In the previous post, I talked a little about the state testing Texas requires of all public school children. I talked about some of the requirements but did not really go into detail about the drawbacks, other than school funding issues, that I see (only as a parent looking in). I will preface this by stating I am not a teacher. I am an employee of a school district and a concerned parent.
We lived in 2 other states during our children's school years and did not have the information on performance of the schools. When we moved from Texas to different states, we tried to find information about different school districts in the area we were planning to live. There wasn't really anything that could give me information about how the children did in school, how well the school met the educational needs of students, etc. We felt like we just having to either guess at a school that might be educating students or take what was there. In Kansas, we were very fortunate. The small community we lived in had a wonderfuly school system, students did well and we really hated leaving that school system when we moved from there. In Nebraska, we were not as fortunate. The small community we lived in had been presented as having a good school system, but we found it very lacking in the quality of education of the students. Having the choice of where to live within an area gives some flexibility but not a lot. The education of our children was far too important to us to leave to chance!
Coming from (okay I have to say it!!) the Great State of Texas :), we had information from the state education agency to at least give guidelines on how the different school systems perform. When we moved back to Texas from Nebraska, I used those resources for us to determine where we wanted to settle. However, those same statistics are from the TAAS (state test at the time) and the TAKS tests given. Were the schools truly teaching the students subjects and information needed to succeed in college or the work force? That is not an area that is addressed in the TAKS testing. Quite often the scenario is that the teachers are trying to teach to the specifics that will be on these tests and may be missing other areas that need to covered as well. When they have spend all of their time on the details of the testing material and are measured by how well their students perform on these tests, are they truly teaching the subject as a whole or are they having to take bits and pieces so the students perform on the tests? I do not believe the TAKS is wrong. Our students in this district seem to excel and I do believe we have one of the best districts in the state. Our administration and staff are always striving to find ways for students to learn the information needed for the testing but also be prepared for life beyond high school, whether it's college or the work force. However, as a nation, the quality of education of our students is still well below the world. We see that in our college campuses and in the work force when our students are not able to compete with the foreign students in classwork, research, and the work world. What are some of these other nations doing that we're not? Is the TAKS (or any other standardized) testing really the key to learning the material (or trying to measure what has been learned)?
I am not suggesting "throwing the baby out with the bath water". You have to be able to measure students' learning, but the system we have is very obviously missing the mark in a lot of areas. What is the answer?