*July post for Yahoo Mother Boards.
As I mentioned last month, one post per month will be on a topic provided by Yahoo Mother Boards. This month, they've asked us to explore the idea of summer learning, the research that states our kids can lose as much as 2 months' worth of learning in the summer months, and how we as mothers handle this.
It reminded me of what I would say in response to those who would talk about the show "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?" The show is successful, and the adults sometimes not, because we have become a nation of test takers.
Back in the '90s, we were actually debating the merits of standardized testing, and whether or not these tests were an accurate measure of the quality of our child's education (guess where I'd come down in that debate).
Then we had No Child Left Behind. And it seemed like everyone gave up on fighting this fight.
Now, we have sites like GreatSchools.net that tell us how well the neighborhood school, or the nearby charter school that we're considering, did in last year's testing. I've read many articles in the LA Times questioning the value of charter schools because some of them don't have high test scores.
I'm sorry, but what happened to wondering what the test scores tell us?
The test scores tell us how well our kids can take a test. They do not tell us anything about how much they retain.
From my own learning experience, I was never the *best* test-taker, but I wasn't the worst, either. I took my share of AP classes and other advanced English classes for most of my academic career. But I can't answer a good amount of questions on that TV show, either.
I can, however, tell you the three federal branches of government. 2/3 of Americans cannot.
I can tell you that in my own education, I've retained more when I had to write about it than any scantron test I've taken.
I can express myself at least well enough so that you know how I feel about gay marriage, but I can't say that I remember the exact years of World War I. But really, beyond possibly winning some money on a game show, I can't say that not knowing has cost me much.
My point (and I do have one) is this: I don't care so much if Riley goes into 4th grade not remembering what she did the last two months of 3rd grade for a few reasons.
I'm not sure how much they actually got done in May and June. May was testing month, and in the two to three weeks of testing, they generally didn't have homework and didn't have a lot of new things they were learning (yet another strike against standardized testing, if you ask me: it shortens the already too short school year). In June, there were special events, and short attention spans. And I can't even remember what I worked on in June, so how can I really expect the same of Riley?
The second reason is, it doesn't matter. Within the first few weeks, there will be assessment testing in her class (which will most likely be a mixture of two different grades, thanks to the budget cuts in CA), and she will be put in a reading group that most closely matches her level, and I don't even know how they're going to work having 30 different students that each have their own level (and speed) of learning.
Which is another reason it doesn't matter: even if Riley herself doesn't lose two months' worth of learning, some students will and some students will have lost less and some students will have lost more. There's going to be some degree of either catch-up or slow-down for every student in that class of fourth and/or third and/or fifth graders.
So as a parent, I'm more concerned (and frustrated and exasperated) at the state of our education system as a whole than a couple of months at the beginning or end of the year.
I understand that parental involvement is key in my children's education; I'd just like to see some involvement from the education system, too.