Teaching to the Test
The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) concentrate on a clear set of skills and concepts that students will learn in a more organized way. However, there is confusion and concerns from parents and teachers about how course content is taught and if the students are learning. During my ten years as a reading and writing Supplemental Instructor for college level courses, and an ELA Instructor for grades K-12, I have witnessed serval changes in the New York City Public schools curriculum. Due to decreasing test scores teachers are scrambling to adjust to yet another assigned way to teach to the test. However, aside from the common core, there are other factors that contribute to black and Latino children failing standardized tests and not obtaining the appropriate skills thus leading them to become under achievers academically.
Obstacle #1: The learning Environment has Changed
Today’s children are in classrooms that lack space for intellectual growth and creativity. As a result, children are restless and bored by the daily grind and drilling of teaching to the test. In addition, teachers are no longer allowed to use their knowledge, skills and talents to make learning engaging. Instead, they are chained to the demands of a curriculum required by the Board of Education. In order for learning to take place, children need to feel comfortable in the classroom. Therefore, allowing the process of taking in course content pleasurable and interesting.
Hindrance #2: Home Life
Learning is impede at home for some children because there is no encouragement to use their reading, writing and math skills. Instead, what is encouraged is marathon hours of watching meaningless television shows and playing video games nonstop. The majority of parents mind set is that learning should take place in the class room because teachers are paid to educate children. Secondly, working parents are exhausted, it is easy to use the television to contain their children’s behavior by sitting them in front of the television having their brains drained and corrupted by the Disney channel or worse reality TV. The world children live in today is far removed from the days when the father was the sole bread winner and mom stayed home and help with homework. Furthermore, in an effort to take even less responsibly for their children’s education parents are stretching their budgets to pay tutors to pick up the slack. There is nothing wrong with using tutoring services for academic support, however, it’s not a good use of resource if the parents are only hoping for a quick fix.
Barrier #3: Children’s attitude towards Learning
This generation of scholars’ define the process of education as being a nuisance, difficult and too much work. During tutoring sessions I often hear children questioning their parents, teachers and tutors as to “why they have to learn this stuff” and “how this stuff is going to help them?” I’ve witnessed kids having melt downs and crying spells because they detest learning. This attitude is not entirely their fault. How can we expect them to be motivated and excited about learning when the majority of children in African American/Latino homes do not observe their parents engaging in reading or writing? It is said that home should be the first place where children get inspired.
The final insult, the practice of social promotion moving students to the next grade regardless of whether they learned the necessary material, in order to keep them with their peers. This is also referred to as social grouping. The harm caused to the students caught in this game of move them along, further damages their academic achievement. First, they have not mastered the material in the previous grade. Second, the embarrassment to their egos and self-esteem when they realize their peers are ahead of them and that they lack the ability to catch up.
Now that you have heard my side of the story, WHAT SAY YOU?