Sunday, September 02, 2007

Standarized Tests III

Regarding the following article:

School test scores level off as federal standards get tougher

The biggest problem with the US educational system is that, simply because a child sits in a classroom doesn't mean he/she is learning. Anyone can sit in a chair for an hour; daydream, not pay attention nor fully process the information and give the teacher the impression of learning. What educators should want is the child to internally process the information. The US educational system is set up to maximize the freedom given to the child, of course this means the child has the freedom not to do well in school.

Now 2 hours of math and English a day combined with 3 hours on the weekend for a total of 11 hours of math and English. Let us assume the child gets out of school at 3 pm from 3 to 7 pm is spent doing homework and studying, lets assume the child goes to sleep at 10 pm, for a total of 3 hrs of "freetime". On the weekends lets say the child goes to 3 hours of enrichment on Saturday for a total of 9 hrs of freetime, on Sunday lets say 12 hrs of freetime. If you add the freetime you get 36 hrs of freetime weekly, you see this is directly comparable with the 31 hrs spent supposedly actively learning, doing homework, or studying.

The way this "free time" is spent is the most important factor in education. I teach at an afterschool program for children, most of them are of Asian background ranging from the ages of 5 to 17. Here is a typical day:

They do their math and English homework, tutors help them with any question they have. Tutors also check to see if their homework is done correctly. Afterwards they are given a series of practice standardized tests and they are timed, the tests are scored and then the children must redo the test correcting all the missed questions. After that they are given math and English enrichment packets where they practice the concepts learned in class or learn concepts not yet presented in class. The tutors make sure they do them correctly otherwise they have to correctly rewrite any missed question 5 times each, if they miss the questions again they have to rewrite them 6 times and so on. Oh yea, the children go through this "grilling" 6 days a week, including Saturday and starting from 5 yrs old all the way to 17 yrs old. This center even has Standardized exams for 6 yrs old kids, so just imagine a child taking a scored practice standardized exam nearly everyday for 11 yrs, do you think it will have effect?

The only reason such a program works is because parents make the children go, whether the child wants to or not. Also they give the tutors the right to "grill" their sons and daughters, in addition at home they make them study all the time, and by all the time I mean that nearly all of their freetime is spent studying.

Now in regard to summer vacation, what summer vacation? At the center they offer summer math and English classes where they cover 1 month of material in a week, the homework literally takes up all of their free time.

So you see, it has nothing to do with intrinsic capabilities, it has everything to do with just how much parents are willing to do to educate their kids. If the educators want to surpass this plateau then they will first have to make the children "internalize" the value of education, second they will have to make the children want to study correctly everyday, third they will have to make children think like a person who scores high on standardized exams.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. As I am 26 now and in graduate school, I've thought back in my time how I've wasted my summers year in and year out by bumming around. Now I take advantage of any free time as possible to study mathematics. After couple of years of this, I quickly saw my standing among my peers to be above them. They go, "Gee, you must be pretty smart." I say nothing but think to myself, "That's because I worked hard through my free time, preparing by consuming knowledge." Good point that you raised about desire. How do you create the desire in individuals? Honestly, it's the parents' responsibility right from the start. Without fostering this, it's pretty damn near impossible to muster one out of somebody in later age unless s/he has truly found something so motivating, hopefully something of worthy endeavor.

September 26, 2007 at 9:43 AM  

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