Standardized testing is in the news a lot lately, and I'm all for it. But why start with grade twelves? Every teacher I know says that there would be no problem getting students to an acceptable level if only the kids had the proper background to begin with. Wouldn't it make more sense to start testing kids before they ever start school?
In order to implement national testing of young children, we would have to radically alter the present child-rearing system.
Being a parent is, without a doubt, the most important job a person can hold in this life. Yet it requires no qualifications, recommendations or previous experience, and one's performance is never evaluated. Unpaid and undervalued as it is, what other job holds such serious ramifications upon our society?
Unfortunately, it appears to be a job that few people do well. Many children today are being raised in an environment that is not conducive to optimal learning, if not downright damaging. If we could somehow ensure that students enter school with some fundamental skills and knowledge, our national test results would be the highest in the world.
In order for parents to provide their children with the necessary skills for success, I suggest that they be properly trained and certified by a government agency.
Prerequisites for parenting would include a degree in child care and development from a recognized institution. This program would include a "student parenting" period. Student parents would be required to care for children (infant, toddler, elementary school child and the dreaded "teenager" respectively) for extended periods of time, under the supervision of a certified parent. Upon completion of this degree, graduating parents would be allowed to conceive or otherwise obtain their first child. At this point they would be subject to a probationary period during which they would be visited at random and their performance evaluated by a panel of parenting experts.
Upon successful completion of the probationary period, those who wish to work outside the home may designate another certified caregiver during their working hours. Both parents and designates would be evaluated from time to time in order to ensure that the children are being cared for properly, and are progressing at an acceptable rate. Guidelines for acceptable progress would be made known to the parents well in advance of the supervisor's visit.
At the end of year three in the parenting program, children would be expected to complete the first standardized exam. Both skills and knowledge objectives would be tested. Marks would be made public and those children who do not receive a satisfactory mark would require remedial work until year five. At this time, the second standardized test would be given before the child enters kindergarten. Children would not be able to enter kindergarten until they had successfully completed the exam.
Business and government feel that all students should leave school with a common "standard" yet they begin at age 5 with a huge range in their social, emotional, and intellectual development. It would be so much easier if we started with a homogeneous group.
Originally published in the A.T.A. News Moot Points, September 8, 1993.