Too much testing is the enemy of learningI enjoy occasionally reading local and regional papers from around the country, just to get a flavor of what's going on in different parts of the US. I came across this article from Maine's Portland Press-Herald talking about how recess is quickly disappearing from many schools.
Some schools are concerned about liability but most simply don't have enough time to allow kids unstructured play time. With the avalanche of new federal mandates (and state ones as well in many places), the educational system is no longer about learning. It's about testing.
Kids are now force fed standardized tests. Here in New York, kids are given standardized tests in English-language arts and math every single year from 3rd to 8th grade. Teachers thus don't have the luxury of letting kids learn anything outside the curriculum. Time is too short.
I'm surprised kids are allowed to sleep or go to the bathroom without taking a test. Where's the accountability?! After all, how can a kid be accountable if he's not taking a formulaic exam.
Standardized tests are useful in small doses. They can be a way of making sure everyone's learning the same basic, important information. But it's clearly gone too far. Why would a teacher 'waste' time teaching kids about the local history of their town since such information surely won't appear on a state test? Then again, I suppose this corresponds with the general distaste society has for anything that's not homogenized.
Recess is where children learn how to negotiate the unwritten rules of society. It teaches them about negotiation and conflict resolution and compromise. It's also where they get fresh air and exercise. Such learning is just as important as knowing that 2+2=4 but since these things can't easily be paraphrased into a multiple choice question, they have no value in an 'accountability' based educational system. As someone with a university math degree and a concentration in statistics, I know better than most both the value of numbers AND their limitations. Not everything is quantifiable.
The elite's fetish for standardized tests is not helping kids learn. It's crushing their natural curiosity for learning. And it's teaching them a skill, formal test-taking, which has almost no value in the working world.
It makes you wonder when the policy makers are going to be held accountable.