Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Praise of Standardized Testing

No, I'm just kidding with that title. I'm not going to sing the praises of standardized testing. I've studied all the arguments including, but not limited to, distortion of the curriculum and teaching to the test, stress, cultural bias, and impeding critical thinking. I believe Oprah recently had a guest on her show who connects standardized testing with bullying in schools. That said, there was something wonderful about last week, the week when my third and fourth graders took the NJASK (New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge) test. Do you know why? Because the teachers sent home no homework. Oprah's expert could have come to my house to observe the drop in bullying or at least the drop in stress in my kitchen every day last week. My ten year old son frequently spends ninety minutes on homework, but not those five days of testing. Instead, he played with his brother and friends outside, he built Lego masterpieces, rode his bike, and read Kate DiCamillo's beautiful book The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. One day during testing when he was finished, his teacher helped him select it from the classroom library. He enjoyed it so much that he read his sister's copy at home in the evenings. He never would have done that after more than an hour of homework. He went with Edward from Egypt Street to the bottom of the ocean to a garbage heap to learning to love others. I'm not really singing the praises of testing but rather the benefits of less homework. It was a great week of pleasant afternoons. By the way, my daughter used the free time to read The Penderwicks, More About Paddington, and The Secret of Platform 13. She didn't create any Lego wonders, but she didn't mind. Her discovery of the Penderwick sisters will probably inspire her to compose her own ode to testing week.


Teacherninja said...

Yeah, homework is bad. But as for homework or testing having anything to do with bullying, I doubt that. But then I doubt anything on Oprah. She's been promoting that wingnut Jenny McCarthy--so I can't really take her seriously. That doesn't mean the researcher she had on is wrong, but I'd need to hear his/her actual evidence. Bullying has always been a problem--outside of homework or testing. It MAY have something to do with a lack of engagement on the bullying student's part, but just testing?

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I understand the purpose of homework. Really, I do. But it seems cruel to coop up a kid indoors all day and then expect him to sit down to do more work on a sunny afternoon. Throw in a sports practice or a piano lesson and it's just too much. That's why, relatively speaking, we're a very under-scheduled house.