Testing…testing…does this thing work?
No, I’m not talking about this neglected website. I’m talking about the grueling season that is right now bearing down on many of California’s kids. It’s testing season, folks, the time of year when No. 2 pencils and prison-like lock downs on school campuses reign. It’s the season that helps make Pearson one of the wealthiest companies in the world (read that thing with tissues in hand because you will weep); the season that causes Michelle Rhee, Ben Austin, Rahm Emmanuel, and other like-minded education “reformers” to gleefully piddle in their pants at the idea of closing more “failing” schools. Score one for privatization.
Of course, I’m opting my child out of the tests because I don’t subscribe to child abuse. Tomorrow, while the kids in my daughter’s second grade class spend day one of six bent over Scantron sheets while chomping on prohibited-during-all-other-school hours mint gum, my child will be eating crepes she made while learning about the Greek diva, Maria Callas.
Like Maria Callas, my poor kid has an overbearing mother, one who simply could not take her girl by the hand and lead her quietly away from bubble answers and into the light of Verdi’s La Traviatta. No, her mother had to create a Shit Storm first by posting her opinion on Facebook. And yes, I’m really missing my CityBeat platform these days, thank you very much.
Anyway. Ruby’s school sent out an email with suggestions on how best to prep our little Social Experiments for the next two weeks of testing. This inspirational missive came after a very lucrative solicitation last week for the aforementioned mint gum. Because some random un-cited research claims it helps kids stay focused and calm…which might be an argument to offer it everyday, no? Ponder that for a moment.
Some of the things the email encouraged parents to do at home were:
- Ensure your child is at school everyday, and on time!
- Ensure your child eats a nutritious breakfast, daily.
- Ask your child to read a bit more than usual this month, or read with your child for longer periods to build stamina.
- Talk with your child about the tests & the importance of doing his/her best.
- Encourage your child to think positive thoughts like “I can do this!”
- Talk with your child about their anxieties & express your confidence in his/her ability.
- Be sure your child wears comfortable clothing
- Encourage your child to pay careful attention to test directions and matching the right answers to the right question
The email included some “other cute ideas” as well:
A special snack each day:
baggie of cheerios with “We’re cheer-ing you on”
baggie of Lucky Charms w/ “Show What you Know, Good Luck”
baggie of pretzels w/ “Don’t let the test “twist” your head”
baggie of popcorn w/ “Poppin’ in to say you’re doing great”
box of raisins w/ “You’re Raisin’ your score”
A special treat to start the morning:
die cut star with label/ “I’m a Test Takin’ Star” and a starburst candy
a bookmark that says “I’m a Smart Cookie” and a cookie
a bookmark that says “Do your Bear-y Best” and gummybears
a eraser w/ “Erase those fears right outa your head”
business sized card with “Believe, Achieve, Succeed” and a penny
Uh, huh. Yes. Fo’ realz! Our school just did some serious product placement. I’m starting to think that Pearson owns Smart Water, Starburst Chews, gummy bears, mint gum, cookies, all ingredients needed to make cookies (including oatmeal, just to cover the bases), cookie sheets and Teflon®. Bwahahahahahaha!
Some important context here: Our school has an extremely strict stance on food. Students are not allowed to bring treats to school on their birthdays; junk food, candy, sweets of any kind—including gum—are all prohibited in packed lunches; even Valentine’s Day is a no-go. Teachers are allowed to have 3 parties each year, the only time that food is permitted, but all food items must be cleared with the nurse first. Ah, the drudgery of childhood.
There is value in this policy, sure. I get the allergy angle, and can appreciate the collective effort to protect children from danger. But c’mon. This is excessive. So what if the kids ask each other to Be Mine! with a lollipop or a SweeTart? Who cares if a teacher gives out a piece of licorice at the end of a long day? Whose business is it if I want to put a small sweet in my kid’s lunch box because…well…just because.
But these are the rules, and I go along quietly because these are the rules. Until they aren’t any more. Because what better time than test time to start your PearsonBot’s morning with a special treat of “starburst candy”? What’s better than sending Tommy Test Taker to class with school-sanctioned Ziploc bag of Lucky Charms? LIVE LARGE, KIDDOS! SNAP THAT GUM LIKE NOBODY’S WATCHIN’!
That is, until June 11th and then don’t you show up with that poison on campus or else.
And so—you know me—I went ahead and mentioned this hypocrisy on the school’s Facebook page with the purpose of highlighting how our culture of standardized testing is so big, so important, that we will do ridiculous things in the endless hunt for high test scores. Since January, my kid’s homework packets have included lengthy practice test questions in English despite the fact that, according to the school website, “[i]n grades K-2, students receive academic instruction in French only.“ With such explicit teaching to the test—in direct opposition to their stated curriculum—it can’t be a stretch to think there would be free Jell-O shots at the school entrance if “studies showed” a correlation between reading comprehension and vodka.
My post elicited an angry reaction from parents (rightly so) aaaaand also the admonishment that I shouldn’t have made my thoughts public, that Facebook wasn’t the right place to have this particular conversation. But I disagree. I think it’s as fine a place as any to be having this conversation.