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home : opinions : columns   July 22, 2014

4/16/2014 9:19:00 AM
Column: Same school test over and over and...

Tamara Abbey
Mendota Bureau Chief

My son lost his temper the other day. He was asked about testing at school and after a flurry of rather shocking expletives, he refuses to do it anymore: “It’s the same (stupid) test.”

Not only is this barrage of testing costing taxpayers a lot of money in computers, Internet access and license fees for the government-approved vendors, it’s also counterproductive for students. It really is the same test, over and over and over again.

The idea to measure progress toward state-approved goals. Right there is enough reason to get out my soapbox again. Politicians aren’t teachers and I suspect, they probably weren’t the best students either. Yet, they are qualified to tell our kids what they should learn and when.

How’s that working out?

Out of 65 global education systems, the U.S. continues to fall against Asia and other European countries.

The response? Let’s crank up the testing and have teachers do even more of what clearly isn’t working.

I remember my dad grumbling about the “new” math.

Dad, it’s gotten even worse and it’s costing you even more. Instead of learning basic skills during the primary years, kindergarten students are tested on algebra-readiness.

What happened to two plus two and a little nap time after snacks? There’s no time for that since six year olds must be college ready at an age when their parents were still learning to read.

I’ve covered school board meetings for many years. Administrators and superintendents have long complained about unfunded mandates, the things schools must provide whether or not they can afford it.

Now the United States is in an unusual position: according to the global survey, we spend more per student than most of the other nations on the list. That may be a surprise to local cash-strapped districts, but the numbers tell a very sorry tale of overspending and underperforming. So, they re-work the tests again. They come up with new strategies cooked up in Legislatures that further burden local budgets.

I was at a board meeting recently when a board member threw up her hands and noted somebody’s getting rich on all these tests and license fees. Many schools are participating in a trial run of the new online testing for a new set of standards. More license fees. More districts scrambling to add high speed, reliable and secure internet access. More computers.

And we get the bill but our children probably won’t be learning any better than they did when we were children. You can dress up math and put it on a computer, but it’s still 2 + 2. No fancy license fees for slick computer programs are going to change that outcome. The answer is still four. Whether it’s asked in a small school with no more than chalk and a slate or in a modern school with tablets and laptops, it’s the same answer.

It’s the other side of the equation that’s changed though: now that it’s done with technology, it costs more to come to the right answer.

On the other side of the spectrum, school choice and charter schools are supposed to give parents an option when their students attend underperforming schools. Charter schools are supposed to be some sort of magic wand that will make students perform better while spending our tax dollars. Near as I can tell, it’s a choice that will ultimately cost us much more as those companies cash our checks. And if those schools don’t perform? Then what? Where do parents go? What happens to the children those schools fail to educate.

Parents and taxpayers do have a choice in our current public school system. They can call or write their state legislators, they can attend school board meetings, they can vote for school board members, they can attend local board meetings.

They can get involved. We can start right now.

Tamara Abbey can be reached at (815) 539-5200 or

Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, April 19, 2014
Article comment by: METALWORKER

We are failing our children. Maybe!
We just keep throwing money at the problem and it isn't working. Maybe not!

How do we make it work?
Do U mean that or do U mean how do we spend less and get more?

Can't. I am not a teacher, would never be one. I like children. They are soooooo neat. They want to learn, ask endless questions, get an answer to one and then think of ten more.
Hear are a few I have " just Saying". I agree with some of your observations but I question the reasons or lack of.

Tamara, Said her son had a melt down, temper tantrum, I am not going to take this again and she agreed with him, said he took it mult. times and enough is to much. He did not need another test, just a snack and nap.

question I have for her. The last time, did he get a 100 on it? How long did it take? is he getting better? Sounds like the answer is no. Why? Why is she not demanding better of him? Will he ever get better if the most important person in his life says he doesn't have to?
If he can't hit a ball, will she say we will work on it or say U don't have to., it's the pitchers fault, the coaches fault, your great.
So, we spend way to much per pupil so reduce the salary of teachers and that will solve the problem. Really.? that's the problem?
Note, I did not say U said that. My question because this author does not blame the child or parent just government and teachers.
Money in high school and to some extent grade school.
More than roughly one third of the budget is spent on sports, Why? Less than 2% partake in them. So, subtract that amt. from the cost per pupil. Right? Not relevant. Subtract heat, electric, water and maint. . What is left can be said to be teachers salaries, not that much.
Are all teachers bad, good? No. Some bad most good. Blame all as the problem and not look at parents and the way children are spoiled today.
It is late April and little league will start soon.
Parents will grouse about the amount of homework and how that interferes with Tommy's baseball practice. What is wrong with that picture? How does that further the child's learning
? How does that help the teacher and should that be a consideration in teacher evaluation?
Basketball on a school night with all the practice, how do U blame a teacher for the child's lack of interest in studies on a game day? Do away with basketball? I would, if U want smarter students School is for learning by all students. Sports, just a few and they disrupt every one. Do charter schools have sports? I do not know, Do you?
Bottom line, way to much being ignored in this matter and way to much blame on teachers and government IN This article.

Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014
Article comment by: JustSaying

About 50% of our area high school students either barely graduate or do not graduate high school. These young adults seek no further education or training. (Many of these young adults are unemployable or can only be hired at a job requiring minimal skills.) Of the remaining 50% of high school students that go on to college, (4-year, 2-year, 1-year certificate or advance career training) well over half of these students need to take remedial classes before they can start on their regular college work.

Most students didn't enter high school doing work at their grade level either. We are losing some if them as early as pre-K to 3rd grade. I'm not sure that long tedious testing is the answer, but clearly, we are failing our children.

Why are teachers salaries frozen while administrators salaries continue to climb? In the real world, people are paid for results. The results produced by our school system are deplorable. No one in the school system (K-12) should be getting a raise until our kids are better prepared for college and/or career. School boards seem to be more focused on supporting administrators and less focused on what is right for the students.

I agree that parents and concerned citizens need to be more involved. How do we make that happen??

Posted: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Article comment by: METALWORKER

Yes, Flanery, Abbey, two plus two still is, equals are four. That won't change. That was the answer when math was first discovered and will be the answer until the end of time.
Here is the sad thing, because of those like U 2. A child in the U. S. may know that in pre school. A few will. Those with caring parents. A few will learn that in K and some in the first grade. Those are facts.
The sad fact is that upon high school graduation, that is as far as some will have gone.
That is, the fault of those like U.
I read in articles and hear from well meaning people on TV very often these words, I am no good at math, I hate it and I don't know why that stupid teacher, yes, stupid teacher gives my poor child so much math homework.
We as parents need to have that teacher removed, he, she dose not under stand my child. My child needs some fun.
U see , news Trib staff, 2+2= 4, a snack and a nap is not the way in Asia and other countries teach. In those countries 9 and 3 are not the way and nor is 8 to 2 and parents take the side of the system and not the child.
2=2, a snack and nap will never put a man on the moon, cure cancer, or learn to balance a check book.
Most high schools can't do that. Balance a check book. For sure, most cant read a rule, add fractions, make change for a buck or figure simple interest much less compound it. No, they need a snack and nap and maybe a drink and a joint.
When, U might ask, will our children be able to do those things/ I will tell U when.
When those like U who work for news papers, Radio stations and TV outlets stop badmouthing teachers, schools and governments for trying to give all children an equal educ.
Why should a school in the north be able to teach evolution and a school in the south only teach creationism. After all, who said God created a human form? I thought God created in Gods own image, a spirit. I did not know that God looked like man. That is mans conception and not Gods.
How many other ways of holding children back will U two come up with? How many other ways will U two expect schools to do your jobs of parenting so you can further your positions while badmouthing educators?
U say let the experts do their jobs and then give 20 ways why U do not want them to do that.
Personally, I do not think that school districts should be different. They should all get the same funding. No school should be based on a sports team. Sport should be funded buy cities and not schools and get no tax funding.
I feel that would not fly with U but sports do not belong in schools.
The mayor of La Salle, with no hesitation turned over a million dollars to a high school for a sports complex when over 75% of the taxpayers will never watch a sporting event or play a sport or have a child who plays a sport but will help pay for it. So no sports
This puts two News Trib employes in a negative light so Amy will scrap this, and that is OK as she know now how some of us feel.

Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Article comment by: Amy Flanery

Yes! If only politicians could step back and let the professionals do their job. Meanwhile, we absolutely can get involved in the ways you suggest. Thank you for writing this!

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