Perspective: State Exam and the Education System

By Shira Shvartsman

TOMORROW IS THE ELA STATE EXAM… and I am sure that you, like most parents, are worried about how your child will perform. The one thing I have noticed is that parents can get wrapped up in wanting their child to succeed that one small matter slips through their mind – how does my child feel about taking the exam, and am I being supportive?

We forget quite often that children are under a lot of stress. What may seem like easy material to us is difficult to them. Don’t put your kid down, they get enough of that with the standards set forth in our education system.

Let’s start with the most important part – this exam is far from adequate, and how your child performs on it means less than what you are lead to believe. Most importantly, it no longer determines class placement, so you can take a sigh of relief. This exam is just one of the features within the seemingly never-ending web of confusion that is our school system. It is a system designed to standardize and institutionalize your child as they compare their own “merit” to that of every other student in the country. This is ludicrous.

What our education government officials seem to lack is the understanding that times have drastically changed. It should be our constant plea to open the eyes of those who do not realize that we are no longer preparing our children to work in a factory line. The days when The Prussian Model was effective are over, and 1892 was over 120 years ago. You can find more information on this in the graphic below. But just think for minute – the system by which we are teaching children today is the same system that children were taught by in the times of Hitler. Let that sink in for a moment.

Tomorrow’s exam is simply a testament to our failure as a society to make true changes, but I digress. Make sure your child knows that you are on their side, that you do not believe that their grade on that exam is equal to their level of intelligence. Even if your child receives a 1 on the exam, please do not fault them, or yourselves for that matter, as this is not a mark. It’s okay if your child cannot construct a perfect essay at age 8 – there are plenty of people who have yet to learn this skill at a collegiate level. It’s okay if your child doesn’t find the texts interesting, they have been reusing the same stories for decades. There have been so many times where a student did understand what they had read about, what the main idea is, what the moral of the story may be, but were unable to put pen to paper – does this mean they are stupid?

A special shout out goes to the parents of 3rd graders, whose children are taking the exam for the first time. The psychological implications of being stranded in a room for hours trying to your best to perform well on an exam that everyone has drilled into your head is important is a lot for a child to swallow. Don’t push.

Give your kid a break. Let them enjoy today. Take them to a movie, read them a story, talk to them about how they are only expected to do their best tomorrow, not be the best. Do not hardcore study today. It isn’t worth the mental strain you will put on your child. Most importantly, tell your child that you are proud of them. And for those of you still with me, let me clarify – I do not believe in coddling your child and telling them that a bad grade is okay. I believe in advancement and progress, in hard work and resilience, but I also believe in a fair test of such, and that is not tomorrow’s test. Take a deep breath, get through it, and on Thursday evening, whip out that good bottle of wine and celebrate that it is over. Get your kid a non-organic apple juice, too. What the heck, live a little.

Good luck to everyone taking the exam tomorrow, and to the parents waiting to get through it.

You got this, and we believe in you!

A great resource for more information on can be found here.
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