Basic Math Not Important?!?
by SouthernBreeze - Posted Mon June 15, 2009 @ 1:12 PM
As the end of the school year approached, everyone was frantically going through last minute preparation for the end of the year tests. Different groups were launched to address the different levels of needs for the third and fourth graders and the students were honestly almost burnt by the amount of test preparation. Although nervous, I was actually looking forward to the test. I know that my class had worked hard for me that year and I wanted to see the end result.
Then the principal walked into the room one day with 'good news.' He said that he had learned that all students would be allowed to use calculators for the math and science portions of the test. He added that it was important for us to make sure all the students knew how to use the calculators correctly, but it was no longer important that our students understood how to add, subtract, multiply, or divide.
The room below me probably heard the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.
Unfortunately, this shed some light on my students deficiencies. A good number of even my top students didn't know how to subtract if regrouping was involved. In fact, we had spent the year really working on getting their math and reading skills on-level.
Teaching to the test is nothing new. Considering how much emphasis is placed on the tests, it's not even surprising. These tests are used to evaluate the effectiveness of the teachers and the schools, and there should means to evaluate. However, teaching solely so a student does well on a test is really shortchanging the student. All they learn is the material on the tests, which leaves them sorely lacking for college and real life.
I don't see system changing anytime soon. Schools want to score well, and teachers are encouraged to only teach what is on the test. While reading over student writing, I found one student that had an amazing natural talent for voice. I asked if I could possibly work with her either before or after school with her writing, but told that it was a waste of time since voice was not something over which she would be tested. In fact, I was told that I had to make sure she used the same format when writing as every other child in the school so that all of my students' papers read exactly the same way. The writer in me rebelled, but there was little I could do.
There needs to be a balance. There should be some way we can make sure our teachers and schools are effective without putting so much pressure that we are forced to only teach our kids to pass a particular test. Besides, a test is limited in how much it can really tell you.