SOURCE: Plan With Bean- GRADE UP 2015: Where fundamental life skills meet test skills
Lately, there has been a rising shift in how parents, teachers, and students view the importance of standardized tests. There are several reasons why standardized tests have declined in popularity. Some feel that standardized tests don’t accurately measure a student’s ability, some feel that “teaching to the test” is diminishing the quality of education, and some think that labeling the quality of teachers and students with a test score is an unfair practice that leads to –at best- anxiety and –at worst- unethical behavior. These along with other reasons have caused parents to revolt against standardized testing or to require their children to opt out of standardized testing; we have even seen students, themselves, refuse to take state mandated tests.
As a veteran educator, I, myself, am not the biggest fan of standardized tests, but I do understand that testing is currently ingrained in our educational system. Students are forced to encounter standardized test on every level of education and in many professional and technical fields. While we may or may not push for the end of the “testing era”, students are and will be, for the foreseeable future, judged by their test scores. So, should we just throw our hands up and climb on the testing train? Absolutely not.
We want the best for our children, and that means preparing them for life and everything in between. While successful test taking should not be the priority in a child’s education, it must be a consideration. So, how do we reconcile the strong emphasis on standardized testing while providing a whole, quality education that enables a student to thrive in life?
I was able to generate an answer to that question by pending the following: Where do fundamental life skills and test skills meet? How can we arm students with those fundamental life skills they desperately need while preparing them for the barrage of tests that they will be forced to endure during their lifetime? Four critical skills that cross the boundary between life skills and test skills are: reading comprehension, math computation, vocabulary acquisition, and sentence construction. GRADE UP 2015 will aid students in the development and improvement of these skills.
Reading Comprehension is the ability to read and process text and understand its meaning. It is the act of extracting meaning and constructing meaning from written language. Reading comprehension is more than the ability to read individual words and know what they mean. Comprehension is the ability to understand the message conveyed by the author. Reading comprehension is vital in every aspect of life. In late adolescence and adulthood, people utilize their reading comprehension skills to read newspaper articles, emails, contracts, terms and conditions, maps, directions, job related materials and other various forms of communication. Additionally, reading comprehension is directly and/or indirectly assessed on every standardized test.
Math computation skills, commonly referred to as basic arithmetic, include the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. Computation skills are the foundation for a students’ success in later math classes such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Additionally, math computation is also needed in many aspects of life. For example, math computation skills are essential for balancing a checkbook or budget, paying bills, paying taxes, following recipes, and consumer skills (knowing how much you are and should be paying for an item).
Vocabulary acquisition is the process of learning the words of a language or how people expand the number of words they understand in a language. It is the retention of inferred and given word meanings. Vocabulary is a key component in reading comprehension. Therefore, the development of this skill leads to the expansion of the other. In addition to being directly and/or indirectly assessed on every standardized test, a significant vocabulary is essential for effective written and verbal communication. People often judge intelligence based on a person’s vocabulary. The depth of a person’s vocabulary will make a difference in an interview or networking opportunity.
Sentences are constructed with various parts of speech, each having its own specific task to perform. Sentence construction is the process of writing complete, grammatically correct sentences. Many standardized tests have constructed or extended response questions where students must display their content knowledge and writing skills through an open-ended question. Sentence construction is important for any aspect of writing. In adulthood, written communication is the first thing that employers will see. Therefore, students will need to develop these skills to gain acceptance into college and to communicate effectively in their
place of employment.
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