I remember back in 4th grade being assigned to read a variety of books. When we would have to do book reports, or pretty much any assignment, I would put it off till the last minute. When I finally got around to completing the work I felt so stressed that I didn't get to enjoy the assignment no matter what it was.
Our teacher forced us to read the book Misty of Chincoteague in class and to do a book report. I put it off and when I finally read it, I hated it! However, that following summer my mother placed an order with a book club. She included Misty of Chincoteague in her order. When I received it my first reaction was oh no not that book again. It was like a nightmare. The book was following me even into my summertime. However, since I didn't have a lot to do in the summer I decided to give it a second chance. I picked up the book and as the saying goes I couldn't put it down. Of course I could put it down because otherwise it would have been difficult to shower or get dressed. I do remember finishing the book in a short period of time and truly enjoying it.
What is the point of this discussion? It is the idea that when forced to perform a task in school I put up a mental block against to it. I have seen that with other children when I was a teacher. During a couple of years when I was teaching we had a program which tested the students after they read books. The students picked the books that they wanted to read and then scored points as long as they got 70% or more on the test. I know one of the incentives was the desire to get more and more points, but what made it real fun for the kids was that they got to pick books to read. It's like being told the exact job you have to do or who you are going to marry. This has been part of certain societies in history and still goes on in many others. We live in what is supposed to be a free country. How can we teach freedom while at the same time telling them what to do on a subject matter where them having choice is beneficial to them and society?
Part of the problem is the idea of accountability and how it has been enacted. Schools are being told from the top down what standards need to be met and what testing has to be performed. Why is this? Just follow the money trail. My reference point is California where I live and taught. Due to laws including proposition 13 that were enacted in the early 1970's, the money flows from the top down for most districts. The districts have to follow the state and federal testing requirements. This is a problem because by the time testing is completed and scored, the results won't come in until the end of the year if then. What happened in my experience was that I got results of my new students who had been tested on different areas in their previous grade than what I was preparing them for currently. I couldn't follow progress because I didn't have direct control.
What is my solution? It is not simple, but if the testing was mainly controlled at the school site then I could test my kids in the class at the beginning in standards then in the middle of the year. Based on those results I could see how my studentts were progressing and adjust accordingly. The principal at the school site could and should be responsible to review the results with teachers and report accordingly. This could be audited by the state and federal government and with computer technology this could be highly effective.
Who knew that back in elementary school a book I hated so much to start with would have had such an impact in my life. A horse by any other name wouldn't read as sweet.