

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