As a kid, one of my favorite things to do was visit our local library. My sisters and I would all pile into the car and swarm the children’s section. We would always try and pick what we thought were the “coolest” books. The Hungry Caterpillar and Where’s Waldo were some of my personal favorites. I specifically remember getting upset when I had to skip going to library with my sisters because I had dance class. What I really liked about reading on my own was that I could escape into the world of the book that I chose.
Although I did love reading, I really disliked reading at my elementary school. I remember three days a week we went to the computer lab and read passages on the computer screen and then answered the multiple choice questions. Often times the passages were about boring things that did not grasp my interests. I specifically remember just skimming the articles to find the answer to the three most common questions: what was the main character’s name, what was the mood of the passage, and how was the problem resolved. Skimming through the passage was a drastically different reading process then me escaping into a different world through reading a book.
I did not realize it at the time, but reading these passages and answering the questions was preparing me for the end of grading testing (EOGs). When I entered third grade, we continued to go to the computer lab, but we also began to read printed off passages and answer questions in class to continue practicing for the test. I would read the passages that interested me and I continued to skim the passages that did not interests me. I do not really remember doing much else in third grade other than practicing for these tests.
And, because we practiced so much for these tests, I was a nervous wreck before the first test. What if I bubbled in the wrong letter? What if I ran out of time? What if I failed the test? What if? I ended up doing fine on the tests, but I still remember how anxious I was. Looking back at my elementary education, it was clear that the teachers were teaching us for the test versus teaching us to learn.
In fourth grade, I transferred to a charter school in my neighborhood and was met with a drastically different atmosphere. There the teachers taught us to learn. We would only practice for the EOGs the week before the test and we all did great. I remember reading great books like Emma and the Civil Warrior, and learning about math, reading, writing and a multitude of other things just in fourth grade.
I loved going to my charter school and wish ever child could attend a school where the focus was on learning versus standardized tests. However, after reading the article, “Why the Grammar of schooling persists,” I realized that this dream might not be an option. The article described multiple attempts to reform the current public school system in America, such as Dalton Plan. However, the majority of these reforms were not able to work because the current school system is so engrained into society. I would love for standardize tests to not be the center of education, but if they are the only way to determine if a child should advance to the next grade, then I am not sure if it is possible to reform it. I would just love for kids to love reading just like I did and still do.