Fixing teaching and testing
In their quest to produce efficient readers and writers, Virginia education officials are neglecting the most important part of young children — their minds [“What is making a first-year Fairfax teacher reconsider her future? Lots of testing,” Metro, June 8]. Experimentation, problem-solving and the use of all of one’s senses should be the focus of any kindergarten curriculum. In early childhood parlance, we call this play. This concept has been lost in Virginia. Brains grow bigger when children roleplay, create scenarios and solve problems. Reciting letters, sounds and numbers activate only a child’s most basic level of thinking.
The article alarmingly described teaching skills that are not developmentally appropriate. Kindergartners are only just beginning to understand past and future. Asking them to summarize events in a story is akin to asking a 4-month-old to speak.
European educators seem to understand the importance of play. Formal schooling there does not typically begin until age 6 or 7. Until then, children are given the freedom to be children while learning exponentially about the world around them.
Mary A. Nowinski, Sterling
The June 9 editorial “A is for assessment,” which advocated improved student testing, was right: The remedy for using poor data is not to avoid data but rather to improve the data. However, focusing on data was the wrong issue.
Our public schools are not underperforming because standardized tests provide poor data; standardized tests highlight areas of failures but not the causes. Schools fail because there is not standardized instruction; each teacher is a separate system. It is supremely unpopular to say that our education failure is a teaching failure; it is much easier to argue about standardized tests. That must change.
Some teachers are successful; schools need to understand how they succeed and copy what they do right. Until the systems standardize, supervise and audit teaching, schools’ results will be inconsistent. The attention (and money) must be put into training our teachers to teach consistently.
Karl Veit, Arlington
The June 9 editorial “A is for assessment” was accurate and needed. However, one extremely valuable benefit of testing was overlooked: curriculum and methodology analysis. While there are numerous reasons to evaluate student achievement, test design should also provide for feedback leading to optimal instructional strategies.
Jack Fretwell, Reston The writer is president of Starboard Training Systems.