In Virginia, we have these exams that start in grade three and continue on each year from then on. They're called SOL's, which literally stand for "Standards of Learning" but I think philosophically stand for what first came into your mind when you read that.
The schools are accredited based on these scores and people falsely judge the quality of education at the schools from these scores. Teachers are hired and fired based on these scores as well. While I don't have any documented proof of these claims, I do have anecdotal evidence and this is a blog so, like Glenn Beck (whom I deplore), I don't back my claims by any fact checking.
So, back to SOL's. I hate what they have done to our schools. I understand that the thought process behind initiating these tests was to hold all schools and students to basic standards which is a good thing. The behavior that is rewarded by implementing these tests, however, is a drilling of facts without context and without a passion for the subject. Bottom line is it makes learning boring and is not bringing out the best in young minds. My fifth grade daughter spent a month after spring break taking multiple choice practice questions and nothing else to prepare for her social studies SOL. Can American History get any more boring? I was helping her with it, and I didn't know half of the obscure facts she needed to know!
Now that there are only a few weeks of school left and the SOL's have been completed, there is no homework coming home, my kids are watching movies in school, field day is tomorrow, and there are picnics planned for next week. So besides the three months of summer vacation, the last month of school is basically a free ride and the first month back is reviewing what they've forgotten. That means there are only seven months of true learning (and I'm keeping Christmas and Spring breaks in the learning portion)!
I'm THIS close to home schooling. I totally see why our kids fall behind so many other countries!
UPDATE (5/25/09): I just read this in the elementary school newspaper under the Opinion section. You think there's a little propaganda getting out from the teachers/administration???? I think the kids who answered "ice cream" have it dead on!