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OPINION: Test this!

Because I said so (Editor's column) By Betty Buginas

I had a wonderful day with my first-graders today. We started by oohing and aaahing over the progress of our moldy bread (a science experiment, not the school lunch) and ended by huddling around a bee we spied as we walked back from the park. In between, these 7-year-olds wrote incredible papers on all they had learned about insects, looked at a silk worm moth a fifth-grader brought by to show them, and described in writing their favorite memories of first grade.

They listed field trips to the library, fire station and a children's museum, painting silk scarves, making art projects from recycling, and reading, writing, using math manipulatives (only they call them math toys), designing their own Pokemon-type trading cards, and playing with friends. Not one named taking the standardized test or preparing for it as a cherished memory of their childhood.

My students enjoy reading, they can write more interesting papers than many adults I know, and they have meaningful conversations with one another about what is new in their lives, and why it's important for us to get along.

All this gives me confidence to reveal my motto for the coming school year -- FTT. The polite long version of this is: Forget The Tests.

I'm pleased with what they've learned and would like them to be proud of themselves, and hope that whatever is in the results from the standardized test does not shake their confidence in themselves, or prompt their parents or future teachers to do anything that will be detrimental to them.

Most of all, I hope those test results do not cause me to abandon my plans to spend more time talking with my students and encouraging them to talk to one another, more time taking them on walks to teach them to value nature, and more time using their own community to show them about their place in our world.

I hope I don't put away those math toys and spend more time in the workbooks designed to teach to the tests, or stop bringing in moldy bread, sprouting potatoes, or pictures of dead whales because they may not align with the standards for my grade level. And I hope that I will not start thinking I am a better teacher than those who work at schools where the children are poorer and their parents less educated than the children at my school, just because the state has assigned my school a number that is a little higher than the number assigned to their school.

Betty Buginas is editor of the El Cerrito Wire and a teacher at an El Cerrito school.

Run dates: 2000-06-05 - 2000-06-26

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