Re Barry Paschal's March 22 column, "Making nice on tough issue": I am among those who were (are) a "little mad" at him!
I am not involved, personally, in the current debate because our last child (the fifth) graduated from high school in Augusta back around 1975. I really can't remember the exact periods that they went to school each year, but we never had any problems that I recall. For one thing, most of the schools they attended were not air-conditioned in those days, and there was not much interest in going to school in early August.
Even in my boyhood days in Pennsylvania, school started every year the day after Labor Day, with the last day of the school year coming in the first week of June - and no one ever complained as far as I can recall! The same pretty much held true when we moved south to Washington, D.C. in the early 1930s. ...
I'm sure I must have missed something along the line because I really can't understand the aversion to "late" starting. Is it a parent thing? Or the students? Recently, a young man wrote to the paper saying that, if he had to wait until after the Christmas holidays to take the examinations, he would have forgotten all he had learned. Does he truly represent the product of our schools these days?
Paschal's column rather bears him out, and then he says something that really lets the cat out of the bag. He refers to teachers needing time for "preparing for the standardized tests." Here, I believe, we have the crux of the problem; evidently, we have to take time out to "teach the examination." Please tell me: what do the kids do from August to Christmas that requires extra time to prepare for the standardized tests? Shouldn't they be tested on what they were supposed to have learned in the preceding months? ...
Again, permit me to return to my boyhood: We came back from Christmas vacation and took our mid-year exams in January. If you failed, you didn't pass - it was that simple! In the spring we repeated the process. (Eighth graders were sent to the high school and took all the tests there in one day.) ... The tests we took were made up by the school system and were based on what we were supposed to have learned during the previous semester. ...
I didn't go to college, but while in the Army in Germany after World War II, at age 28, I took a battery of tests to determine my scholastic achievement level. Based on my public school experience and what reading I had done during the years, I earned a two-year college equivalency in the 99th percentile. I can only wonder if passing standardized tests would have made that possible.
Years later I found myself teaching in the Weapons Department at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga. One of the rules that I still remember from my instructor training was: "Don't teach the examination!" The reason: There is so much more to be learned than what can be covered in the examination!
Please explain to me, one more time, why we should start the school year early in August.
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