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March 30, 2008



I'm also a good test taker, but it has always been the same for me. Studying enough to pass the test, memorizing information and afterwards the information left my brain as though it was never there. I'm not so keen with the forced standardized testing of school age children. My stepson is 14yo, a freshman in high school and the whole system of teaching towards the test infuriates me. Teachers are so focused on teaching towards the test that students are missing out of much important information. I understand why the teachers and the school administration focuses on the test b/c otherwise they may be in jeopardy of losing their funding, but it's definitely not a good situation.


1. follow your heart
2. standardized tests suck


Don't know if this would work for you but BlogHer members are invited to post on BlogHer and I think it works especially well when going "off topic" occasionally but still wanting exposure. I've even thought about using occasional posts there to be a Daring Baker!


There's a huge emphasis in the testing world, from a parent's perspective, on making sure that kids know how to sit down and pay attention for hours at a time. That's supposed to be a good thing because, otherwise presumably, they'd be running wild in the streets. (I should say that I'm only an interested onlooker in this world because my children go to an independent school without tests or grades. We are all committed to creating "life long learners" who are self motivated, flexible, interested, and can work hard *when they see the need* on issues of importance to them. However, the flip side of all this is that we are pretty sure that kids raised this way *won't easily end up sitting still and punching the clock. Conversely, I see a lot of focus on docility in the regular public school curriculum and testing regime. It has to be there because classes are large and children are unruly, but it also has to be there because its what society wants for and from children. In other words, tests (as currently administered) are part and parcel of creating and managing a docile workforce that will sit for hours and perform mind numbingly boring tasks, get rated as "compliant" and "on time" by their managers, and sit still for a review at the end of the year.

aimai (thanks for the link, btw.)


Wanda -- thanks for your comment. The problem really hinges on the point you make -- when funding is tied to test results, all teaching becomes about the test and nothing else.

Judy -- perhaps there'll come a time when, in education, we can actually follow our hearts. I can do that with the blog, it's true, but not so much at work. I'm in an admin program, and I'm so disheartened about the state of public education that I have no desire to be an administrator...

Thanks Alanna -- I'll check out the possibility of posting on BlogHer.

Hi Aimai -- The long trajectory of public education is a fascinating topic. As I know you know, public school was always intended as a means of creating docile little clock punchers, and those of us who are still struggling to have it be something else are swimming against a long historical tide.

Observers often spend time just watching kids in Montessori schools, or independent schools like the old Prospect school in Vermont, or perhaps your kids' school as well (this kind of observing often is part of the assessment that's done on the kids as learners -- rather than tests). In places like that (probably similar to the Ferrer Modern School where some of our family members were educated), adults often end up marvelling at kids' powers of concentration and ability to stay with one task over time -- and of course this varies from child to child.

So I actually don't think that children need to be "taught" to sit still -- they just need to be absorbed enough in what they're doing to sit still. They need a compelling enough reason to sit still. And yes, they also need to be able to sit still even when they don't love the task in which they're engaged.

Surely the question still nags at parents like yourself about how their kids are ever going to sit still long enough to get through the SAT -- and of course I know that's the reality. Sadly, I prep kids for SAT and NY State Regents and other similar "instruments"-- because I'd really be failing them if I DIDN'T help them manipulate the system as it exists.

I'd just like some policy makers to take a big step back and look at what we've created, system-wise, and see if that's what's really serving our interests (and yeah, we all know whose interests it's really serving).

evil chef mom

Julie, what a great post. Who cares if it wasn't about food. I have four kids in the public school system and I hate it! They show up everyday, do their homework, particapate in classes and in clubs but that doesn't count, just your test scores. Three of the four are good test takers but one is failing two of his classes because he's horrible at tests and he's in the GATE (gifted) classes! The teachers are mad because they can't teach other things like art and music and some have just out right given up teaching, they are just cashing the checks. All kids have other interests but those needs aren't met because no one is teaching them and don't get me started on how the principle is pulling students into her office one on one to give the students pep talks on how they need to do better on their standardized tests. What a joke!

Lisa (Homesick Texan)

You can write whatever your heart desires--I'll keep reading you!


Julie, I'll most definitely keep reading your blog, no matter what.

I come from a two generations of educators, my paternal grandmother was a teacher in Baltimore, MD, and my mother is elementary school principle in KS. I was also lucky enough to be home schooled my mother up until 9th grade. She used the Calvert School curriculum, for myself and my 4 siblings, and built upon our daily school work with interesting field trips, projects and workshops with other great minds in our extended family. In hindsight, I realize that all the great stuff that I know now, I learned at home before I went into the public school system at 9th grade. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Regurgitation of facts is not learning, and standardized testing is ridiculous, because human beings aren't standard. Let's hope that one day the US will change it's views on how to educate, for the better.


evil chef mom -- your experience speaks to the frustration of parents and teachers everywhere. As part of a national education organization, I hear this everywhere. I sit in workshops with teachers from Oklahoma and North Dakota who weep bitterly because they can only teach to the test. This is one of the things that chills me the most about this situation: how disheartened good teachers are. They are either leaving the profession, because they didn't come into it in order to prep kids for tests, or they're becoming jaded long before their time. And principals, as you say, are trying to get kids to do better on tests. Why? Because their jobs hinge upon it, that's why. It's a really, really pathetic situation.

Lisa, thanks for the vote of confidence. Can't wait to see you at the food-bloggers picnic, whenever and wherever that may be...

Mari, you are so right. Even the word "standardized" should make the legislators and policy makers take a step back. You were indeed lucky to be home-schooled in such a good and thoughtful way -- not all those who are home-schooled are that lucky, either. And we have to keep fighting to make the education of those in public school as rich and gratifying as your own experience was.




Hi Julie,

It's great you'll be writing on other topics. I'll be looking forward to that. :)

I agree about standardized tests. Teaching and learning that leans only toward test taking creates angst in kids. I recall throwing up on more than one occasion as I walked to school thinking about a damn test that loomed over my head. It leaves out the importance of developing people who are balanced and normal - exactly what the world needs. Go figure.

In high school I read A.S. Neill's "Summerhill School", and fell in love with the notion of being taught in an atmosphere of freedom where a child would be allowed the time and space to discover the things that were of real interest to him or her.

I'm looking forward to more of your posts.

Lea xx


I have a somewhat different experience when it comes to schooling having been brought up in Argentina. For once, stardardized texts don´t exist here, the tests are individually designed for the teachers and professors following the curriculum (which they don´t fully develop themselves and has to be approved by the school/university, but it´s still quite flexible and varies from school to school).
I´m definitely not saying our education system is perfect, in fact, it´s far from it, and it´s been declining over the years, but it still leaves room for reasoning (rarely a multiple choice exam, for instance, here´s it´s mostly essay questions).
And something else I see going against education in the US is the whole "getting up to your neck in debt to go to college" system. Here the best universities are public, which means they are 100% free. So truly everyone can go to college as long as they can make the time to do so.
Ok, that was a long comment, but I hope it was interesting to see what other systems are like.

Hermes Replica

I spend too much time thinking about the workers. Yeah, what a lie. I take home those petit fours out of pure, greedy self-interest.

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