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High Stakes Testing: One Kid's Perspective

Tingley-021 color webI pick up the fourth grader after school.  We’re driving along and suddenly she says, “Guess what happened in math today.”

“I don’t know,” I say.  “What happened?”

“Well,” she says, “We’re STILL getting ready for SOLs [Standards of Learning --Virginia’s version of high stakes endurance testing for little kids].  So my teacher says we’re supposed to write down 5 things we don’t understand in math so far this year.  But I could only think of three.  So I raised my hand and I said, ‘Miss Moss, I can only think of three.’  And you know what she said?  She said, ‘Well, you better think of two more or you’re going to get a 60 on this assignment.’”

“Huh,” I say, the response I have taught myself to give instead of saying, “What an idiot.”

“So,” she continues, now a little outraged, “it’s like I get penalized because I understand it.”

“Huh,” I say again.

On a roll now, she continues:  “Then Miss Moss says, ‘Who doesn’t understand factors?’ One kid raises his hand out of maybe 24 of us.  So we all have to go over factors, which I got months ago.  If there’s only one kid, why can’t she just go over it at recess?  So we’re all going over it AGAIN, and I start doodling on my page and she says to me, ‘Am I boring you, young lady?’ and I want to say, ‘Yes’ but I thought that wasn’t a good idea.”

This is the ongoing saga of prep for the state tests. Often when I pick her up, I ask the same question:  “So what did you learn at school today?”  For the last few weeks the answer has been, “Nothing.  We’re reviewing for SOLs.”

Is anyone paying attention here?  All that beautiful instructional time wasted on this nonsense. Individualized instruction?  Enrichment?  The creative process?  Fun?  Once testing season begins (and it’s beginning earlier and earlier), it’s all over.

So we continue to drive, and I hear myself say, “Well, maybe after the tests are over your teacher will give you something fun to do.”

“Huh,” she says.


Below, a short, enlightening, and entertaining video about time, kids, and creativity:


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