Does your child want to learn to code?

Does your child want to learn to code?

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At the end of each school year, our families send us a report of what their children have been interested in. Many families include computer programming in their reports, so we know it’s a popular field of study. If your child is interested in getting started in coding, this article will give you a jump start on the websites and resources available. We are pleased to share this guest post from Juni Learning.

Computer programming is rapidly becoming increasingly popular. In turn, more and more parents want their children to learn coding – and for good reason. According to the Bureau of Labor, median pay for software developers is $103,560 per year, with demand expected to increase by 24% between 2016 and 2026, a growth rate which is significantly faster than that of other occupations. Computer programming also teaches a number of important life skills, like perseverance, algorithmic thinking, and logic. Teaching your kids programming from a young age can set your child up for a lifetime of success.

While programming is offered by a some schools in the US, many schools don’t include regular computer science education or coding classes in their curriculum. When offered, it is usually limited to an introductory level, such as a few classes using Code.org or Scratch. This is mainly because effective education in computer programming generally depends on teachers with ample experience in computer science or engineering.

This is where Juni can help. With instructors from the top computer science universities in the US, Juni students work under the tutelage of instructors who have experience in the same advanced coding languages and tools used at companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon. Juni’s project-based approach gives students hands-on experience with professional languages like Python, Java, and HTML. The rest of this article addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about coding for kids.

How can I get my child interested in coding?

Tip 1: Make it Fun!

A good way to get your child excited about programming is to make it entertaining! Instead of starting with the traditional, “Hello World” approach to learning programming, intrigue your children with a curriculum that focuses on fun, engaging projects.

Tip 2: Make it Relatable

Children are more likely to stay interested in something that they can relate to. This is easy to do with coding because so many things, from videogames like Minecraft, to movies like Coco, are created with code! Reminding students that they can learn the coding skills necessary to create video games and animation is a great motivator.

Tip 2: Make it Approachable

Introducing programming to young children through lines of syntax-heavy code can make coding seem like a large, unfriendly beast. Starting with a language like Scratch instead, which uses programming with blocks that fit together, makes it easier for kids to focus on the logic and flow of programs.

How do I teach my child to code?

There are a few approaches you can take in teaching kids how to code. Private classes with well-versed instructors are one of the most conducive ways to not only expose your kids to programming and proficiently develop your children’s coding skills, but also sustain their interest in the subject.

At Juni, we offer private online classes for students ages 5-18 to learn to code at their own pace and from the comfort of their own homes.

Via video conference, our students and instructors share a screen. This way, the instructor is with them every step of the way. The instructor first begins by reviewing homework from the last class and answering questions. Then, the student works on the day’s coding lesson.

The instructor can take control of the environment or annotate the screen — this means the instructor can type out examples, help students navigate to a particular tool, or highlight where in the code the student should look for errors — all without switching seats. Read more about the experience of a private coding class with Juni.

We have designed a curriculum that leans into each student’s individual needs. We chose Scratch as the first programming language in our curriculum because its drag-and-drop coding system makes it easy to get started, focusing on the fundamental concepts. In later courses, we teach Python, Java, Web Development, AP Computer Science A, and a training program for the USA Computing Olympiad. We even have Juni Jr. for students ages 5-7.

Other Options: Coding Apps and Coding Games

There are a number of coding apps and coding games that children can use to get familiar with coding material. While these don’t have the same results as learning with an instructor, they are a good place to start.

Code.org has been featured by Hour of Code, and it is used by public schools to teach introductory computer science. Code.org’s beginner modules use a visual block interface, while later modules use a text-based interface. Code.org has partnered with Minecraft and Star Wars, often yielding themed projects.

Codeacademy is aimed at older students who are interested in learning text-based languages. Coding exercises are done in the browser, and have automatic accuracy-checking. This closed platform approach prevents students from the full experience of creating their own software, but the curriculum map is well thought out.

Khan Academy is an online learning platform, designed to provide free education to anyone on the internet. Khan Academy has published a series on computer science, which teaches JavaScript basics, HTML, CSS, and more. There are video lessons on a number of topics, from web page design to 2D game design. Many of the tutorials have written instructions rather than videos, making them better suited for high school students.

What is the best age to start learning to code?

Students as young as 5 years old can start learning how to code. At this age, we focus on basic problem solving and logic, while introducing foundational concepts like loops and conditionals. It is taught using kid-friendly content that is interesting as well as projects that involve creativity and an interface that isn’t as syntax-heavy. At ages 5-10, students are typically learning how to code using visual block-based interfaces.

What are the best programming languages for kids?

With young students (and even older students), a good place to start building programming skills is a visual block-based interface, such as Scratch. This allows students to learn how to think through a program and form and code logical steps to achieve a goal without having to learn syntax (i.e. worrying about spelling, punctuation, and indentation) at the same time.

When deciding on text-based languages, allow your child’s interests to guide you. For example, if your child is interested in creating a website, a good language to learn would be HTML. If they want to code up a game, they could learn Python or Java.

What kind of computer does my child need to learn to code?

This depends on your child’s interests, your budget, and the approach you would like to take. Many online coding platforms, like repl.it, are web-based and only require a high-speed internet connection. Web-based platforms do not require computers with much processing power, which means that they can be run on nearly any computer manufactured within the last few years. Higher-level programming using professional tools requires a Mac, PC, or Linux with a recommended 4G of RAM along with a high-speed internet connection.

Why should kids learn to code?

Reason 1: Learning to code builds resilience and creativity

Coding is all about the process, not the outcome.

The process of building software involves planning, testing, debugging, and iterating. The nature of coding involves checking things, piece by piece, and making small improvements until the product matches the vision. It’s okay if coders don’t get things right on the first attempt. Even stellar software engineers don’t get things right on the first try! Coding creates a safe environment for making mistakes and trying again.

Coding also allows students to stretch their imagination and build things that they use every day. Instead of just playing someone else’s video game, what if they could build a game of their own? Coding opens the doors to endless possibilities.

Reason 2: Learning to code gives kids the skills they need to bring their ideas to life

Coding isn’t about rote memorization or simple right or wrong answers. It’s about problem-solving. The beautiful thing about learning to problem solve is, once you learn it, you’re able to apply it across any discipline, from engineering to building a business.

Obviously students who learn computer science are able to build amazing video games, apps, and websites. But many students report that learning computer science has boosted their performance in their other subjects, as well. Computer science has clear ties to math, and has interdisciplinary connections to topics ranging from music to biology to language arts.

Learning computer science helps develop computational thinking. Students learn how to break down problems into manageable parts, observe patterns in data, identify how these patterns are generated, and develop the step-by-step instructions for solving those problems.

Reason 3: Learning to code prepares kids for the economy of the future

According to WIRED magazine, by 2020 there will be 1 million more computer science-related jobs than graduating students qualified to fill them. Computer science is becoming a fundamental part of many cross-disciplinary careers, including those in medicine, art, engineering, business, and law.

Many of the most innovative and interesting new companies are tackling traditional careers with new solutions using software. Software products have revolutionized industries, from travel (Kayak, AirBnB and Uber) to law (Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom). Computing is becoming a cornerstone of products and services around the world, and getting a head start will give your child an added advantage.

Many leading CEOs and founders have built amazing companies after studying computer science. Just take a look at the founders of Google, Facebook, and Netflix!

Career Paths

Although computer science is a rigorous and scientific subject, it is also creative and collaborative. Though many computer scientists simply hold the title of Software Engineer or Software Developer, their scope of work is very interesting. Here is a look at some of the work that they do:

  • At Facebook, engineers built the first artificial intelligence that can beat professional poker players at 6-player poker.
  • At Microsoft, computer programmers built Seeing AI, an app that helps blind people read printed text from their smartphones.

Computer scientists also work as data scientists, who clean, analyze, and visualize large datasets. With more and more of our world being encoded as data in a server, this is a very important job. For example, the IRS uncovered $10 billion worth of tax fraud using advanced data analytics and detection algorithms. Programmers also work as video game developers. They specialize in building fun interactive games that reach millions of people around the world, from Fortnite to Minecraft.

All of these career paths and projects require cross-functional collaboration among industry professionals that have a background in programming, even if they hold different titles. Some of these people may be software engineers, data scientists, or video game designers, while others could be systems analysts, hardware engineers, or database administrators. The sky is the limit!

How can you get your kids started on any of these paths? By empowering them to code! Juni can help your kids get set up for a successful career in computer science and beyond. Our founders both worked at Google and developed Juni’s curriculum with real-world applications and careers in mind.

Coding for Kids is Important

Coding for kids is growing in popularity, as more and more families recognize coding as an important tool in the future job market. There is no “one-size-fits-all” for selecting a programming course for students. At Juni, our one-on-one classes allow instructors to tailor a course to meet a student’s specific needs. By learning how to code, your kids will not only pick up a new skill that is both fun and academic, but also gain confidence and learn important life skills that will serve them well in whatever career they choose.

This article originally appeared on junilearning.com

Top 5 Online Homeschooling Resources

Top 5 Online Homeschooling Resources

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We know there are many doors that open once you step into the world of homeschooling and the variety of options can seem overwhelming at first. Now that we are living in a time of “crisis schooling”, families are scrambling to quickly make a plan for the school year and are doing their best to absorb as much information from the internet as possible right now. As advocates for the natural learning approach to homeschooling, the first thing we encourage parents to do is to have an open dialogue with their children to find out how they would enjoy spending their time in a fun and productive way.

 

West River Academy is very unique because we encourage each family to create a routine and learning flow that feels good to them. We ask them, “if you didn’t have to think about standardized testing, what do you think is important for your children to learn? How can you incorporate life lessons into your conversations, and ignite their love for learning again?”.  These questions prompt a new way of thinking and re-introduce the child to a world where learning is fun and exciting again!

 

Once you have figured out where you land on the spectrum of learning styles, it will be easier to narrow down the resources that will fit your family best. We have compiled the top 5 of our most popular online homeschooling resources directly from the recommendations of our families enrolled in West River Academy.

 

Enjoy!

 

Galileo is the new, innovative, self-directed online school for students aged 8-18 who are world schoolers, homeschoolers, and/or unschoolers from all over the world. They provide opportunities to collaborate with other students on projects, with groups that do projects together on STEM subjects and electives like Coding and Robotics, Foreign Languages and International Cultures. Choose your own adventure by mixing and matching a variety of topics!
Cost: $240/month or $2000/year
Age Range: 8-18

 

They offer a huge variety of classes and options. From phonics to AP Physics to Minecraft to Piano. Outschool feeds your kid’s curiosity and elevates their learning with a variety of 50,000+ classes.
Cost: $10-$600/ class
Age Range: 4-18
 
They offer tuition-free online classes with high school and college credit for grades 6-12. Includes Financial Education by Dave Ramsey for teens, and college courses from Grand Canyon University. 300+ Credit-based courses.
Cost: Many classes are tuition-free
Age Range: 10-18
 
The main things homeschoolers want are high-quality resources and flexibility, and they offer both. Lesson plans consist of in-depth powerpoints with images and videos to enhance the material. Plus, they offer a wide range of optional supplemental activities so you can customize your child’s educational experience based on their individual learning style.
Cost: $60-$175/class
Age Range: 10-18
 
They offer personalized learning of all core subjects. There are modules that the student can do at their own pace, they offer scholarship contests and they are popular worldwide.
Cost: Free
Age Range: PreK-12th grade

~

If you would like to talk more about finding a learning style for your family, feel free to schedule a phone consultation with Peggy Webb, the Founder and Director of West River Academy, here.

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

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An influx of questions has flooded the internet in recent months regarding homeschooling and we are thrilled to address an array of topics in this virtual event called the Homeschooling Global Summit!

There will be ten days of expert interviews, from the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Pat Farenga, Peggy Webb, Lainie Liberti, Melissa Church and many more! With hundreds of millions of kids around the world learning at home for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, this knowledge is needed by parents more than ever.

We will be interviewing some of our currently enrolled families, as well as West River Academy graduates. Learn how self-directed learning can be an advantage to navigating this rapidly-changing world.

Event Calendar:

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As this is the second annual event, anyone who is interested in watching the 40+ hours of footage from the 2019 Homeschooling Global Summit is now able to do so for free!

Visit https://hgsummit.com/ to get your FREE premium pass.

We are so grateful to all of our families and graduates who are participating in this event with us this year. We hope you register for it and share it with your loved ones!
~ The West River Academy Team

Navigate Another Way of Learning

Navigate Another Way of Learning

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In these stressful and uncertain times, creating a curriculum or new routine for your child may seem overwhelming. We would like to offer some of our resources and tips to help and support you in this new journey of education. Homeschooling does not just mean doing school at home, it can mean so much more for your family. It’s okay to let your children learn naturally…and it’s way more FUN!

West River Academy supports families from all walks of life. and accepts enrollment year-round. If you are needing advice or support you can schedule a consultation with our Director Peggy Webb, a 30-year veteran unschooling mom and founder of West River Academy.

We know you are all being a great source of guidance and support in your communities right now. We hope that learning about and being part of our worldwide natural learning community will help you navigate this new paradigm.

Enjoy!

A few of our favorite voices:

I’m Unschooled, Yes I Can Write

This blog is written by lifelong Unschooler, Idzie Desmarais. She offers an honest perspective on our current times as well as insight for the new unschooler. A must-read for families that are new to the term “Unschooling”.

Rock Your Homeschool

Rock Your Homeschool is an amazing website full of resources, tips and fun activities to do with your child. If you are needing encouragement and positive reinforcement on your homeschooling journey, this is the place to look!

Be Wild and Free

This is a great community for homeschoolers and their website is filled with great activity ideas such as nature journaling templates, morning routine advice, and they even host events around the country!

Homeschool Mom

The Homeschool Mom is a great website for new homeschoolers looking for resources and tips on how to begin their homeschooling journey, and information help to decide what method will work best for their family.

Survival Mom

Survival Mom is a blog website with great articles and tips for how to prepare your family for a pandemic. She is full of practical advice even if you are not searching for survival tips!

~Photo Contest 2019~

~Photo Contest 2019~

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Dear families of West River Academy,

We could not be more thrilled, honored, and downright AMAZED by the photos submitted for our Photo Contest! Families all over the world have submitted their photos, and we have received more than we could possibly display.

Please take a look at these images as a whole; representing the collective childhoods that are being savored by courageous and resilient parents world-wide.

Finding educational freedom is a journey that is unique to each person and there is no ONE correct way to do it. By allowing your children to learn naturally, you are helping them grow into confident, happy and thriving young adults!

 

Congratulations to our Class of 2019!

Congratulations to our Class of 2019!

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As our academic year of 2018 – 2019 comes to a close, we would like to give out a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to our graduates!

Our students have had the educational freedom to pursue an array of incredible opportunities that have led to careers in music production, film/TV industry, professional sports, graphic design, animation production, coding/java creation, drone-racing, environmental projects, sustainability, social entrepreneurship and much more!

For those who have chosen to pursue higher education, we have compiled a list of colleges that our students have been accepted into:

  • Albertson College of Idaho
  • Arizona State University
  • Bellevue University
  • Benedictine College
  • Boise Bible College
  • Boise State University
  • California Baptist University
  • Chichester College, England
  • Clark University
  • Cleveland Institute of Music
  • Colorado Mesa University
  • Colorado Mountain College
  • Colorado Northwest Community College
  • Colorado State University
  • Felician University, New Jersey
  • Florida State College, Jacksonville
  • George Mason University
  • Lees-McRae College
  • Michigan Technological University
  • Naropa University, Texas
  • Northwood University, Texas
  • Quinnipac University
  • Regent University, West Virginia
  • Saddleback College, California
  • Santa Fe Community College, Florida
  • School of Art Institute, Chicago
  • Stanford University
  • Summit Christian College
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • University of Denver
  • University of Derby
  • University of Hawaii
  • University of Maine
  • University of New Hampshire
  • University of St. Andrews, Scotland
  • US Air Force
  • US Army
  • US Marine Corps
  • US Navy
  • Wentworth Military Academy
  • West Virginia University
  • Wheaton College

We are so fortunate to be able to assist families in making their own educational decisions, free from outside mandates. We encourage parents to take charge of their children’s education and help them grow into confident, happy, and thriving young adults!

Dear Peggy

I want to express my deepest gratitude to West River Academy! About four years ago you signed a Student Learner agreement so that my son Dillon could work at Bennett Forge Works. Last Fall Dillon moved to Fort Collins and now works for Distinctive Welding. I just visited him there. He loves what he is doing and is just cranking out projects. They give him the plans and he builds it and installs it. He is being successful out in the world, doing what he loves and living with three college friends.

Thank you West River Academy for the freedom to trust children and Life Learning.

~ Nancy, CO

4/27/2019

What Does Unschooling Look Like?

What Does Unschooling Look Like?

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“Ultimately, unschooling “looks like” young people pursuing their own dreams with assistance from those who love and support them!”

Author John Holt coined the term “unschooling” in the 1970s when he started to advocate removing children from school and educating them in a manner that would be the opposite of school: no compulsion, no prescribed curriculum, no bells to start and stop learning. Through the years, other terms have been used, such as interest-based learning, child-led learning and relaxed homeschooling.

West River Academy Director Peggy Webb stresses to people who call her that unschooling is a way of honoring children and their reason for being on Planet Earth right now. Allowing the child to continue his or her curiosity-driven interests results in learning that is valuable and practical to the student. The ultimate benefactors of a student that is engaged in activities he or she is passionate about is us; the world benefits from what this person will contribute to our global community.

As Peggy likes to say, “Think of it as putting the child in the driver’s seat of the car. The parent is in the passenger’s seat, making sure the car is not driven off a cliff, being the navigator with map in hand, letting the driver know what appears to be up ahead, etc. The child is then free to take the interstate or go off on a scenic byway, explore different places along the way or get to the destination as fast as he or she can. It’s letting the child drive the car while the parent offers guidance and assures safety.”

“What if I’m practicing unschooling and my child wants to go to public school?” is a question often asked. Peggy responds, “If your child chooses to attend school, then he or she is still in the driver’s seat, making that decision. Unschooling, then, takes on the form of going to school. The child knows that at any time he or she can decide to stop going to school; he has chosen to have this learning experience. It’s really no different than the child’s deciding to take ballet lessons. I gave my daughter, Rachel, the freedom to choose how she wanted to learn and she chose a variety of experiences during her childhood, including a part-time charter school, boarding school and full-time public high school. To me, it was all unschooling because she was in charge and I assisted.”

Ultimately, unschooling “looks like” young people pursuing their own dreams with assistance from those who love and support them!

Introducing Our Welcome Video

Introducing Our Welcome Video

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We are pleased to release our new “Welcome to West River Academy” introductory video! This quick three-minute video shares who we are, what we provide, and what we can do for you. It features footage from our May 2017 graduation ceremony, a parent testimonial, and our Director, Peggy Webb, describing how she learned about homeschooling and began West River Academy.

As Peggy says, “We all want the same thing, which is helping your child(ren) to find their passions and interests, and develop those.”

Congratulations to Our Class of 2017!

Congratulations to Our Class of 2017!

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IMG 3626edit 1 300x200We are thrilled to introduce you to our Class of 2017 Graduates! We had 85 graduates from around the world, and 10 of them chose to participate in our Graduation Ceremony in Colorado Springs, CO on May 20, 2017!

IMG 4074 300x200Our Graduation Ceremonies are unique, because they feature the individual talents of the graduates, and the diplomas are presented by the parents. Rather than having one valedictorian speak for the entire class, our intimate ceremony allows each student the opportunity to share their unique passion.

IMG 3920 300x200This year, our graduates did presentations that included a violin and guitar performance, videos about world travels and competitive skiing, a monologue about homeschooling experiences, an art display board, and a live podcast demonstration!

IMG 4311 300x200The parents of each graduate spoke movingly to them about how proud they were of them, and acknowledged the individual journey and work that had been put into earning their High School Diploma. Many eyes were moist as we witnessed the love and pride on the faces of the parents and graduates, and heard the quiver in their voice as they spoke of the long road to this day.

IMG 4185 200x300The graduates are continuing on in directions as unique as each one of them: college, work, professional podcasting, traveling, and athletic careers are a few of the paths that are being taken. We are so proud of them, and grateful for the opportunity to support them and their families in their educational journey.

Presenting… The Class of 2017!

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The West River Academy Team!

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From left: Karen Abe, Peggy Webb, and Stacey Nishikawa

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Peggy Webb, Director of West River Academy

Who Benefits from Standardized Testing?

Who Benefits from Standardized Testing?

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A student in our High School Diploma Program is taking a standardized test, and was inspired to research standardized testing in the U.S. Here’s her essay on what she learned.

In the past month, night and day, all I have been doing is preparing for my California High School Proficiency Exam, or C.H.S.P.E. for short. If you know anything about me, and my way of thinking, you know that I think standardized testing is completely ridiculous. Spending hours upon hours, memorizing complex formulas to be tested on, only to go home and forget them, and if in anytime in my life I just so happened to need this particular formula, I google it. Now as I was trying to rationalize standardize testing this past week, I fell down a rabbit hole and found out some things I had no idea about, which just proves the validity of my opinion on these tests even further.

I do believe there should be a way to track underperforming schools, and their major racial disparities, in the quality of education children receive. President George W. Bush also thought that, and on his third day of Presidency installed the “No Child Left Behind Act.” This program was designed to be data driven and involve testing children every single year in order to identify and fix failing schools, which sounded like a terrific idea. But, the act almost tripled the amount of required tests from six to seventeen.

Today in America, students are taking between ten to twenty standardized tests, depending on their grade. That equates to a total average of 113 different tests by graduation, which is an absurd number. The rates at which students are protesting some of these tests is also an absurd number. For example, In May of 2015 an entire class of juniors in Seattle, boycotted the Common Core Smarter Balance Test. Teachers from a school in North Carolina told CNN, that about 20% of their third graders cry when it comes to the standardized tests and that there is actually an official instruction pamphlet on what to do if a student vomits on his or her test. Am I the only one who thinks that if there are legitimate official instructions on what to do if a child throws up on their desk, due to an an overwhelming sense of anxiety, maybe we should try something different? Based on our world standing these tactics don’t seem to be propelling us to the top in education. In 1999, America placed in twenty-eighth place in a group of forty nations who took the International Math and Science Test.

By the time President Barack Obama was in presidency, he noticed that the tactics we are using aren’t working correctly for optimal results. He took his own education initiatives, and started a program none as “Rack to the Top.” Rack to the Top encouraged states to adopt the common core. While he had good intentions, there are a lot of things terribly ignorant about this program.

One of these things, which sounds like a good idea if done fairly, is the pay rate of the teachers based on a student’s test scores. While I believe this could be done correctly, in a way that just holds teachers accountable who are lacking accountability, but the implementation of this is completely out of line. One of the approaches used is called the “value-added analysis”, where you pay teachers based on certain test scores. If a student who ranked in the 60th percentile tests higher at the end of the year, the teacher gets a better rating, and unfortunately if the students receives a lower score at the end of the year, the rate of the teacher’s pay also drops. The problem about this, is that tests are so difficult, it is nearly impossible for the children to pass, and only very few do.

For instance, one teacher in Florida was shocked and suspicious when he found out that only 39 percent of his districts 10th grade class scored an average or above average score in reading on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, also known as the “F.C.A.T.” He decided to ask the school district and legally get the closest thing he could to the F.C.A.T. When he took the assessment it put him, and labeled him under the “poor reader” category. Now the shocking thing about this is the fact that this man has 5 master degrees, has been reelected on the school board 4 times, and teaches 39 graduate courses at six different universities.

With that being said, I think it’s fair enough to say that these tests fail to reflect ability. So my question was, if these standardize tests are poor for the students and the teachers, then who are they benefiting? The simplest answer; companies such as Pearson. Pearson is the largest of these companies, and as of 2012, are 40% of the testing market. That almost triples their nearest competitor, McGraw Hill. Pearson has such an immense amount of influence over American schools. For example, a hypothetical girl could take Pearson tests from Kindergarten through at least eighth grade, test that she studied for by using Pearson curriculum and textbooks, taught by Pearson certified teachers. Pearson is also the provider of the tests taken for learning disabilities, and the G.E.D.

In summary, while there is an argument to be made that there needs to be some sort of test to assist with determining high school graduation, proficiency and college placement, the system as it stands, seems to only benefit Pearson and its competitors, not American students. These companies are so powerful; no one really feels like their voice can be heard to change this disastrous system. In order for things to change everyone who believes that there must be a better solution, has to use their voice. Everyone will say “I’m just one person”, but if hundreds of thousands of people say that, think of the impact they would have if they all came together, and instead said, “this needs to change.”

~ Caroline Mehki, CA