Teaching to the test has officially begun at my daughter’s school.

And by OFFICIALLY, I mean, EXPLICITLY SANCTIONED.

Behold the notice included with the first homework packet that came home following the Christmas break (and again in a more specific letter from the school that followed a few days later):

Dear families: Welcome back! Starting this week we will begin adding a book report (to be completed in French) and English homework. The English homework is to prepare your child for the standardized state tests in June.

To re-cap: Ruby’s school—a magnet school—is an immersion school where kids are enrolled in either Spanish or French. The French program is laid out on the school’s website like this:

Grade
% French
Approx.
No. of minutes
% English
Approx.
No. of minutes
K
100%
360 min.
0%
0
1
100%
360 min.
0%
0
2
100%
360 min.
0%
0
3
60%
215 min.
40%
145 min.
4
5
50%
180 min.
50%
180 min.
6
7
8

French Language Arts-4 hrs a week

History-4 hrs a week

English Language Arts, Math, Science and P.E.

 

Grade

%

Min.

French Subjects

%

Min.

English Subjects

K

100

360

All subject areas

0

0

1

100

360

All subject areas

0

0

2

100

360

All subject areas

0

0

3

60%

215

French Literacy
Science/Health
Math
VAPA

40%

145

Social Studies
Literacy
P.E.

4
5

50%

180

French Literacy
Math
Science/health

50%

180

Social Studies
English Literacy
P.E.

6
7
8

30%

History
French Literacy

70%

250

Math
Science/Health
English Literacy

Notice that there is no English instruction until 3rd grade. None. Instruction is taught 100% in the target language. As is common with immersion programs, children learning a second language often lag behind in their English reading until 4th or 5th grade, at which time they catch up. My child falls into this category, and hoo-boy! is she ever frustrated by it. English reading is in this house is an endeavor that is more nerve-wracking than this:

Like, who here can read with that kind of music in the background? Am I right???

So it is bothersome that homework—which we are already opposed to in this household (thank you, Alfie Kohn)—now includes material that doesn’t coalesce with the stated goal of the school, but rather appeases test zealots. Which is to say, who gives a shit about the kids? Not only is this material above the reading level of many children in 2nd grade at this school, but it is explicitly not designed to cultivate curiosity or to spark a love of reading for any child in any school. Of course, it also comes with those fun and useful multiple-guess questions at the end. This is about data and data manipulation and lying to ourselves and cheating our children. Standardized testing, and the prep for it, is child abuse.

Here, for your thank-God-I’m-not-in-school-any-more reading pleasure, is the first homework assignment to help my seven year old proficient-French-reader prepare for the California Standardized Test in May, which she is not taking. (She is not doing the English test-prep assignments, with the support of our wonderful teacher, but more on that later). If you have the stamina to make it through these zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz passages and the questions that follow, weigh in in the comments on problems you have with any of it. Hint: There were zero drawings included with the homework. Okay, pick up your pencils and GO!

English Homework: Read the selection.  Then answer numbers 1 through 10.

How an Orange Grows

An orange is a sweet and juicy fruit.  A drink of orange juice is like drinking sunshine.  Oranges grow best where there is plenty of sun.  California has many orange trees.

Orange Groves

 Most oranges are grown on farms where there are many orange trees.  The trees are in long rows.  Many orange trees together are called an orange grove. Orange trees have green leaves.  The leaves stay green all year.  In the spring, flowers bloom on the trees.  The trees are white with blossoms.  The blossoms fill the air with a sweet smell.

Blossoms and bees

Orange blossoms are beautiful.  Blossoms make pollen.  Pollen looks like yellow dust.  Bees fly from flower to flower.  They pick up pollen at one flower.  They leave some pollen at another flower.  An orange may start to grow.  Bees are important in an orange grove.

Green oranges!

The blossoms fall to the ground.  A tiny orange begins to form.  It is green and small.  It slowly grows bigger.  It fills with juice.  Seeds grow inside the orange.  Finally, the fruit grows to its full size.  It turns orange.  Then it is ripe.  Ripe oranges are picked carefully.

From the Grove to Your Table

Most oranges are made into orange juice.  Some oranges are sent to stores.  You can but an orange.  Cut it or peel it.  You can squeeze an orange yourself to make juice.  Oranges taste great!

1.  The author uses the FIRST paragraph mostly to

A  tell the reader where oranges grow.
B  let the reader know what the article is about.
C  make the reader want to drink more orange juice.
D  tell the reader a funny story about oranges.

2.  Leaves on an orange tree are

A  white.
B  orange.
C  green.
D  blossoms.

3.  Oranges grow best

A  in sunshine.
B  in the dark.
C  in a lake.
D  on the roof.

4.  Why do the trees look white in the spring?

A  There are no leaves on the trees.
B  Snow is on the trees.
C  Pollen covers the trees.
D  The trees have white flowers.

5.  What color are oranges when they start to grow?

A  green
B  pink
C  orange
D  blue

6.  You need to answer a question about pollen.  Which section should
you read again?

A  Orange Groves
B  Blossoms and Bees
C  Green Oranges!
D  From the Grove to Your Table

7.  Why are bees important in an orange grove?

A  Bees look nice in a grove.
B  Bees can make honey.
C  Bees leave pollen in the blossoms.
D  Bees eat flowers.

8.  When you look at the drawing on page 1, you can learn

A  how a tree grows.
B  where the pollen is in a blossom.
C  what a tree looks like a winter.
D  which bugs like flowers.

9.  What is likely to happen if no bees go to an orange grove?

A  Many new oranges will grow.
B  Oranges will get ripe faster.
C  No oranges will grow.
D  The orange blossoms will not fall off.

10.  The author probably wrote this section

A  just for fun.
B  to get people to buy fruit.
C  to tell readers about oranges.
D  to teach readers how to grow an orange.

7 Responses to Teaching to the test has officially begun at my daughter’s school.

  • Cassi says:

    SO glad my daughter attends a progressive, secular, private, school –almost no homework, and no standardized tests. I’m sorry for your daughter –we have such a screwed up education system in the US.

    • Aaryn says:

      Cassi, thanks for your comment. I can certainly appreciate the benefits you enjoy at a private school, and it is something we consider for high school. But we really want our daughter to be in a place that is diverse, especially since she is black. We want her to see other faces that reflect hers and not have her be the exception. We also felt strongly about wanting to be a part of the public school system, and put our energy into making it better. Unfortunately, I think this snowball is rolling down hill, if you know what I mean. So we work within it, cherry picking what she does and does not do, and look to a future that will challenger her and inspire her to love learning.

  • Yiftach says:

    Besides the fact that the instructions, which I assume you transcribed exactly, are a couple of fragments that are themselves examples of terrible English writing, here are two issues:

    The paragraph under Green Oranges! begins with “The blossoms fall to the ground. A tiny orange begins to form. It is green and small.”

    First, the opening sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with the entire rest of the paragraph, and is in fact supremely confusing. I’m an adult who thought he knew that oranges grow on trees, but the way that paragraph is constructed made me think they grow wherever the blossoms land on the ground.

    Second, the next two sentences redundantly describe the size of the fruit when it first appears. It’s small and tiny, we get it.

    Finally. the correct answer to question #10 is, of course, E – while high.
    ***
    Give Ruby big hugs from us.

  • magpie says:

    Oy. Based on this, I feel like I have nothing to complain about. Test prep in my kid’s school is actually pretty minor, all things considered. But still – I’m mulling over an opt out, because I want to make a statement about standardized tests. I do however feel like me alone opting out is just pissing in the wind. I’d love to see the whole school or district or county or state opt out. As if…

    (Kizz sent me; I’d posted something on FB.)

  • Melinda says:

    Aaryn, have you heard about the teachers in Seattle, at Garfield HS, boycottting the standardized test?

  • Which is why I think my sister is an idiot for selling her lovely home to move into another school district based on nothing but the scores…

  • Question 1: The author uses the FIRST paragraph mostly to

    um. where is ” E to bore the shit out of the reader ” ??

    and Question 2: Leaves on an orange tree are

    where is ” E magically delicious ”

    oy. They must outsource the writing of those passages to India

    Good for you for educating yourself and standing up to your daughter!

    (or should I say “tres bien mon ami” )

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