Unless you live under a rock without access to the internet (especially Facebook), you are aware of the controversy surrounding Common Core and the wide-reaching “opt-out” movement that is sweeping the nation. Parents are angry, teachers are frustrated and students are stressed. But not my kids. They seem unfazed … And it’s not because they are overly confident, smug, smarty-pants geniuses (they’re not).
For those without kids, a brief explanation … April is test month: a two-week period during which elementary, middle and high schools around the country administer daily 2-hour-long standardized exams to measure student proficiency in the nationally recognized Common Core curriculum for math, language arts and science. Here in Pennsylvania, these tests are called PSSAs for grades 3-8 and Keystones for grades 9-12 (PSSA is an acronym for Pennsylvania System of School Assessment). Other states call the tests by different names, but the purpose is the same.
I could join the movement and continue on here about how corporate executives shouldn’t be creating school curriculum without educator input, or how “teaching for the test” is suffocating our children’s love of learning, or how instructing kids to use a 5-step process when multiplying two numbers together instead of using old-school multiplication table memorization seems ridiculous to me, but I won’t. I could have “opted-out” of testing for my kids based on religious reasons or some other viable excuse, but I didn’t. I didn’t for a variety of reasons, one of which is that these tests don’t count … At least not in terms of their classroom grades. [Test results aren’t even available until July — Yep, a full month or more after school has ended for the year!] I told my boys this, so they are not stressed or worried. They aren’t the least bit concerned, actually. In fact, they look forward to test weeks. Why? For five (5) simple reasons:
- No homework! Teachers are not allowed to give out-of-class assignments until the test period is over.
- Extra recess! Bonus play/social time is offered as a way to relieve test stress and relax.
- Sucking candy! Teachers allow students to have chewing gum or sucking candy during the exams as a way to ease stress and increase focus.
- Movies! With limited classroom time to learn new material, many teachers show movies or offer independent reading time to fill the afternoon hours.
- Did I already say no work and more recess?
So according to the Tarr boys, two weeks of no studying, no homework, extra recess, movies and sucking candy in exchange for a few hours of tedious testing that won’t affect their grades is a decent compromise. Oh, to see the world through the eyes of an 8- and 11-year old! If only it was that simple.