Monday, April 20, 2015

Schooling, Learning, Testing, Common Core

In my life time I have spent much of it in school, El-Hi 12 years, almost 20 going part time to get my AAS, BBA and MBA. Two years as an Adjunct Professor at Westchester Community College.  In those 34 years I have come up against plenty of testing, teaching and some learning. The best teachers I had were at the lower levels with some great ones at the higher levels. Many at the College level were not interested in the students learning, understanding and become a better more proficient human being. The instructors at this level were interested in getting to the end of the session so they could go home or to a pub for a quick one.
For the most part they were interested in making money to get through the position they were in until they could make enough at their real jobs so they wouldn't have to teach at night. Not all the instructors were like this but many were. Marking on the curve kept them employed rather than being good instructors. I can remember getting an A in one Math Class when my average in the tests was 27. I often wondered what the other 20 students were averaging. He was a terrible teacher but for all I know he is still teaching today.

When I was at Westchester Community and I tested my students and graded their homework assignments it was done to determine if I was getting through to them, if they were learning, if they were not it probably was my fault although there are some that do not belong in certain classes or any form of education and they should be flushed out for their sake. Hey, there is nothing wrong with being a bus driver, butcher or garbage man or furniture re-finisher, not everybody was meant to be a financial wizard, or Physicist.

Today everything seems to be focused on testing, common core especially. I agree we need to see where we are in terms of our students learning, but that means the subject not just how to take the test. If more time is taken on instructing how to take tests rather than understanding the course such as English, History or Science then that is time wasted. If Homework is given in such great quantity that it takes hours upon hours to complete then our young people will be too tired or just exhausted with schooling and will show that in their classwork.

Many are using testing as a method to grade our instructors and miss the fact that the class makeup, in fact the school makeup of students may have a direct effect on the test results of that school that may hide great teaching because the student makeup is one of special needs, be it mental or physical while an elite school flushes out all the trouble makers keeping only the highly motivated and intelligent students. These schools will show better test results but may have inferior instructors.

I was a terrible student from elementary through high school and for the most part it wasn't the fault of my teachers, I was just a bad student who rather play ball and sneak a beer than do any schoolwork. After I was married and had the motivation of getting good grades so I would have the Vets or my company I worked for pay the tuition as well as getting promotions or just keeping jobs I graduated with Honors, which for the most part was not the result of having excellent teachers although the few that I had that were good were great, real geniuses.

My point. Forget testing as an end all measure of whether the teachers or students are excelling. Concentrate on keeping them, teachers and students motivated and then real learning, understanding and appreciation of acquiring knowledge will take place.