It’s all about that test

Published 6:13 am Saturday, August 4, 2018

By Michael Cole

I am very opinionated.

Then again, you probably already guessed that.

So today when I sat down at my trusty HP Pavillion to type this editorial piece, I was bothered by something I rarely ever face.

Writer’s block.

So I thought about a topic. Then I thought some more. And then I pondered a little more.

It started to become something out of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, The Raven:

Once upon a hot afternoon sweltering, while I pondered, stumped and worrying, over many a topic and prompt of elusive lore…

Then I remembered a trick that I was taught back in high school about brainstorming.

So I pulled out my scratch pad and started writing down topics that I could fill a column of a few hundred words. All the while the clock ticked down to the deadline.

I have to remember to get a clock that doesn’t make that ticking noise. Talk about stress.

Then it hit me.

Not the clock, but the topic.

I was doing something teachers taught in grade, intermediate, middle and High school.

Critical Thinking.

But we do not teach that anymore.

It is all about that STAAR.

How to pass that test.

Sadly, that is much of all we teach these days.

At my time at LC-M, all the core subjects taught test-taking strategies, how to eliminate the wrong answers and take a stab at the best solution.

The focus was never really about knowing the material enough to know the correct answer automatically, but giving enough of a topic to make an educated guess.

Is that a way to run a modern society? A school?

The essays we require on the writing portion is like a poorly written paragraph. The knowledge we expect in the maths and sciences is an abysmal joke. Do not get me started on our history.

This reminds me of two instances that stand out. I was passing a World History class once that had its door open so you could hear the students talking.

They had suspended their World History lessons for six weeks while they crammed US History for the STAAR. Yeah, it made no sense to me either.

To go on, I heard a student blurt out a question that was in their study packet.

Who won the American Revolution?!

Yeah, at that point I was wondering if we asked Her Majesty politely, would she take back us ungrateful Colonials.

Then there was another instance where the social studies teachers were meeting with administration, and the topic was teaching test-taking strategies.

On the projector was a sample question. An administrator read the problem aloud, then the answer choices.

The person remarked after reading it, “well you can dismiss A and D as an answer because they are wrong. And if we teach proper strategies, the student will be able to figure out that B is the correct answer. The student does not even need to know anything about the subject.”

The problem with that remark was two-fold. First, the easiest way to ensure students pass the STAAR is to teach the material, not the test. The second problem, A was the correct answer.

Check, please.

We need to eliminate standardized testing, it might have served its purpose years ago, but today it is nothing more than a bloated jobs program for textbook and education companies.

Teachers did not spend a minimum of four years in college, pass at least two very complicated and confusing tests to teach students why C is the correct answer.

The best way to ensure the future of tomorrow is not through standardized testing.

I know of no jobs that require you to eliminate the wrong answers first.

But I know many jobs that require critical thinking skills. I can list a lot of them that need diction. And at the very least legible handwriting.

We want to create vouchers to let kids go to privates schools or the public school of their choice. That is not an answer. Merely thinking that in a few years, they will require private schools to take some of the same tests, and at that point, it erodes all education and thinking.

If not requiring testing in private school makes them better, and the students there are performing better, it only makes sense to free public schools of the same roadblock.

It comes down to one real issue. Thanks to the legislature in Austin, not only can they not come up with a way to finance a school, they have no clue how to run one.

Standardized testing is no answer. Not A, B, C, or D should standardized testing even be an answer choice.

Let’s free up teachers to be able to teach things like penmanship, or essay writing. Heck, let’s free teachers to at least teach Edgar Allen Poe and The Raven.

And the STAAR test, forgotten and scrapped, shall plague our students, Nevermore