Since 2001, when President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Legislation, most American schools have been required to administer standardized tests annually, at various grade levels. The compensation of teachers and administrators is partially based on those test results. Accordingly, many schools have been “teaching to the test”, rather than for the educational value, which would carry the students throughout their lifetimes.
Every teacher is different and, most certainly, each class is, as well. So, what if a teacher was free to be as creative as they wish in order to excite the students in their various classes. Let’s consider just a few examples:
1. An elementary school class might open-up to science if they learned the basics of why stars appear to twinkle, after reading the poem “Twinkle twinkle little star”?
2. We know that field trips to planetariums, natural history museums, etc, can bring science and history to life. Perhaps we need more of them, and more creative ones.
3. Themes such as the importance of the control of the railroads was during the U.S. Civil War, and compare that to the control of the water supply in the Middle East today. That would include history, geography and current events.
4. A separate middle school rocketry club for girls, in order to instill an interest in science. That could possibly lead to more women scientists and engineers.
5. A discussion of Hip-Hip in a music class might interest the younger generation, and perhaps it could be followed by a discussion, not only about other types of music, but also a discussion about how music and math are so very intertwined.
6. In a high school current events class, have a detailed discussion of why Nepal has been so devastated by the recent earthquake. That could lead into a number of other subjects, as well as to an exercise in critical thinking.
7. A high school business class might visit a (safe) strip mall that has mostly pawn shops, consignment stores and other establishments that offer check-cashing. It would provide a real-life experience, which would be followed-up with a classroom discussion of why were those stores there, but not a department store or a supermarket. That discussion could go far beyond just business topics.
A teacher who controls the focus of their classes, and can modify them on the fly to meet the interests of the students, will be more successful. Someone teaching by rote, and following a detailed syllabus, however, will hardly ignite much interest in their students. This is why I suggest that we terminate the standardized testing, and let teachers do what they can do best. Teach for life!