While sitting in a 4th grade classroom observing the math lesson, a lot of thoughts ran through my mind. They ranged from “When’s lunch?” to “Wow, I completely forgot that the point where two lines meet to form an angle is called a vertex.” And I couldn’t believe they were already learning this.
Personally, I don’t remember learning things like this, especially vocabulary like “vertex,” when I was 10 years old. What I remember doing was making pop-up books and preparing skits about Greek myths. After teaching a couple of times at different grade levels and having to read over the frameworks and guidelines for teachers, I’ve come to notice the changes that have occurred in elementary schools. School is no longer about having fun and encouraging creativity, but rather, trying to cram material inside children’s heads for the sole purpose of standardized testing.
Now, I’m not saying that all teachers are solely concerned with testing scores, but it is undeniable that frameworks and rules have become much more rigid. Instead of giving room for teachers to add in their own ideas or creativity, it seems that the frameworks have come to the point of making sure that students achieve a certain test score. In states like Massachusetts that have standardized tests, it is much more tempting to go with what’s in the book and simply aim to get the students to achieve a higher test score. The emphasis on learning a range of topics seems to diminish.
I am currently taking a class called ‘Teaching Social Sciences and Arts” and it often saddens me how little social studies is being taught at schools for the reason that it is not tested on. Teachers are focusing less on the topic and feel like they have no motivation to teach it, especially if they have no passion for the subject at hand. When my professor asked me, “Honestly, how much do you remember from your social studies class in elementary school?”, it made me embarrassed by how little I knew. I barely remembered that I was learning something to do with American History for most of the time, but I couldn’t list or name a specific topic that stuck with me.
It would be wrong for me to solely blame the teachers. While teachers do have power in the classroom, there is only so much they can do when the school system is enforcing a rule, especially if they don’t want to lose their jobs. While testing, assessment, and evaluating how much a student has learned are all important parts of the school curriculum, it is also important for school systems to understand that there’s more to education than testing.
Furthermore, school systems must realize that testing might not be the way to determine how much a student has learned from a class. How many times have we said, “I’m a bad tester"? How many times have we felt that we could better represent our abilities and ourselves if we were interviewed or were required to write an essay instead being tested on questions with only 4 narrow answer choices?
While making common core standards more rigid might help teachers know what subjects to cover in class, we must consider the downfalls it imposes on children. The lack of variety in classrooms and the decline of creativity are not things we want to see in the future.