“No Child Left Untested”

It was Lizard Breath’s, lemme see, 12th birthday. Not the best of birthdays. First, one of my “emergency” students got sick at the grade school and Froggy and I went over and picked her up so she could spend the last half of the afternoon on one of the Landfill couches. When Liz got home from middle school, she was pressed into service as a baby-sitter because I was called to attend an “urgent” meeting at the school. Why they needed the lowly old PTO treasurer, I did not know, but I trudged on over.

What had happened? Creepy old man on the playground? Dog poop in the woods? Naw. A long-time teacher had been caught helping students correct their MEAP tests. Hmmm…

Hmmm… Once, when I was over at the school printing the newsletter fighting with the tyrannograph, I overheard an interesting conversation between said teacher and the principal dictator. They were looking over a new version of the MEAP and the teacher was in a panic over the math questions. “How will we ever teach these kids this stuff?” Yada yada yada.

Hmmm… One of the beach urchins was in that teacher’s class in 4th grade and had scored a 99% on the math portion of the MEAP test that year. Now, the beach urchins are definitely walking around at quite a bit higher than 100 and, for this particular kid, 99% was a normal score. For language arts (or whatever they call it). Math? Not quiiiite that high.

Hmmm… I thought back to the day she took the MEAP test. I had asked her how she did and she told me she got all the math questions right. “You did?” “Yes, Mrs. C checked all the answers,” she chirped. Yes, that sounded a little strange. For whatever reason, I didn’t pursue it any further.

By the time Mrs. C was caught a couple of years later, I think she was actually taking the tests home and flagging wrong answers with post-it notes saying things like, “check this one again.” Yes, really. Something like that anyway.

This teacher was a *veteran* teacher. Old-school, strict classroom style (which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing, I survived Mrs. Pratt!), scary to parents (but maybe not to kids). Also willing to try new things. Like when she teamed up with another teacher and created a multi-grade pilot program, based on multiple intelligences.

Yes, she was fired. Er, medical leave was what they called it and then of course she was never heard from again. I’m sure they settled with her in some way.

So, I was NOT surprised to hear about Atlanta’s recent cheating scandal. In fact, I was very surprised to see tweets from all kinds of apparent education experts who WERE surprised. (Not providing names and sources. I am NOT an education expert. I follow a couple of local folks who retweeted others.) They were saying things like, “This is localized to the Atlanta district, yada yada.” Well. I think not! I think this stuff is probably going on all over the place, whether it’s one teacher sticking post-it notes on tests or a whole district incorporating cheating into its culture.

I have mixed feelings about standardized tests. I am coming from a weird little corner of the universe here in that I was always REALLY GOOD at them. I remember the little booklets we had in first grade and the stop signs at the end of each section. I remember when I took my first Iowa test in 3rd grade and Mrs. Ala looked bug-eyed at me as she told the whole class that I got straight 99s. No, they don’t announce the scores any more. In fact, that was probably one of the things that started me toward an infamous junior high/high school career of trying to fly under the radar by deliberately answering test questions wrong. So I wouldn’t seem so smart because boyzzz wouldn’t like me if I was too smart, don’tcha know… Yeah, blech! I did recover in time to ace the SATs, which earned me fame (but no fortune) as a National Merit Finalist. And yes, I am a POSTER CHILD for why standardized test results are only ONE indicator of success in life because, if they were a true predictor of success, boy oh boy have I been a slacker!

I think that standardized tests can be a tool in measuring academic achievement. One tool! I think that if veteran teachers like Mrs. C and all those folks in Atlanta feel like they have to cheat to keep their jobs, we are definitely going down the wrong path. I don’t have all of the answers but I think that a HUGE part of the problem is that many many many students in our country are arriving at school unprepared to learn. There is not enough food at home. Or parents who care. Maybe there is not a home. Or maybe the home moves every month or so. Or everybody at home has been up all night partying. Or there is a home and parents who care but are working multiple jobs to try to keep the home and put food on the table. Or… (fill in the blank). Some kids will have whatever it takes to soar out of the detestable circumstances they are born into. Some will not. (I know that the converse of this is true too, make no mistake.) Our teachers cannot be held accountable for what goes on at home.

There are a few incompetent teachers out there. One of the beach urchins had a high school forum teacher who made my hair stand on end. Standardized test results wouldn’t have weeded him out because he didn’t teach any academic subjects. And standardized tests should not be what we use to decide who is a good teacher and who is not. Let’s end this insanity.

P.S. The title is what my teacher-cousin The Grand Poobah of Regen-Axe calls NCLB. Not sure if she coined it or if it’s common in the education world.

One Response to ““No Child Left Untested””

  1. Margaret Says:

    Your title? We use it all the time in the ed world. 🙂 I also loved standardized tests and was very good at them. The Atlanta scandal-no surprise here. There is SO MUCH pressure!! I’m glad to be in an elective area and not under the gun like the “important” subjects.