Across the nation we struggle to teach Science in the early years of school. In Oklahoma our Fifth Graders are tested on science and most often, this is the first true exposure to scientific concepts they have seen because in K-4 the focus is on reading and math.
This concept of teaching to the test got me thinking about a quote I always ponder on...
" A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
-William G. T. Shedd
That being said, are teachers being a ship in the harbor if they are only teaching to the test? Are our students missing out on great life experiences like science investigations using phenomena because we are pushing reading and math while leaving all other subjects on the back burner?
Are we as educators doing ALL students justice by only teaching to the test?
I understand measuring our students abilities and knowing where they are at is a key piece of data-driven instruction, but I have never meet an excellent educator that did not already know where his/her students were at in both reading and math, prior to the test. There has to be a balance between what we as educators need to do to properly serve our students and measuring their knowledge on a test.
The Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science along with the Next Generation Science Standards have a natural progression of concepts each year. If we truly taught these concepts starting in Kindergarten by the time a student was in fifth grade the burden of the fifth grade teacher might be lessened with the amount of information they must cram into one school year. Our fifth grade teachers, along with eighth grade, and Biology teachers are overwhelmed; we as K-4 teachers can aid in their relief when we sail our ships out of the harbor and start teaching science. We cannot continue to rely solely on our science testing grades to enlighten our students to all scientific concepts in one year. They NEED us to sail out and teach the progressive standards to make sure ALL students are prepared, by coming into a testing grade with the prior knowledge they were supposed to receive in all subject areas, that is stated in the state standards. I am not talking mastery in every skill, for every student either, but at least initial exposure to grade specific content.
There has been some legislature here in Oklahoma about ending E.O.I.s and the end of testing for our students sounds great, but the fifth grade science test is a federally mandated test. So, do not get your hopes up with that one disappearing anytime soon! Until then, sail out into the wide open sea and develop students excited about learning! after all, is our job teaching to a test or creating life long learners?
Have you seen any of the highlights of Secretary of Education John King's recent discussions about developing a well rounded education system? If not read this short article. Maybe a new strategy for taking some of the emphasis off of reading and math might help alleviate some of the burden to teach to the test, but until then remember to always take the risk for our students and sail out into the wide open sea. Go make waves!