Today I read this very moving piece from Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post Answer Sheet – Test-weary second-grader asks school board:’Is that all that matters to grown-ups?” It was the story of a remarkable little 7 year old, Saige Price, who took on the New Jersey Board of Education and formally testified about the lack of play and the excessive testing that she had undergone in her short two and a half years in public school. It really made me sad and it also made me angry. Paige cries out in the middle of her testimony when she is talking about the tests, “I remember being 5 and feeling mad and sad because the questions were always too hard for me.” I cannot fathom being only 7 years old and having such awful memories of being a child and going to school. To me, this is nothing short of abuse. As a teacher and as a grandmother, I join my voice to Saige’s and I also say that “school should be about play time and exploring.”
I am copying Saige’s testimony in this blog post for all to see and to share. Please read it and think about what we adults can do to make the world a kinder and more loving place for our youngest children. I do not want my grand children subjected to a drill and kill continuum of tests, nor do I want them being tested at all. I want them to play and to explore and to create and to be loved and to be cherished.
Here it is:
Dear members of the New Jersey State Board, and fellow stakeholders:
Hi. My name is Saige Price. I go to Briarwood Elementary School in Florham Park where I attend second grade. Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I would like to talk about play in school and the need for more time for free play. Children should have more recess because it allows us to play with our friends. Instead, we spend most of our time just reading, doing math problems, taking math tests and reading tests.
Is that all that matters to grown-ups?
What about more lunch time, more time for violin, doing more creative stuff in art, dance, or musical theater, more gym time, or more time to learn what we want? What about creating our own problems?
I love my teacher but at the beginning of the year I did not want to go to school because I thought school was boring; I still do. Sometimes, when my parents try to wake me up for school, I would cry and say I am too tired or sick so that I would not have to go to school. I don’t think school lets me be myself and be creative.
I remember when I was 5 years old, I told my mom that I did not want to take iReady [a standardized diagnostic test]. Whenever I got a low score I would have to go back to the computer lab until I got a higher score. I hated it. It should be against the law. I think kindergartners should not have to take any standardized test or practice standardized test like iReady. These tests are too hard for kindergartners.
I remember being 5 and feeling mad and sad because the questions were always too hard for me.
Every time I sat at the computer after I was done with the test, I would think to myself, “I stink! I am bad at this.” No kid should feel that way about school. People should not feel, ‘I stink at this,’ at 5, 6, 7, 8 or any other age. School and all of these tests kill our love of learning.
I think school should be about play time and exploring.
Have you ever been in a kids’ lunch room at lunch time? If you go to many of these cafeterias, you will see there is hardly enough time to even eat. Many kids end up throwing their food away. Some of the teachers often ask us if we are sure we want to throw the food away but many do anyway because we want to play for the few minutes we have.
Out of all the hours we spend in school, we have the least amount of time being able to eat and play.
If you want to fix schools you should ask kids, the teacher’s helpers, and teachers.
Thank you for your time.