Tuesday, April 30, 2013

will this be on the test? | a small idea from Raising Adults

[The tidal wave of 1st graders that somehow took US schools by surprise in 1951] was a moment of crisis in education. It became a quandary in child-rearing because the response to this flood of students seems to have been Make More Desks, Build Larger Class Rooms. Just like that, from sea to shining sea, too many students and too few teachers, became the norm.
You already know what happened, but here it is again for the record. For the first time, in a nation committed to universal education, classroom focus shifted from what students learned to what teachers taught.
Teachers who previously gave personal attention to each student throughout the day, now spent a large part of their energy on crowd control.
Students, whose older siblings had time to engage their teachers and fellow students in meaningful discussion, became note-takers. The most successful pupils learned to discern which points in the teachers’ lectures were important.

Today I am announcing a nationwide search for the individual who first voiced that immortal question:

Will this be on the test?
He or she will be enshrined. Or possibly shunned.

Overnight, monologue replaced dialogue. The school day, which, a year before, included personal attention for every student, now consisted of as much lecture as the children could stand, followed by work sheets, list-making, and rote memory, followed by more lecture.

Writing was gradually replaced by multiple choice testing—years later my Earth Science teacher liked to call it multiple guess. Multiple choice tests could be administered smoothly and graded quickly. Eventually, the tests were standardized nationwide.

Class room discussion, such as it was, tended to be dominated by a few students at the front of the room. The unskilled, the uncertain and the shy hid out in the back of the room or, worse, were hidden by the bodies in front of them.

— from Raising Adults

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