Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Testing, Testing

As part of Chickenhead's home-school curriculum this past school year, he was required to take state math and reading assessment tests. I though I had a pretty strong opinion when it came to these tests, but this year made me question that.

Last year in 'brick and mortar' school, Chickenhead's math and reading test scores were abysmal. It was disheartening for the Husband and me, because we knew Chickenhead was a smart kid, but we couldn't understand why he didn't do better. As we began thinking about home school, I started really resenting those tests. Why do school districts insist on determining a child's intelligence (and more and more, a teacher's competence) on the basis of a few 90 minute tests? Then once I realized that tests aren't used to determine intelligence so much as how much funding the district will receive, I felt like my son was little more than a pawn in the education game.

Fast forward to April of this year, and math and reading assessment tests. Because our virtual school is part of a brick and mortar district, the tests are required. I knew Chickenhead was progressing much better with home school, but I still worried about him taking the tests. Turns out, I worried for nothing! The math test, which he scored a 34 on last year, became a 62 this year. Last year's reading score of 35 was 85 this year. I was thrilled. Thrilled that he did so well, yet still pissed off at these tests.

I still firmly believe that the intelligence of a child or their capacity to learn can be determined by a single test. I find it sad that schools are spending so much time focusing only on reading and math that kids are missing out on history, science and social studies. Not to mention PE, art and music. All of these subjects are vital to a child's development. The one thing that I really have come to love about home schooling is that while we do a lot of math and reading work, we also have the time to tackle history, science, literature, social studies and art. Home school definitely isn't for every child or every family, but for us, it's worked out beautifully.

The one thing that we didn't work on much this year is handwriting. Chickenhead doesn't have the best handwriting; his spacing is off, he writes in a mix of upper and lower-case letters. If I had to give his handwriting a name, I'd call it 'Ransom note', because it sort of looks like a mash up of cut-out letters from a magazine. So we're working on that this summer, and it's got me wondering- how important is handwriting in this day and age? The great majority of his classwork is done online, and when he gets to junior high papers and reports will be done in Word. Is cursive useful in a world where we type and text our every thought?

When I was in high school (and....now I'm old!), some people labored over their handwriting, adding whirls, loops, hearts, etc. Mostly girls. I don't recall knowing a guy who cared about his handwriting. So maybe sloppy handwriting is just a guy thing and I should let it slide? We're working on him signing his name (because someday he might need to sign a check, a contract, post bond for me), but how much will he really be writing in longhand? Thoughts?


Susie said...

I'm so old, my first report cards actually have grades for penmanship! Both my boys have awful handwriting, they're fourteen and sixteen, but I figure they'll probably only ever have to sign their names because everything else is done on computers.

MommaSue said...

Kendra writes like a serial killer. Kevin's legal signature is actually his printed name. Kendra's actually been told that her penmanship isn't important because she can always print off what she does on the computer and turn it in, or else just write in print as opposed to cursive. Of course, she was also told by the yearbook teacher that spelling isn't important because that's what spell check is for.

Lurker Girl said...

Some schools are actually eliminating teh teaching of cursive writing. With computer and texting etc, there will be no need for it they say.

Yeah to Chicken head for his great scores...you and hubby must be great teachers for him to be doing so well.

Homeschooling is hard--God love you for being able to do it--my patience level is nil when it comes to that stuff--I could never do it.

Janet said...

Fellow KC person here...found you through The Women's Colony, a.k.a. Derfwad Manor. I thought I'd chime in on this just because it's been a topic of conversation at our house lately as well. We have a high school senior (public school) who has heard the rumblings of eliminating the teaching of cursive writing and shared it with us. Although it is not used much anymore in daily life, I would hate for future generations not even be able to read cursive anymore, which is what I fear will happen if it is not taught. So many historical documents are handwritten in cursive that might not be able to be read any longer. They might turn into a foreign language of sorts.