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State tests for elementary students/Teaching to the test

Moms View Message Board: General Discussion: State tests for elementary students/Teaching to the test
By Crystal915 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 09:37 am:

Tayjar's post about her son's math homework really got me thinking...

With the move from KS to FL, my children have a totally different curriculum, and I'm very unhappy with the way they teach down here. I know the main focus is on the FCATs, not making sure the kids gain the knowledge they need. It's frustrating, because I feel like they skip a lot of stuff, and they are also cramming a lot into a short period of time.

So, my question is how many of you are in school districts that you feel "teach to the test"? Does anyone feel their child missed out on certain things in school because they were taught mainly to pass state exams? Did you also teach your child at home, or supplement with tutoring? How did your child do on state exams?

I am not even sure they take the FCATs this year, but it seems like they will, based on their curriculum. There is a block on the school calendar for them, but it *could* be for older kids That's another thing that bothers me, we took the CATs (California Achievement Tests) when I was in school (but we lived in NJ, LOL) and I don't think we took them in 1st grade. I was always good at standardized tests, but I know some kids get really stressed out, and fail them even though they know the material.

By Emily7 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 09:54 am:

I have not been happy with my ds's teacher this year. I think in K he had more homework then he has in 1st grade, it is just reading everyday and spelling words. The other week he came home and didn't even know his spelling words, it was as if he wasn't introduce to the words in school that day.
He went from reading at an advanced level 6 to a level 4 this year. The when I talked to her about I was told it wasn't accurate, she would have the right level at Parent/Teacher Conferences.
My DH and I feel that the most important job our kids will have for the next 16+ years (depending on college) is to get an education. We want to do everything we can to make sure that happens, so I make up homework if I need to to get him to learn his words ect.

When I was in school I remember taking Iowa Basics, I think it was every year.

By Kaye on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 10:23 am:

The struggle is this. The state test are supposed to have all the need to know info. So if they are teaching to the test, then they should be learning everything they need that year. But what they spend a lot of time doing is teaching test taking skills (which do help later in life). The balance is hard. We want teachers to be competent and equal. But then how do you judge that.

I am going to go on record saying that I think one of our huge issues in society is we are pushing our kids WAY TOO hard and TOO fast. When we are so focused on academics we forget that they have to learn other skills. We are seeing huge spikes of kids in 4th grade being dxed with adhd and aspergers. I think this is all related. We have to teach our children so much more.

However it is really hard to do that, because parents want tangible work to be seen. Think back to when you were in school. When did you start getting homework? When did you learn your math facts, really work on reading? So for our children they are spending time on those things, what isn't being taught? Social skills, coping skills, rule following skills, etc.

By Dawnk777 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 10:52 am:

My kids seem to be learning what they need to do and they both have done well, on the state tests. They take the test as sophomores, for the last time and if you scored at a certain point last year, you didn't have to take the English final exam. There's proficient and advanced, but I don't remember which one you needed. Emily scored that high, so she didn't have to take her English final.

Edited to add:

Emily informed me today, that they had to be proficient in the Social Studies component and then they didn't have to take the Western Civilization final. It wasn't English. Whoops.

By Debbie on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 11:01 am:

Here in Oklahoma, we do not do state testing until 3rd grade. The younger kids do testing, but it is a benchmark to see if the kids are where they should be. It is for the teacher to use to see what areas they need to work on.

We moved into our area because of the schools. We could have lived 5-10 minutes away from dh's office, but we choose our area because of the schools. I am very happy with the school that my dks attend. I do not feel like they "teach" to the test on a daily basis. They do take a 4 week period before the test, and spend part of the day reviewing material for the test. It is basic math and reading, and should be stuff they know, so I don't have a problem with the reviews.

However, I will say that I agree with Kaye on this statement "I am going to go on record saying that I think one of our huge issues in society is we are pushing our kids WAY TOO hard and TOO fast. When we are so focused on academics we forget that they have to learn other skills" The amount of homework my 3rd and 5th graders have frustrates me. They are both good students that don't struggle. I often wonder how the kids that struggle are dealing with it. I feel that my youngest(who is 8) really stresses out sometimes. I hate it!!! We don't put pressure on him for good grades, but he is very driven, and wants straight A's. I think it is also hard for him because my oldest is very bright, and doesn't have to study much to bring home A's. I do believe that the teacher can make a big difference. My dks both have wonderful, caring, hands on teachers this year. My dks both really love school this year, and I think in part, it has to do with their teachers.

Emily, my dks did not have much homework in 1st grade. They were just suppose to read 30 minutes each night, and they would have the occasional math sheet to do. When I asked the teacher about it, she said their main focus that year was reading. The school feels that reading is the foundation of school, and that is the focus for 1st grade. Maybe your school feels the same way. And, believe me now that they are in 3rd and 5th, I miss the days of no homework. Also, as far as spelling words, I am a firm believer that you are either a good speller, or you aren't. I am not!! I love to read, am a great writer, but can't spell at all. My oldest is a speller, my youngest is not. It doesn't matter how often they use the words in class(and I know they do daily), my ds has to study the words each night.

By Tayjar on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 11:40 am:

We start testing in 3rd grade. Our school district is almost at 100% achieved or exceeded expectations each year at most grade levels.

Our school district does teach to the tests. But, I am glad in a way. The kids who go off to college and come back say they are glad they were pushed so hard in school.

I'm like Dawn. My kids seem to be learning what they need to know but they tried something different with the 5th grade math this year and it's just not working. The teacher told me this morning that he hates the new text book and is really struggling with it.

I also think schools across the nation are asking kids to do school work that their brains aren't developed enough to do. The human brain develops at a certain rate and kids don't even develop critical thinking skills needed for some of this work until 7th or 8th grade. It's insane. I agree - pushing too hard too fast. Learning isn't fun anymore for these kids. It's a lot of pressure at a young age.

Repeal the No Child Left Behind Law and come up with something that makes sense.

By Rayelle on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 11:46 am:

I'm in MD. I think there is a very big difference in what I learned in school versus what my kids know. I had English, as in grammar. I correct my kids all the time for saying the wrong tenses of words for example. Sometimes I think I should be a english teacher because the texting slang I see people use in COLLEGE drives me crazy. I'm not perfect but there is a difference between apologizing to your instructor for being L8 and your friends!

My kids hated first grade with a passion. In kindergarten they say it's the new first grade but here first grade is still first grade. My kids learned to read in kindergarten. First grade seemed to be more about catching up the kids who weren't ready to read in kindergarten. They have had 90 solid minutes of math and reading everyday since K. In first grade they really didn't introduce much new material and they were bored to tears, literally. Both of them then loved second grade. In my opinion if some kids are ready to read in kindergarten but just about everybody is in first grade, then save the hardcore drilling for first grade. I read a study once in Parents I believe that said other countries that focus more on social skills in kindergarten catch up with things like reading right on schedule.

This year my oldest are in 3rd and 4th. Third grade is when the testing starts. They have already started practicing. They are worded so differently from anything they have seen, the teacher told me the smartest kids fail the practice tests. So that's why they keep doing them over and over so they are familiar by April. My son's whole academic life the teachers all told me the same thing. He knows the answers but the tests are so long that he eventually quits doing his best. I agree that I wonder about the kids who are truly struggling.

The school overall does well on the tests and they have a report every year about having some of the best teachers. I think they do their best to balance things out. Every month they have an incentive for good behavior. They might have a hay ride, or a movie day where they wear pajamas to school. After the state tests last year they took the kids to a nearby park and set up all kinds of field games and picnic food for them. The teachers all seem to be very aware for how intense the testing can be.

By Emily7 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 01:23 pm:

I am glad to know that the homework is normal.
I agree with the spelling, I am so greatful for spell check!
My ds hates first gade too, we have had so much trouble with him this year, although it is getting better.
His teacher says the first quarter and the end of the 4th quarter are always the hardest for first graders.

By Tklinreston on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 02:03 pm:

In Virginia it is the SOLs taken in 3rd grade, which Joshua is in. And yes they do teach to the test. Most frustrating is math this year. They changed the math curriculum starting this year based on the SOLs performance in the past year. Second week into school they started on fractions, equivalent fractions, word problems, addition and subtraction of fractions and decimals, which is one of the end chapters in the text. They still haven't introduced division. It just seems backward to me.

I do also agree with Kaye that these days kids do seem to be pushed too hard and too fast. It was recommended to us by Jordan's teacher and principal that we have him skip kindergarten this year. They said his intellectual abilities exceeded first grade but thought due to his maturity level and social skills - he is one of the younger ones in this class - skipping first was not an option. Anyway dh and I didn't hesitate to keep him in K. It was a no brainer for us. There is a very big gap between his intellect and his maturity level. He being such a unique sensitive kid we thought it would be detremental to his well-being to stick him in a class with 7 year olds when he is still only 5. We don't want to push him hard academically and we are pretty satisfy with the special supplemental work they are giving him in K. My greatest hope for him this year is that he will develop good socialization skills, confidence and well-roundedness. Though others may disagree (including my in=laws), I believe in my heart we are doing the right thing by keeping him in K.

By Vicki on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 02:32 pm:

The main problem that I have with the tests are that they give them too early. I believe they take them in April??? The test is stuff they are supposed to know at the end of the year, so why don't they take them at the end of the year?? They cram cram cram and then do basically not too much for the last month and a half!

By Crystal915 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 04:07 pm:

Thanks for the replies, ladies! I really do feel they are not learning as much as I did when I was in school. I know from moving here in HS that the schools I attended in NJ are more advanced than the ones here, but I mean basic skills being taught to my kids are not up to par with the basics we learned. I also really dislike some of the methods, like the D'Nealian handwriting, or the dot method to writing numbers. I guess we will see once they have taken FCATs, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that NCLB will be either scrapped or heavily made over.

Joyce, I would have done the same... I don't think Kindergarten is for learning educational skills as much as it is for socially preparing for school. Yeah, they learn basics, but a lot of what they learned were things I already taught them or they covered in pre-school. I think a lot of the reason kids should go to K is those who didn't get pre-school, or whose parents didn't teach them certain skills learn those, and EVERYONE gets used to going to school (esp for full day K, which I am a big supporter of) and gets to know their classmates. Kindergarten is also a lot of fun, and they transition into and out of certain things like naps and doing homework, which helps ease the shock for most kids.

By Dawnk777 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 04:44 pm:

My kids learned D'Nealian handwriting. My kids had Everyday Math, which is out of the University of Chicago. I thought they had some weird techniques for doing multiplying and dividing and I had to learn them with the kids, because I needed to understand how they worked, to help them with homework. I guess different strokes for different folks, but the ways I learned for multiplying and dividing worked for me.

Everyday Math

On the other hand, even if I didn't like some stuff about it, my kids have learned enough to be able to advanced math in high school without my help, which has been good, since I don't remember much, from when I went to high school.

By Crystal915 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 04:54 pm:

We had "Everyday Math" in K and I *think* their old 1st grade in KS had it as well, they use "Harcourt Math" here. The Harcourt Math workbook is pretty good, that's not really an issue for me. The thing I disliked about their 1st grade math in KS was the writing method for numbers, it was bizarre, IMO. Of course, we haven't gotten into multiplying or dividing, and I had already taught them basic adding and subtracting in K. We'll see how it goes from here.

By Mrsheidi on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 08:10 pm:

All I have to say is that everyone has "their view" on how things should be taught, when really, the more you change things and add measurables the further behind in education we get. On top of it, they mix funding in with testing and there's a whole new "goal" there...to make administrations and districts "look" good, gain more money or keep the money they have, and then the true ones that hurt are the kids.

The main way to gain ground is to have a stable home, parent involvement, and lower classroom sizes.

I'm so tired of new curriculum and tests...they don't even get to the root of the problem.

NCLB act needs to be burned. Now.

By Mrsheidi on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 08:13 pm:

PS- I wonder if there is a comparison with the amount of $ it takes to test EVERY kid in the U.S. vs. the $ it would take to hire a few more (good) teachers to lower classroom size. I'd be willing to bet that it evens out and then the GOAL would be the KIDS.

Hot button for me, can you tell? :)

By Dawnk777 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 09:02 pm:

It is for me, too. The teachers at the school where I work, are not too fond of NCLB.

By Reds9298 on Wednesday, November 12, 2008 - 09:08 pm:

Well said Heidi!

By Crystal915 on Thursday, November 13, 2008 - 02:18 pm:

Well said, Heidi! It's such a shame they don't bother listening to the TEACHERS to find out how to improve our schools. I bet the teachers would be able to solve it in no time. The thing that bugs me is they think you guys just want more money (who doesn't) but they don't realize how spending the money on wiser choices doesn't cost more, and would change everything.


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