Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Education Armageddon

Prologue:  Ha!  I have material for a prologue! 

I had intended to post this rant of sorts, earlier in the week.  Alas, life interfered, and I found myself busy with appointments.  Between vaccines, school registration and a broken arm; there was little time left.  I then found myself deciding between two equally important factoids, to blog or to drink wine.  And well, the wine won. 

On a positive note, Ike is now checked over and ready for Kindergarten.  I think that means I should set up a countdown of sorts.  Yes!  A ticker counting down the next chapter of my life.....

Three of our four kids are now registered for their new school, perhaps one day Moops will be able to join his siblings on their new educational adventure. 

And unfortunately, Alex broke his arm.  I could tell you a story of how he was goofing off with his friends after Jiu Jitsu, he got knocked over and didn't utilize his jiu jitsu skills, in particular the break fall.  But I will be honest with you all and tell you the truth.  It was ninjas, a whole herd of them.  They attacked him in his sleep, he had all of his weapons locked in his secret weapon lair and had to fight them off with only a paper clip and empty matchbox.  He was successful, and we all can rest easy again here in Stepford.  He will have to deal with a cast for at least 4 weeks though.

And with that said, we begin, with tonight's intended rambling.

One week a year, schools across the nation participate in what has become an Education Armageddon.

For our state, we have the CRCT, which is Georgia's Standardized assessment of whether or not our kids are comprehending and retaining what it is they are supposed to be learning.  If you like, you can replace CRCT with your state's standardized test, while reading the remainder of this blog post.

In theory, I can understand the philosophy behind administering a state wide assessment to measure the level of comprehension and achievement academically. 

In reality, the test is one huge nightmare.

CRCT is discussed year round, and there is an ever present reminder that CRCT is inevitable.  Schools have assemblies and pep rallies in preparation for CRCT.  Year round, the curriculum is taught with CRCT in mind.  And for weeks preceding the test, all work at school is CRCT Prep.  Practice tests, homework sheets, letters home, automated phone calls, the stock piling of water and "healthy snacks".  And this year, for $20, you can attend the middle schools CRCT Survivor Party, the final day of the week long test. 

Students, teachers and faculty develop ulcers over this test.  In fact there are even investigations into whether or not schools have committed crimes, in relation to the CRCT.  Teachers have been fired over this test, students risk repeating the grade they are in.  Schools risk losing ever so important funding over this test.

Mind you, this past November my kids also took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  Which also assesses where each student is academically on a National level.  There was no above average preparation for the Iowa test, which also consumes several hours over the course of several days to complete.  There were no pep rallies or survivor parties.  There was no stock piling of water and "healthy snacks".  And instead of constant reminders of what you can do at home to "optimize" your child's test taking abilities, we got an email and a note sent home.  And it is my understanding, school funding is not associated with student scores of the Iowa Test Of Basic Skills.  At least not in Georgia.

***On a side note, I remember taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  In second grade I answered questions on the wrong page of the scantron booklet included with the test.  I'm pretty sure I set a new standard of underachievement that year.  You can thank me now, if you like.

There is also Benchmark testing, which is done through out the year to monitor student progress.  Again, a thorn in my kids' side, but no where near the albatross that the CRCT hooks around a student's neck.

Chapter 2:

Now that I have explained what I am talking about.  It is time for my rant. 

I hate the CRCT.  Not because I suck at test taking, or because my kids complain about it like they do the nights I make something "healthy" for Dinner. 

No, I dislike the test for other reasons. 

1.  What should be an annual assessment of academic retention and comprehension is more a soap opera of sorts, involving panic attacks, controversy, and my kids' school calling me 3 times (once for each student) to inform me that it is important to feed my kids healthy food for breakfast, put them to bed at a reasonable hour, and maintain a consistent schedule for optimal test taking abilities. 


I thought I was supposed to do that all year long.  But that totally explains the schedule the schools maintain, in addition to the assemblies, pep rallies and various other distractions associated with the typical school day.

Schools are horrendous hypocrites when it comes to practicing what they preach.

Between assemblies, pep rallies, fundraisers (a particular frustration of mine), awareness type things (IE jump rope for heart, visiting dentists, help save the molecule that creates methane gas); a students regular classroom schedule is interrupted on a fairly frequent basis.

Add into the equation holidays, furloughs and breaks and we are looking at not only a frustration for working parents that need to make accommodations for their kids, but also an inconsistent attendance practice. 

In addition to chronic interruptions and frequent days off, we also have the ever perplexing liberal use of candy.  I want to break this one down so that we can all kind of get a better understanding of my gripe.

1.  Candy is made of sugar.

2.  Sugar is known to affect insulin levels and also is considered a toxin which the likes of our liver does not like. 

3.  Sugar is a known substance that negatively affects behavior, not only in children diagnosed with behavioral disorders known as ADHD, but also kids who would otherwise not have behavior struggles.

4.  There is a drastic rise of ADHD diagnosis' in the United States over the course of the last few decades.  I can't account for other countries, because to be honest I haven't made an effort to do so yet.

5.  ADHD is monitored in schools using RTI programs and establishing IEPs, so that the kid can still participate in the M&M Math Lesson and then be rewarded with another sweet treat.

6.  Kids then come home from school and crash like a train derails.  It's horrific, painful, and in many instances. 

Now, that we have established my frustration regarding an inconsistent classroom schedule, chronic days off and a candy habit that needs to be abolished.  I will finish up with my final bit of frustration, the ever evolving curriculum. 

I am well aware that things change and that is a necessary part of our culture.  I know when I came home with Algebra in 8th Grade for my Dad to help me with.  His antiquated practices would be something to question.  And I kind of figured the same scenario would repeat itself when I had my own kids.  BUT, when the curriculum changes, while your kids are still in school, it does make for some challenges. 

A good example is Moops now being in Kindergarten.  I really studied up while Izzy and Alex were in Kindergarten.  I found the value in early childhood development, and really got myself in check.  I even prepared myself, complete with pulling out Izzy and Alex's old sight words cards, so that Moops and I could get a head start. 

Only thing is, the curriculum is completely different for Moops.  And we are looking at only a 5 year time span from when Alex did Kindergarten, in the same school!

Now, with all the variables out on the table.  I look at what is going on in today's schools, to include the growing number of families that opt for Homeschooling their children to downward spiral we seem to be experiencing in regards to parent involvement.

And with this week being CRCT week, and all that has been a result of this test.  I have to wonder, is this one test worth all the strife that it causes?

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