Monday, March 26, 2012

Questionable Encouragement

There was an alarming news story in our area a few weeks ago.  Everyone in Texas knows about our state test.  Students from grades 3 through 11 are required to master certain information for their grade level.  Successful completion of the 11th grade test is required for graduation. This is how it comes down the pike:
  • The state puts districts under pressure.
  • Districts put campuses under pressure.
  • Campuses put teachers under pressure.
  • Teachers put students under pressure.
Now before anyone begins to think that I am opposed to a state test, let me assure that is incorrect.  I fully support accountability on all levels.  I think it is important to hold everyone accountable for the education our children receive.

It is the level of pressure we place on students, teachers, and administrators that I have an issue.   All teachers try to encourage the students to do well on the test.  The news story that alarmed me went this way.  A teacher in our area knew she needed to encourage her bi-lingual students if they were to be successful.  During practice tests, every time a student marked an incorrect answer the teacher slapped their hand.  Now at one time most teachers slapped the back of their students' hands as an acceptable means of discipline.  But that was in the 1800s.  Today no child should be slapped on the back of the hand for any reason and certainly not for encouragement.  The dictionary defines encouragement as support of a kind that inspires confidence and a will to continue or develop.   How can anyone justify or think of pain as inspiring confidence and a will to continue?  As you can imagine, parents were protesting loudly and vigorously.  I stood in front of my television and cheered them on.
I completely agree that there should be a certain knowledge base for our students who graduate high school.  However, I once read the math test to a student who has dyslexia (an allowable accommodation).  I watched as this poor misguided high school junior, destined  to soon meet the world, marked his answers.  I disagreed with him on several questions.  I thought, poor thing, he's not going to pass the test.  Three weeks later his scores were returned to the school and he had scored 85%.  Guess who didn't pass the test.  Now I consider myself fairly successful.  I have two masters degrees and recently retired as an administrator of a school district.  I have also published six books.  And I accomplished it all without being slapped on the back of the hand for success on a state test.
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