November 6, 2011
Balloons, Sticks and Magic
I can't think of anything more important than finding just the right school for my children. I'm currently wrestling with the decision of where to send the boys for their elementary education. It is an unbelievably complicated one due in part to the housing market and Henry's--well, shall we say, precociousness. For now, though, I couldn't be more pleased with the setting in which they are being educated.
...except for the overemphasis on phonics. Although it is a private school, I suspect that the teachers have been asked to align their curriculum with the local public school district. For two weeks in a row, students in Henry's class were tested on letter identification. Tested. Um, they're four years old. They will be tested from now until they bubble in the last item on the MCAT, GRE or LSAT. Twenty years of testing and being a data point on some institution's graph. Twenty years of being compared to others, to being judged not as an entire person but as a numerical score.* I did not give birth to educational statistics.
Of course I understand the importance of a benchmark assessment. Criterion-referenced progress information is invaluable to educators and parents alike. But do we have to say the "T" word when we're talking about prekindergarten? And what did the test tell us? According to last month's newsletter: most [of the children] are having trouble with b, d, p, and q. Seriously? Well, I certainly hope so. Each one of those lowercase letters is a balloon with a stick attached to it. And the kids are four. F-O-U-R.
Maybe this isn't so much a rant about testing as it is a concern about early reading instruction in the United States. And that, my friends, is another post. Hey, it's probably another blog. But I'll leave you with this: if you have been entrusted with the care of a child under the age of five, the best thing you can do (for both of you) is to read Mem Fox's Reading Magic. I guarantee you'll never look at bedtime stories the same way.
*Again, this is not happening to my children right now, thank goodness. But the writing is on the wall and keeps this mom/teacher up at night.