Saturday, January 10, 2009

And Another Thing . . .

I'm still irked by that quote from Bush I posted about last time:

"How can you possibly determine whether a child can read at grade level if you don't test?"

I was annoyed at the idea that the typical odious multiple-choice-fill-in-the-bubble-standardized test is the only way to determine whether someone can read. My brain kept repeating, "Have them read to you" over and over, like that irritating Tijuana Brass tune they were playing in the salon where I got my hair cut the other day.

I've another problem, though, that's perhaps more serious: Why is knowing that a child can read at grade level so important?

"Reading at grade level" is such a dismal achievement. Goes well, I suppose, with "performs calculations at grade level." Just imagine the excitement in a high-performing classroom where all the students have managed to read and calculate at grade level, the thrill shared by the kids and their teacher, knowing that they've reached the mandated level of skill. What is left for them to accomplish?

I worry that we're creating a generation of kids who are growing up with the idea that learning is drudgery, a series of tasks to be completed, years of meeting grade-level standards with no glimmer of what it is all for.

I don't want kids who meet grade-level standards. I want kids who are curious, who get excited about seeing and learning new things, who have learned how to satisfy their curiosity and lead it on to more and more fascinating things. I want kids who are interested in the world and the people around them and have the opportunity to interact in ways that feed their interests.

People who are interested in the world around them are people who accomplish things in that world. People who have only achieved "grade level" in their endeavors are usually just consumers.

(Of course, that's probably the idea behind NCLB—consumers are a lot easier to manage and manipulate than educated and engaged activists.)

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