My first grade daughter casually told me over dinner that her unit test in Math is tomorrow. She said that she was ready for it.
I asked her what she thought was challenging. She casually said —subtraction and telling time by quarter hour. Since I check my daughter’s homework everyday, I know exactly what in subtraction trips her —it isn’t the process of taking away, but solving for the value of x (e.g. X-5 =2). In telling time, she reads 8:45 as 9:45 because the hour hand is closer to the next hour.
So after dinner, I made sample problems. We sat together; she solved the problems. We were done in 15 minutes.
I couldn’t help but think about how different the test culture is in her school compared to other schools. Friends from the Philippines would tell me that when their children have exams, it is as if the parents are taking the exams as well. The parents do not make plans other than spending countless hours preparing for the exam.
My daughter’s unit test is not even announced to parents, my guess is because the teachers do not want parents to drill their children.
At such a young age, tests are given to check the child’s mastery of the subject matter, and in effect, the teacher’s competency to teach. Cramming and drilling at this age to get a perfect score is just not going to work.
Can you imagine spending the whole day in school and coming home and doing more schoolwork? What about the downtime?
As a lower grade teacher myself, I tell the parents to alert me the moment that they find themselves spending a considerable amount of time teaching their children concepts that I should have taught in class. Because if they do, then it means that I was not effective and therefore, I need to re-teach the subject matter.
Homework that takes 2-3 hours to finish for an elementary school child means a) the child is highly distracted when doing the work and therefore, needs to learn to focus; or b) the child is not understanding the homework, and so the teacher needs to re-teach; or c) the teacher is trying to finish the curriculum and is leaving it up to the parents to complete it for them.
In my opinion, it is the primary responsibility of the teachers to impart the academic concept/skill to the children. Sure, the parents can reinforce it, but the teaching falls squarely on the teachers’ shoulders. It is after all, our job!