Exams have been a big part of schooling for ages and I think they will be here for years to come, yet every year that goes by, I am more convinced they defeat the purpose they were created for. Teachers use exams to measure the kids’ success, which is OK, but they forget that the kids’ success is mainly related to how successful they were at teaching their subjects.
I am extremely upset with the way exams are conducted. My own children, Eden, Tsoof and Noff, vary greatly in age. They have studied in many places around the world with different teachers and in different school systems, and I have encountered this problem everywhere, so no matter where you live, this post is for you, because parents have the power to change it.
The reason I am extremely upset is that one of my students, a gorgeous girl who came for an assessment, was about to finish 7th Grade and go to 8th Grade, but could not read at 3rd Grade level and was doing very poorly in class. When I did her assessment, I was convinced I was wrong and made some mistake, but she could not read a short paragraph of instructions and failed at 3rd Grade comprehension level.
Now, I have a question for you. What is the point of having tests if a girl is allowed to move from one grade to the next without recognizing she has a problem and without giving her any help?! Her mother was very, very angry. She had sent her precious daughter to private schools from the first day of schooling, her school had complained during the previous year about her daughter’s behavior, but no one ever thought of saying anything about her poor academic achievements, never mind her enormous frustration.
The poor girl had been overlooked for nearly 5 years!
How on Earth can parents help if they do not know there is a problem?
This is how it works:
Children have workbooks that they never bring home, “in case they forget to bring them back to class”, so parents cannot tell what they are studying or what their level of studies is.
Children take various exams that are never returned to them, so parents do not know what their children know and what they do not know and they cannot help their children when there is a need.
Good teachers let the kids see their tests and then take them back to keep “for their records” (in case someone complains).
Great teachers let their students see their tests and go over them with the whole class, so the kids learn from their mistakes, but then, they take the tests back and keep them for their records.
Most schools give homework assignments on Monday, which are due back on the following Friday. This way, working parents cannot help much during the week and cannot use the weekend to sit with the kids and help them, so they are not aware of what their kids know and do not know.
The report card at the end of year appears after school is finished and you discover that your child got a C or a D on some of the subjects. The great schools add a description of what the child is supposed to know, but most parents have no clue how to help their child get there during school breaks.
How on Earth can parents help if they only know there is a problem at the end of year?
Best scenario, you come to a parent-teacher interview at the end of the term and you discover that your child does not know how to do something. If you are like most parents, you do not have access to workbooks and appropriate study material that will give the child extra support, but the teacher will not give your child extra work to compensate for what he or she is missing. Instead, the teacher will expect you to sit with your child and help. Get it? They expect you to teach your child…
Every time I help my kids with their schoolwork, this upsets me. I studied 4 years and have 25 years of teaching and special education experience to help them, but how can other parents be expected to do it for their children?
How on Earth can parents help if they do not know the expectations or the methods and have no teaching experience?
Exams are tools for teachers to measure their own teaching methods.
Exams are tools for parents to decide when the teachers’ methods work well for their children and when to step in and help, so they must be aware of every assignment, every exam and every quiz their children do.
If you are sending your children to school, you are paying for it, whether you are sending them to public schools and paying through your taxes or sending them to private schools and paying extra on top of your taxes. You are paying a fortune for someone to teach your most treasured things in life – your children. You need to demand to know what happens to your child at every point.
Ask to see your kids’ exams. Ask for workbooks to be brought home. Ask the teachers to let you know about anything that is not working well straight away. Call the teachers every 2-3 weeks and ask for a brief update on your kids’ successes and challenges. Ask the teachers to give your child extra (or special) work if he or she needs help. Ask the teachers to give you worksheets to work with your child or to recommend suitable study material your can purchase.
If your teacher is not cooperative, go to the principal. If this does not work, go to the bookshop and buy workbooks for your child (if the child needs help, buy a book for one grade below and work your way up from there).
Help can make a huge difference. My gorgeous student covered 3 years of reading and math in 3 months of work. Everyone can!
Knowing how your child is doing at school is your right!
The misuse of exams will not change if you do not do something to change it!