This Is What Matters

One to one match up

I’m completely frustrated with the whole standardized test movement. When I read this article about kindergarteners in New York having to take multiple choice tests, I was left speechless.

How can this happen? How can anyone think this is what good education is about?

At TCFL we believe strongly in a holistic education; we work hard to help our students make connections to the community and to become compassionate people who care about others and the world around them. We teach them to think critically, to analyze information and to express themselves with honesty and creativity. Isn’t this more important than memorizing battles and capital cities? And yet, when kids are overwhelmed with multiple choice tests there isn’t time for much else and we send a skewed message about what’s important in life.

The importance of teaching the whole child was reinforced for me when a group of our students began to volunteer with “Best Buddies”, an organization that works with children who have intellectual disabilities. Recently our students took part in a Best Buddies One-to-One Match Up Party where they met their “buddy” with intellectual disabilities for the first time.

The Best Buddies representative, Elizabeth Nyitrah sent us this message: “I just wanted to let you know that I have been very impressed with the TCFL students and their level of respect and compassionate behavior. However, the Best Buddies event really solidified how well they have been “raised” at TCFL. Whereas other schools tended to stay grouped together as they arrived, TCFL kids took about 2 minutes to adapt, didn’t cling to each other, and before I knew it, were in deep conversation with the kids with intellectual disabilities. I was shocked with how easily they became comfortable in an environment that was new to them and with people they had never met. Very heart-warming!”

Holistic education is well rounded. It teaches students Math, Reading, Writing, etc. but it also teaches them to care. As educators it’s our job to instill a passion for learning in our students, to ignite their desire to improve the planet, and to help them feel compassion for others.

Cramming for a standardized test doesn’t do any of this.

It’s time to take a stand.

Yes, it’s time to take a stand. But when facing big government bureaucracy, the question is: how? In the U.S. parents have the right to opt their children out of standardized tests. For more information on how to do this, click here.  In the Dominican Republic, even if we don’t agree with these kinds of tests, we’re obligated to send our kids to take government exams in 8th and 12th grades if we want to keep our school open. Although most schools can’t opt out of taking the exams, we can let them have minimal negative impact on our children’s learning. For an overview on how to do this, read Alfie Kohn’s excellent article, Practical Strategies to Save Our Schools.

At TCFL these are the steps we take in confronting standardized exams:

  • We cover the material that will show up on the exams, but we teach it through our own methodology.
  • We spend only two weeks at the end of the year “cramming for the exams in special classes set up for this. These classes are optional and some students choose not to go.
  • We constantly try to reassure our students that they don’t need to stress over these exams – they’ve learned far more than these exams can assess.
  • And finally, we don’t give the exams importance – this was our response when we won an award for doing well on the national exams. 

Educators and parents need to join together to make our voices heard in saying “NO!” to rote memorization, standardized testing, and competition in education. Good education is not about competing; it’s about sharing and working side-by-side to benefit us all.

We’ve been patient long enough….. It’s time.



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