Last night we went to the local dayschool's annual dinner. Really it was a dessert reception, long on alcohol, short on food (these things matter when you are pregnant!) and with a bunch of people milling around most of whom we barely know and who barely know us. Even though we are all for supporting the dayschool, we do not feel as a part of their community.
The principal got up to give a requisite speech. By now, the hour was late, we came on two cars, my husband was on call, and we were contemplating when is the opportune time to leave. So I was not paying that much attention, but what got my ears perked was the assurance that the school is pursuing the highest academic standards by rigorously testing the students and having them score high. Other items were mentioned, but this was the first and foremost. We immediately exchanged looks, and I whispered that I am so glad my kids' progress is not measured by rigorous testing.
My kids' progress is measured by their desire to add to their davening spontaneously, by their excitement in learning something new, whether it is above or below grade level, by deep discussions that we find ourselves in, by the fact that on sick days they read Greek mythology and world history for fun, by the creative estimates in solving math problems. It is not measured by how well they have been trained to shade the correct bubbles.
When I think about the pressure put on kids to score well, coupled with them establishing their self-worth by the constant appraisal of others, when I think how the personality gets warped to please externally instead of internally, I cringe. When I think how the depth of learning get sacrificed to cover the breadth, because "everyone else is doing it", I wonder whether we teach our kids peer pressure at its worst.
My gut feeling that excessive testing is harmful is confirmed by this article, written by a seasoned highschool teacher, apologizing t his college colleagues for the quality of students who are just taught to hit the rubrics on the test instead of developing deep involvement with the subject matter. Then I think of how many kids are pressured to take AP classes, hand-selected by their parents, to boost their college entrance, which breeds more of this superficial thinking, and despondence at getting a B instead of an A.
No, my kids' progress is measured by what they make of themselves, with the help and guidance from without, as opposed to what others can shape them to be.