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Opinion

January 21, 2014

At last, parent resistance to collective standardized tests

(Continued)

WASHINGTON D.C —

For many years, until arthritis limited my traveling, I saw these human differentiations -- from elementary school through high school -- in classrooms around the country. Getting to speak to students outside of their schools, I found some of their homes and neighborhoods were such that they distracted the kids from getting an education. Indeed, I saw individual differences in the children's hearing and vision capabilities that deeply affected how and when they learned.

In addition to McCluskey's views on the various ways children learn how to learn, another beneficial perspective comes from an article sent to me by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita of early childhood education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. The article, on the shortcomings of standardized collective testing, was co-authored with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

I am often at odds with the American Federation of Teachers, but as I have reported elsewhere, I do agree with Weingarten's efforts to have public schools become part of an evolving interaction with the surrounding community.

In the article, she and Carlsson-Paige explained: "Young kids learn actively, through hands-on experiences in the real world. They develop skills over time through a process of building ideas. But the process is not always linear and is not quantifiable; expecting young children to know specific facts or skills at specified ages is not compatible with how they learn.

"It emphasizes right and wrong answers instead of the developmental progressions that typify their learning ...

"They need to figure out how things work, explore, question and have fun" ("Early Learning: This Is Not a Test," Randi Weingarten and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, aft.org, Nov. 17, 2013).

Instead of "having fun" as a goal, I would emphasize enabling young kids to discover the joy of learning. This leads them to exploring the range of their capacities as knowledgeable individuals in our society on how it works.

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