Fun to read the student and parent comments about the local testing going on this week across the province- Are taking such tests work? Indeed- and they are also an opportunity for students, teachers, parents and schools to better understand basic expectations for and per grade level, and then to put those expectations into perspective. The test itself will not prevent any student from moving forward to the next grade level nor will it prevent teachers from continuing to recognize a student’s other achievements or contributions to the class as a whole- holistic assessments and evaluations are in practice in general across the board and in each teacher’s room. Whether we label such ongoing (throughout the school year) assessments authentic, or give a grade point for specific project based work, it is fair to suggest that teachers today continue to recognize their students’ participation and growth over the ten month journey.
Much has been written comparing Canada and other countries in terms of curriculum development and success on tests- there seems to be a big shock that a country like Finland which respects its teachers, helps individual students, and encourages healthy play (exercise and free play) has produced top students- why the surprise? If education is genuinely meant to improve the lifestyle of whole communities, and not merely be a playground in which competition is taught, then it stands to reason that a school culture which encourages helping every learner through multiple means, will produce learners who value the effort expended- who note when educators go the extra distance to encourage a student to practice- perhaps practicing differently from earlier attempts, but indeed to practice, until each learner will feel a sense of worth from the active learning that ensued. Education will continue to be a hot topic, even more so when elections loom and politicians recognize how dear and important the future generation is to the current crop of voting public. And “Education” with a capital E will continue to be debated; best practices, goals, ROI, to test or not to test; college, university, future job corps… In the interim, the sun has come out again today, and ideal practice suggests, all those test taking students- take a break!, and whatever constitutes play- Enjoy.
Books, Books, Books. They were, and still are to be found in my home: magazines, journals, posters too. Like the internet, books are connected, with ideas referencing backward through time. For a reader, these connections can be a reason for recognizing the “new” ideas, or the new challenges, and even if one doesn’t enter into the conversation directly, the connections provide understanding and put into context what the author may have had in mind. – Fancy Literary Term: allusions- dictionary definition, simplified, to refer (back) to something else- a pre-internet form of links or “buttons” . However there is a second implication in the term “allude” and it can be suggesting “implying”. Students do need to understand both the actual reference in a piece of writing and the implications that a reader may infer, if learners are going to be able to “make sense” of formal Reading Comprehension tests- regardless of if the test is called “Common Core” in the States or E.Q.A.O. in Canada or given any other title in any other country. Reading Comprehension testing and students scores improve when Poetry is both offered and shared in the learning process.
Why Poetry, and not merely any other form of writing, when poetry or analyzing a poem may only be a small portion of the exam/test itself? It is impossible to teach poetry without getting into or allowing for personal responses, opinions based on the combination of emotional response and the actual words on the page. Poems that “work” do so on many levels, allowing a variety of ages, and readers, to “enter into the imagery”, and be absorbed by the rhythm, before the analysis. Poems that “work” may also be read from both the literal and the figurative (stance) – demanding a lesson into second readings, a scavenger hunt of sorts for clues within the writing which begins the practical aspect of what many readers do on automatic pilot: read it again.
Descriptions on tests qualify questions, only a few instruct young learners to offer “proof” from the test reading or their own personal experiences. The majority of questions aim to demonstrate that students were in fact tested, that the learner knew how to respond to a similar type of question. And it is a “taken for granted” that as an educator one might be annoyed at the style or implication teaching to the test demands. Yet I am not, for test taking needn’t be an overwhelming threat to one’s ability to demonstrate knowledge, nor ought it to be a frightening experience. First the test itself needs to be placed in context, that learners might see it as a positive challenge- give students a brand new piece of technology and ask them to “figure it out”, or a new game, or a new way of walking to school- each is a challenge- that requires putting together the old way – what one knows, with the new object- what one is trying to make sense of. If the testing challenges do annoy me at all, it is in their very lack of “higher level” thinking questions; learners of all ages do want a challenge to be challenge worthy- the prize is so much more satisfying then.