I typically take a back to seat to controversial topics of discussion (religion, politics, etc.). Although I appreciate the value of a healthy debate, I rarely engage in them. I am not the type of person who goes on some ridiculous crusade to convince you to hop on my band wagon. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. God bless the U.S.A.!
That said, I’m going to branch out of my comfort zone for a moment.
My third grader is in the midst of a two week mandatory standardized testing period required by the state. I remember having to do these when I was a kid. The number 2 pencils, the green and white testing sheets, the ovals. I remember not really enjoying the process, but that’s about it.
Here’s what I do not remember…
My teacher starting to talk about them at the beginning of the school year when we didn’t take them until April. I don’t remember being reminded weekly of the big important test that is coming up in five months that I have to take seriously and start preparing for yesterday. I don’t remember bringing a booklet home from school to give to my mom indicating what she should feed me for breakfast and how she should brush my hair to make me “smarter.” I don’t remember getting a generic postcard a week before the test telling me not to worry because I am going to “Rock the MCA’s!” No one was worried until that stupid postcard arrived.
My daughter is a very good student. She genuinely likes school, she does her homework without complaint, she loves to read, and she tries her absolute best at everything. She is also a complete worry wart and a people pleaser. This “shove it down my throat” approach does not work for her. She loses sleep and obsesses over it. “Mom, you HAVE to make me an egg for breakfast on test day! My teacher said so!”
Maybe students should take a page from the school manual and return the favor. You know, “tit for tat.” How about something like this…
September: “Hi Mrs. Smith. My name is Jane. In 7 months I have to take a really important test that you have to prepare me for. If I don’t do well, it’s your fault. Tough break.”
October: “Don’t forget about the test in 6 months Mrs. Smith. Do you really think it was a good idea to let us have that extra recess today? You’re probably going to get in trouble for that one.”
November: “Oh my God Mrs. Smith! You only have 5 months left to get your shit together! A Thanksgiving party in school? Really? Is this some sort of joke to you?”
December: “Are you really gonna sit there and let us paint a snowman right now? Having fun is not in the syllabus. This test is coming, whether you like it or not. Happy Holidays I guess.”
January: “Three months left Mrs. Smith. Was your new year’s resolution to make sure I eat an egg the day before my big test or shoot the person(s) responsible for defining your job expectations and measures of performance?”
February: “Are you okay Mrs. Smith? You look a little green around the edges. Should we go over how to adequately color in an oval again?”
March: “2 + 2 = 6, right Mrs. Smith? Haha! I’m just screwing with you. No worries. I got this.”
April: “Big test day tomorrow Mrs. Smith. Don’t forget to eat an egg for breakfast. You might want to smear some peanut butter over the top of it too, just for good measure. Let’s rock this shit!”
May: “Do you think I could learn how to spell my name now?”
I understand and appreciate that these tests are important. I get that they are used to measure “performance” across a wide spectrum. Student performance is a reflection of teacher performance, which is a reflection of school performance, which is a reflection of state performance, which is a reflection of the country’s performance. Who is actually accountable for the results of these tests and what they are reliably measuring is anyone’s best guess, but everyone gets a grade. This grade will then be assigned a number which will become part of a complicated equation that will yield a result that will no doubt find its home on a very important graph never to be seen again.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for encouraging and/or challenging children to “stretch their minds,” but let’s cut the bullshit here. This is not about the kids. It’s about accountability and bragging rights. Do we really have to be the best test takers in the world? Can we just give this one to China and call it a day? Let’s stop worrying about the damn ovals for a minute and tone down the amount of pressure we are putting on our kids to do well on one fucking test.
Here’s an idea. How about we allow our teachers to spend less time frantically trying to prepare our kids for a test that may or may not be a true indication of their perceived intelligence and more time teaching them the basic tools necessary to become productive members of society. Think of the amount of money our health care system would save in the Zoloft prescriptions for these kids and teachers alone down the road. You are welcome America.
I am definitely not throwing teachers under the bus. They are not the problem. Aside from a few bad eggs, they are underappreciated and underpaid heroes who have sadly been dealt a shitty hand of cards.
The entire system is the problem.
Case in point. We got an email from the school’s “Achievement Interventionist” this week.
Are we really paying someone to spend forty hours a week trying to make sure our kids do well on one test? And how much did we spend on postage for those ridiculous postcards? I’m sure there’s more to it, but regardless, WTF?
My husband blames the democrats. Big surprise there. He pretty much blames them for everything. I don’t know who’s fault it is and I certainly don’t have the answer. Whether it be intentionally or unintentionally, our current system has given my 8 year old daughter a very real case of test anxiety that will now undoubtedly follow her throughout her lifetime. Perfect.
Here’s the truth. In the past several months, I have spent hours of my life reassuring my daughter that this test is in fact not that important in the whole big scheme of things. “Please don’t worry about it honey. Just try your best. I have full confidence in your ability to successfully shade in an oval. You’ll do just fine. And yes, I’ll make you an egg for breakfast, just like I do every day.”
If I forget what an egg is, I’ll refer to page 27 in my trusty booklet which graciously provides an illustration of what one looks like…compliments of the “Achievement Interventionist” no doubt.
God bless the U.S.A.!