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By Renée Smith | j&R Tutoring Academy of Indiana

First a correction – the network for whom the lady worked  who stated that we had to get over thinking that our children belonged to us was MSNBC, not CNN. I apologize for the error.

Where to begin? Do you know how many standardized tests your children take each school year?

I checked a local school corporation website to get an idea of the number of standardized tests, or common assessments, given annually. A district wide writing assessment is given at the beginning and the end of the year; math assessments are given every nine weeks. The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Fluency Skills (DIBELS) is given to students K through grade two; Terra Nova is given to second graders each year; the InView test is given to third and fourth graders each year; and finally the annual ISTEP exam. And these are just for K through grade four!

If you read the rationalization for these tests, they will tell you that the tests are measuring cognitive skills, verbal reasoning, skills assessment, etc. (I really wanted to write blah, blah, blah here, but I did not want to be impolite!)

This all sounds very good and we all want our children to acquire these important skills. How on earth did generations of Americans learn and manage to get to the moon and back – several times – without all these tests to assure us that the youngsters of the 19th and 20th centuries were learning?

I wonder where the teachers find the time to actually instruct. Although many years have passed since I was in elementary school, I also recall numerous tests, but they were prepared and given by the teacher! They tested us to determine if we had learned what was taught. What a concept!! If we did not do well, the teacher knew what needed to be repeated or reinforced.

Based on the justification for all of these “common” tests, apparently teachers are no longer capable of determining what their students need to learn. The explanations state that the test lets the teacher know what skills are lacking; where additional instruction is needed.  Really? Call me crazy, but I thought that was the purpose of having a teacher in the classroom.

No wonder there is a move to allow professional people who have never taken a course in education, methods or psychology to teach! If all the standardized tests indicate what the instructors need to teach, why do we need professional teachers who have the expertise to determine this? There are many people who have subject expertise, but that does not mean they have a clue how to impart this knowledge to students.

I formerly worked for national tutoring franchise. There was a young man with a master’s degree in math also working as a tutor. One would think that he would be perfect for high school students taking advanced math. Not long after he started, we noticed that several of the advanced math students were not attending their sessions. Why? Because although he had subject matter knowledge, he did not have a clue how to explain math concepts!

I’m just getting started on the subject of standardized/common testing.