A Waste of Time

When I was a kid I never liked to do anything that wasn’t “fun” and my students are no different.  But I also didn’t like feeling  as if I was wasting my time, doing something that had no real meaning.  Okay I did watch Gilligan’s Island, but come on, who didn’t back in the seventies?

Kids today will tell me they think things are a waste of time.  They don’t too often mention school (some do), but most know that it is necessary to do something later in life.  But do you know what my students tell me is the biggest waste of their time? Testing!  Hands down, not my classroom tests, which I design based on what we covered in the time we covered it.

But standardized testing that is administered by the state.  Think about the number of days we test (six by my count) and ALL of the time leading up to the test and you have weeks and weeks of time dedicated to a number to judge all by.  I have talked about testing before, and we need ways to measure success, but one test for all on the same day in the same way in a state as diverse as Texas?  Even an 8th grader knows this is folly.

Don’t believe me?  Look at the cost of the test itself.  Conservative estimates put the initial cost at 90 million dollars.  But this is only the gross cost of the test.  You need to factor in the labor costs.  How many man hours are we using to make sure the test is given correctly and that our kids pass that test?  On my campus alone we have to add personnel from our downtown building and our administrators are wall-to-wall STAAR prep and focused for the weeks of the test.

Now lets talk about all of the time teachers spend trying to figure out what is on the test.  I know that TEA will tell us all of the information to be tested is in the TEKS, but there hundreds of them for my discipline when you break them down.  Is that fair?  No!  I spend hundreds of hours this year trying to think how my students could prepare for and pass the test.  Is this the best use of a teacher’s time, your child’s teacher?  Wouldn’t it be better spent in developing lessons that would motivate and INSPIRE your child to want to learn for life.

I can hear the naysayers now, “Why can’t you do both?”  Who has time for enrichment?  I have to teach and have my students “master” 139 different TEKS that have mulitple parts.  When you factor in all of our testing days and days spent on various tasks, that is darn near one a day.  Good luck.  We are racing through the information just to make sure we cover it in case it is on STAAR that we don’t stop to learn from it.

A waste of time?  I think time spent making a child memorize information to use on an outdated mode of measurement (multiple choice tests) so we can look good as educators and administrators is a colossal waste of time.  Let us teach students to love learning itself and to delve deeper into the things that are going to inspire and motivate.  How could we use 90 million dollars better?  I think we all could come up with 90 million ways.  But until we see we aren’t educating, we will continue this facade of teaching.

By the way, make sure you check and see what the passing standard is for each test.  Some are as low as 40 percent.  Do you want your doctor only passing 40 percent of his classes in med school?  We better wake up and use our time and money more wisely, less Texas and America fall deeper into the educational pit.

That is what I think, what do you think?  Until next time, peace.

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