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The educational bean counters are at it again, testing students for a week and toting up their scores in English and math.
They donít care if the kids are living in a city, suburb or rural town. They donít take into account whether the kids had a good breakfast or not, and they really donít give a darn if the test takers are unable to read the instructions due to speaking a foreign language.
The PSSA tests, the ones made necessary by the No Child Left Behind project, are unnecessary and a big waste of time.
Teachers know who their smart students are, and they certainly administer their share of tests over the course of a year.
When students reach their later high school years, they have plenty of achievement tests and college entrance exams. But, for some reason, the state and federal departments of education have found it necessary to take kids away from their learning, field trips and recreational activities, to sit them down yet again with number two pencils and fill in the blanks.
Not only that, but the way the testing is configured, they student population of schools must achieve higher and higher scores every year -- even including the kids who are unable or just not interested in learning that particular body of knowledge.
That means teachers are under pressure to prepare their classes for these tests -- to cram their heads full of those specific facts that will leads to the right answers on the PSSAs. In some circles, thatís called ďteaching to the test,Ē and it takes the spontaneity out of much of discovery-based education.
Another thing the PSSAs do is insult the equally important subjects that they donít take into account -- subjects like science, social studies, driver training, art, music and physical education.
Faced with the financial constraints, some schools are cutting back on or even eliminating the humanities from the curriculum.
Thatís bad news, especially for the physical education. This nation is suffering from an epidemic of childhood obesity, one would think that the schools would put a premium on getting their kids in shape.
Additionally, one has to ask if it is more valuable to have emerging adults who can do advanced math as opposed to those who can drive safety or balance their checkbooks.
Is it more important for a young adult to analyze obscure literature and label paragraphs with a proper title or to be able to read the instructions on putting the coffee table from Ikea together?
Shouldnít they be able to read a cookbook and nutritious food? Drive safely? Pay their taxes? The PSSAs would rather have them interpreting abstract concepts from old books.
The PSSAs and No Child Left Behind have not made people smarter.
All throughout the history of this nation, students with an intellectual bent have applied to and been accepted at elite colleges. Kids who would rather enter professions in which they work with their hands have done just that -- without benefit of the tests.
The departments of education that promote and administer these tests must take another look at them and decide if they serve any purpose at all.