There is hardly a day that goes by in any given week that I don't pass and in my goings and comings. As I pass Dacula Middle School, I sometimes notice acronyms and dates posted on the sign out front. Are these acronyms the criterion tests I hear and read so much about? When I see these acronyms and dates, I invariably ask myself the question: "Are we teaching our kids to learn or are we teaching our kids to test?"
I will have to admit that I am from the old school where I was taught to learn the subject matter. When test time came, testing took care of itself. Teaching to learn or teaching to test was a question I asked a retired educator at lunch last week. She confirmed there was enormous pressure on our classroom teachers to produce criterion test results in the classroom.
My thoughts are what good does it do to teach a kid to test if when he or she graduates they cannot balance a checkbook, write a grammatically correct letter, or add, subtract, multiply, divide, and do fractions without the use of a calculator? What good does it do to use spell check on a computer if they don't know how to spell?
It appears we have developed a cookie cutter mentality in thinking every kid entering high school today is college material or has the same career objectives in mind. Not so. I keep thinking back to a column written by syndicated columnist Dick Yarbrough, a good friend and a great American, about a bill that then State Representative (now State Senator) Fran Milar introduced during the 2008 session of the Georgia General Assembly. The bill was entitled "Building Resourceful Individuals to Develop Georgia's Economy or BRIDGE for short.
Rep. Milar's bill recognized that all kids entering high school are not college material. His bill called for creating a market-demand skills program in grades 10-12 in Georgia's high schools and providing a separate track for kids who were not comtemplating a four year degree and providing them with the skills to compete in the job market while in high school.
As I understood Rep. Milar's 2008 bill, it would have provided three separate curriculum paths for high school students. Path one would be for those students who would enter the work force or join the military. Path two would be a curriculum for those students who planned to attend a technical school such as Gwinnett Tech. Path three would be a curriculum for those students who planned to enter a four year college.
Keep in mind this plan would not preclude a student who chose path one or path two from obtaining a four year college degree on down the road. A student who chose either path could still obtain a two year associates degree and apply for admission to a four year college.
Good news though for those about to start high school. Senator Milar recently advised me that BRIDGE is being further strengthened this year with legislation to provide dual credit for high school, technical college or university work. All children in ninth grade will have an individual graduation plan. Senator Milar says that the world is finally understanding that our mission in education is not to create Rhodes Scholars but productive citizens. The end result will be higher graduation and lower dropout rates in Georgia.
I am a proponent of our public education system. I am a product of a public education and proud of it. I hold our classroom teachers in high esteem. I do get tired of them being jerked around in the political arena though. As I stated earlier, I am from the old school. Criterion testing? Didn't know what it was. My classroom teacher in any given subject determined whether I was proficient or not and ready to move on. Parent/teacher conference? Didn't know what they were. The teacher sent a note home saying I was failing in algebra and the only conference I was privy to was the conference my daddy had with me. Daddy had a way with words. Pass/fail in athletics? Nope, same thing. Note sent home by the principal. Daddy said you don't pass, you don't play. Is something resonating here?
Parents must get involved and stay involved in their child's education from day one. They must give teachers their full support. Bottom line? Put the pass/fail responsibility back on our classroom teachers and let them teach to learn. We have good teachers in our public schools. Give them the tools to teach, put the pass/fail responsibility on them and they will measure up. They would relish this opportunity. Give them this responsibility and our kids will measure up accordingly. How? They will become productive citizens. That's the way I see it.