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July 19, 2012

Test takers or Innovators?

Young children are at their most formative before they even begin school. This is when good parenting (and good toys, books, games, puzzles ) can really make a difference. But, more and more, we rely on our child's earliest teachers, to inspire a love of learning and creativity that will lead some children to become our next great innovators.  Will "teaching to the test" foster that?

A first grade teacher is called upon to teach a variety of subjects: reading, writing, arithmetic. It used to be acceptable if she was somewhat familiar with each. Today, she may be faced with a student who's less phobic about math than she is. What a breakthrough it would be to revamp how math and science are taught -- if children could be inspired, not by generalists, but by someone with a genuine passion for the subject!

Our current system neglects to isolate high achievers who might be the future entrepreneurs. Instead of stretching their minds, they are drilled ad nauseum and asked to review material they have already mastered, all in an effort to raise test scores. Keeping bright children unengaged in the classroom makes them dislike school, when in fact, wouldn't we want our top students to have a sense of joy about coming to school every day?

As a parent, I was astonished to hear a teacher tell me, "I teach to the middle" of the class. It would seem to make more sense for those students who show greater ability to receive enrichment and not be made to suffer environments that neglect to foster their curiosity and growth to the fullest extent. Conversely, the students who need extra help should receive it. Twenty-first century technology should be in use in our classrooms to create independent learning environments tailored to each student.

I realize this approach may be costly, but it pales in comparison to the cost of being debt-ridden in a never-ending recession.

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