Failing the Test

 Teaching to the Test

The new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) concentrate on a clear set of skills and concepts that students will learn in a more organized way. However, there is confusion and concerns from parents and teachers about how course content is taught and if the students are learning. During my ten years as a reading and writing Supplemental Instructor for college level courses, and an ELA Instructor for grades K-12, I have witnessed serval changes in the New York City Public schools curriculum. Due to decreasing test scores teachers are scrambling to adjust to yet another assigned way to teach to the test.  However, aside from the common core, there are other factors that contribute to black and Latino children failing standardized tests and not obtaining the appropriate skills thus leading them to become under achievers academically.

Obstacle #1: The learning Environment has Changed

Today’s children are in classrooms that lack space for intellectual growth and creativity. As a result, children are restless and bored by the daily grind and drilling of teaching to the test. In addition, teachers are no longer allowed to use their knowledge, skills and talents to make learning engaging. Instead, they are chained to the demands of a curriculum required by the Board of Education. In order for learning to take place, children need to feel comfortable in the classroom. Therefore, allowing the process of taking in course content pleasurable and interesting.

Hindrance #2: Home Life

Learning is impede at home for some children because there is no encouragement to use their reading, writing and math skills. Instead, what is encouraged is marathon hours of watching meaningless television shows and playing video games nonstop. The majority of parents mind set is that learning should take place in the class room because teachers are paid to educate children. Secondly, working parents are exhausted, it is easy to use the television to contain their children’s behavior by sitting them in front of the television having their brains drained and corrupted by the Disney channel or worse reality TV. The world children live in today is far removed from the days when the father was the sole bread winner and mom stayed home and help with homework.  Furthermore, in an effort to take even less responsibly for their children’s education parents are stretching their budgets to pay tutors to pick up the slack. There is nothing wrong with using tutoring services for academic support, however, it’s not a good use of resource if the parents are only hoping for a quick fix.

Barrier #3: Children’s attitude towards Learning

This generation of scholars’ define the process of education as being a nuisance, difficult and too much work.  During tutoring sessions   I often hear children questioning their parents, teachers and tutors as to “why they have to learn this stuff” and “how this stuff is going to help them?” I’ve witnessed kids having melt downs and crying spells because they detest learning. This attitude is not entirely their fault. How can we expect them to be motivated and excited about learning when the majority of children in African American/Latino homes do not observe their parents engaging in reading or writing? It is said that home should be the first place where children get inspired.

The final insult, the practice of social promotion moving students to the next grade regardless of whether they learned the necessary material, in order to keep them with their peers. This is also referred to as social grouping. The harm caused to the students caught in this game of move them along, further damages their academic achievement.  First, they have not mastered the material in the previous grade. Second, the embarrassment to their egos and self-esteem   when they realize their peers are ahead of them and that they lack the ability to catch up.

Now that you have heard my side of the story, WHAT SAY YOU?


Teachers Accountability versus Students Responsibility

EXPLORACTeachers Accountability versus Students Responsibility

In this modern age of technology that changed the  way teachers teach in the class, and how students are retaining  course  content, the question is raised  as to  who should be held accountable for students’ academic success or failure? It was once the educators’ duty to ensure that the knowledge we hold be passed onto the hungry minds of students. This process of teaching is referred to as the “Banking Concept,” a phrase that Paul Freire discussed. This method of instruction is where the teachers deposit information into the students’ minds, then leads to them using memorization of information in a specific chronological order. Once upon a time, in the education system, there was no teaching to the test and the idea of Banking Education was used to ensure that students could at least remember dates, names, events and terms. This stored information which was to be applied to exams that measured the level of course comprehension and skills.

Those were the days of old.  Today the problem is culpability for our students’ lack of understanding over what is being asked of them in the classroom where the core of learning is supposed to take place.  In Adrienne Rich’s Convocation Speech delivered at Douglass College in 1977, she states that “If…education means anything beyond the processing of human beings into expected roles…through test and grades, it implies an ethical and intellectual contract between teacher and student”.  Rich statement brings us to the question of teacher accountability and student responsibility. This matter is a debate that the state continues to arguing back and forth due to our students’ failing grades on standardized test.  Nowadays, teachers are given report cards based on their classroom performance and on the percentage of students who pass or fail standardized exams. Thus, the state has redirected how course content should be taught and places heavy blame on teachers if they fail to properly prepare students. Moreover, students have been taken out of the learning equation, meaning that they are no longer held liable for their own education.

As stated by Rich “Students are no longer laying claim to what is rightfully theirs.” In other words, they have lost the sense of what they owe to themselves and replaced it with what they feel is owed to them by educators.  Basically, Students are refusing to think for themselves, therefore allowing others to dictate how they should be educated.  This releases themselves of culpability and encourages using teachers as scapegoats for the reason as to why this nation is turning out poorly prepared students.  Parents have also jumped on the band wagon of holding teachers accountable for Johnny not knowing how to read. The parents who are crying foul are the same parents who do not attend PTA meetings, fail to show up at teacher parent conference, and even worst, they do not take the time to sit with their children to assist with homework. Moreover, they feel as others do; it is solely the teacher’s duty to educate their children because that is what the state pays them teachers to do. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The same can be said for educating our children. Pointing fingers, passing the buck and playing the blame game is not going to solve the problem of balancing students responsibilities and teachers culpability in such a  highly technology advanced society.