Erin and I visited a private school in Flower Mound last week. The kids are happy at their neighborhood school. They’ve had good teachers and have made good friends. And, in general, it’s been a good experience. But testing mania is testing mania and even when you might try to be “normal”, it takes over the lives of kids and teachers. Teachers KNOW they will be judged on the results of the test and it takes a pretty brave teacher to take a deep breath and do what’s right for the kids no matter how big the hype gets.
In fact, it’s hard to know what exactly IS best for the kids. People used to say, “If you teach the kids well, testing will take care of itself.” Unfortunately, if everyone else in the world is test prepping and using materials that help you “out-psych” the test and catch the “distractors” and word the questions the way they’re worded on the test, teaching the kids well will NOT necessarily mean they will do well on the test. And if they don’t do well there may be repercussions (like remedial reading instead of band in middle school). There are some schools and teachers who have figured out how to navigate the testing waters without drowning in test prep crap, but from what I can gather, they are few and far between.
At any rate, Erin is checking around and discovered a private school that sounded perfect. And when we went there it truly was damn near perfect. Yes, they do test the kids (ITBS, remember that? at the end of the year..no prepping for it, just take some time out to do it and then get back to work) The place was magical. The teachers were so obviously happy and energized, loved what they were doing and were still going strong with less than two weeks to go in the school year. The kids were (even the middle schoolers) were happy, engaged, polite, friendly and delighted to explain whatever they were doing. One class was hatching chicks, another had painted ladies, all had high quality literature that was the basis of the reading program. The school uses TRIBES…a community building program that I just love. The classes are small…16 or fewer in each class. The school is clearly child centered, respectful of kids and their hopes and dreams, expecting great things of them without stressing them out. The curriculum was rigorous (Lord, I hate that word) but these kids were clearly thriving on it. Sounds too good to be true, but honestly, I saw it and it was real. It reminded me of Center back when I taught there.
So here’s what’s not fair. My grandkids may be going there because, even though they’re not rich, their parents can probably find a way to make it work. It will take work and doing without other things (trips to Harry Potter land?) but they’ll figure it out. But EVERY KID deserves a school like this. Every kid deserves what these kids have. Every kid deserves authentic literature for reading. Every kid deserves math that is based on basic understanding of child development. Every kid deserves a school that believes that building a learning community is important enough to take the time to make it happen. Every kid deserves a school filled with teachers who are trusted to do what’s best for them. Every kid deserves a school where testing has its place but isn’t the end all and be all. Damn….life is so not fair. I LOVED this school and hopefully my grandkids will be going there. But what about all the rest of the kids who also deserve this? What happens to them?
End of rant for the week. We’re in Los Angeles with Sean and Carly now and loving every minute of it. Tons to write about …just not now.
Love to all..Have a good Memorial Day Weekend!