Schools should drop focus on test scores

Tabitha Beard

School - six letters meaning five days of the week that are "sacrificed." Many children dread this word. Some are nonchalant about it while others hang their shoulders in hopelessness and defeat. Why is this? Why has this word come to bring about such disgust and anger?

I have three younger sisters. One hated school. She was home-schooled for most of her school career. I joined her in high school. My two younger sisters attend public school. They are bright young ladies. All of them are. However, I have heard self-conscious feelings about their capabilities expressed from all three of them in frustration. It hurts me to see them not believe in themselves.

The environment surrounding children at school is different than it used to be. I am only 22 and have experienced this sudden change. The attitudes of the students as well as - and perhaps more importantly - the teachers and staff have changed. It's almost as if everyone has given up. Some teachers have given up in desperation. Students have given up in hopelessness. Parents have given up in frustration. What can we do to change this?

Just recently, I was chatting with a friend's mom. She has a home day care. Many of the kids who come into her home bring homework with them. She says that some of the kids are clueless about how to play because their parents are so insistent on them doing homework. They want them to be the best. Is this a terrible thing? Of course it is not. Parents always want the best for their children. However, I strongly believe they are going about it the wrong way. Even children can experience burnout.

My sister is a junior in high school and is expressing more stress than I believe a 17-year-old should express. I hear many terrible words she uses to describe herself because of her frustration with school. She tells me that she tries to study. She tries to make good grades. However, she cannot seem to match up with what teachers expect of her. In return, she resorts to thinking she is unintelligent.

Teachers fly through curriculum too quickly. Once you've memorized one subject, they're off to another study guide that must be memorized. This is not helping the students at all. The only thing they are learning in school is how to memorize. There are students who can't function that way. I am one of those students. I must fully learn a topic in order to be satisfied enough to take a test. Our emphasis should not be on memorizing the topic for a test but to learn the topic.

The blame does not lie completely on the teachers. There are others who can work together to solve this issue. We need to stop focusing so heavily on numbers. There is such a heavy demand on numbers and grades that it seems all the staff wants is to see the quantity rather than the quality of their efforts. We should be focused on the long-term effects.

We place heavy influence on passing six-week exams, semester exams and annual state exams. Children and young adults feel the stress as they take these required tests. I do not believe all of these tests are an accurate measure of intelligence. They are merely a measure of memorization.

We need to stop placing such a high demand on passing rather than learning. It's time for all of us to stand up: all parents, all siblings, all teachers, all staff, all government leaders, etc. We must make a change. These children are our future. Focus on long-term goals rather than short-term goals. The long-term goal consists of teaching children to discover and learn things on their own: creating bright, intelligent and, most importantly, confident young men and women.

Tabitha Nicole Beard is a resident of Edna and a student at the University of Houston-Victoria.