Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Falling behind" in school

I've read blog posts about how homeschoolers and unschoolers feel it's utterly ridiculous to think that a child could "fall behind" in school if school is closed for an extended amount of time due to weather, or if one particular child has to miss school for a period of time.

And at first, I agreed. That's true (I thought!) ... how can a child "fall behind" when each new day presents another opportunity to learn something new and make progress in an educational sense. They are never "falling behind" if they are always learning something, anything, new. So when they get back to school, they just pick up where they left off, right?

Well, here's the thing ... from someone who has spent just enough time in "the system" to understand this ...

School officials, administrators, school boards, and teachers are all worried about one thing ... testing! Standardized testing, to be more specific. Because THAT is how they are judged on whether or not they are doing their jobs. Period. The sticking point to this is that all standarized testing takes place on the exact same days. Period. Once the testing days are established, there is no changing the calendar. End of story. So even if a district has seen the worst ice storm in history and school was closed for a month, the tests are still administered on the days they were scheduled for (barring the possibility that the tests were scheduled for the ice storm month, that is). And those children, teachers, administrators, school boards, and districts are then judged on what those children have learned up to the point of the testing date (or retained, for that matter).

So if the neighboring district didn't get the ice storm, or had more money for road salt, or decided to risk the children's lives and make them go to school through the storm anyway, those districts may score better on the tests, making them appear to be a better school, and making it seem that their children are "farther ahead" than the others.

So this is what it comes down to when some people worry about their children falling behind. They don't want them to fall behind other districts, other states, etc ... want me to start telling you about how those tests scores then affect the amount of money a school gets from the government? No?? Ok, I won't.

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