Tuesday, March 20, 2007

English MCAS Tips

Funny how Google works, no? Four people were directed to my website for looking up "English MCAS tips," let's pity their souls. While I actually did take the MCAS (before it counted) and scored as high as you could get on English, sadly I don't have time to tutor anyone literally the day before they take the test. Try me a few months in advance, next time.

And let's all pause for a minute, here, because they started their exams today. My little brother nervously awaited waking up this morning for one of his first flings with the MCAS. He literally has English exams all week, from English composition (seriously, he's in the forth grade people, does he really need to know how to write a persuasive 5 paragraph essay?) to all sorts of other tests.

Unlike many progressive people, I'm not opposed to a test that's part of a graduation requirement. However, when there's a whole week of English tests - not to mention math, science and history - then we have a problem here. No wonder teachers are teaching to the test - how could students get over the pressure of weeks of examination? Even the brightest find the prospect daunting.

Well, most of them. When I was a Sophomore in High School, I took it as a way to have the entire mornings off. Maybe that's why I did so well? I took double the allotted time to take it (I really milked it out for all it was worth). Or, maybe because I was lucky enough to come from a strong middle-class background, in a town with a top-notch public education system... and with parents who always taught me to value education and supported me in whatever way I needed. Somehow, that seems like as strong a recipe for success as any - which is one reason why this breed of MCAS can never work as intended. Too many people in Massachusetts grow up without those natural advantages.


Anonymous said...

Or, maybe because I was lucky enough to come from a strong middle-class background, in a town with a top-notch public education system... and with parents who always taught me to value education and supported me in whatever way I needed.

I guess we ultimately want to have a culture that values education so that the accident of good parents is less crucial. Aside from getting cranky at the TeeVee, is there a government role in creating such a culture, or does such a culture get created when it becomes clear that education holds big rewards?


Ryan Adams said...

I absolutely think there are ways for the government to help. For starters, getting more teacher-parent, students-parents interaction. Meetings with teachers and parents, that could be a way to offer suggestions, encouragement, etc. would be a big help. Perhaps we could legislate a day off for parents to come into the class, maybe as part of a field trip or something.

Beyond that, we could change the way the system works so that kids with parents that have been to college or who have the money to get tutors, etc. aren't necessarily as advantageous anymore. For example, we could make schools more of a day-long enterprise - but not solely a source of learning. After school, kids could have access to tutors, homework help - and any other academic help they need - but also extracurricular activities (art, creative writing, sports & activities, etc.), to both foster a stronger individual and make being in school something people actually enjoy. It's a good carrot/stick approach that could really level the playing field.

Anonymous said...

How do the other countries that always do so much better than us when test scores are compared do it? They seem to get so much more bang for their buck. We're always way down on the list.

Anonymous said...

Personally, my devotion to learning got a big boost when I discovered as a kid that reading chess books (i.e. knowledge) actually helped me win more chess games. For me, that was a useful kind of experience. Can something like it be replicated in other lives?


Every parent I know seems to try to help his or her child with homework, but it would seem to me that that gives the already affluent a huge advantage. Day long school would seem to even out the playing field, though you certainly don't want kids feeling imprisoned.


Ryan Adams said...

That's why I suggest something radically different than daylong school... to me, "school" should refer more to the time than the place.

I don't think it would be intelligent to force kids to learn math, science, history, english, etc. from 9-5 like parents... even if they'd be brighter, they'd be miserable. What is a good idea is to use these buildings that cost tens of millions of dollars throughout the day for many purposes - from art classes meant for students to have fun to homework clubs, something everyone should be encouraged to go to, or even athletic clubs - like intermural teams. I would hope that through these efforts kids would a) get most of their work done in school and b) school wouldn't feel like a prison at all, but a place where you had fun at too.

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