On the front page of our local paper there is an article titled “Rally Fires Up Takers of CRCTs” along with a photograph of a group of different-aged elementary students with their arms raised and animated faces that seem invigorated about something.
I immediately thought, “Oh! A rally against testing!”
It was a rally FOR testing.
Yes, a pep rally to get students excited about taking tests that are largely inappropriate for students, narrow in focus, not valid measures of student learning, and will be used against some of these very students to justify their retention in this year’s grade level. These are high-stakes tests nothing of the sort that adults twenty-five years and older had to take when they were in school and students begin hearing about them in kindergarten. “I might be stressed out,” my eight-year-old daughter told me last night, “so if I come home in a bad mood it’s not my fault.”
No, it’s not her fault, but let’s ask who is to blame for eight-year-olds and others feeling “stressed out,” not sleeping, vomiting on test days, crying during the test, experiencing extreme anxiety, panicking when results come in, sobbing when they hear they won’t be promoted to the next grade, losing all faith in themselves over one series of testing.
And it’s not only about students – nationwide reports of teacher dissatisfaction, teachers prescribed anti-depressants, teachers leaving classrooms in the middle of the year, teachers “cheating” to save their jobs and dignity, teachers even committing suicide.
Who is to blame?
We all are.
Politicians have snatched public education and run with it, turning it into a spectacle completely outside the control of knowledgeable professionals. Publishers – the makers of tests and test preparation programs – are controlling content and policy and making billions of dollars every year, while local districts are forced to cut jobs due to budget constraints. But they still purchase tests and all sorts of test preparation programs.
What if all state-mandated CRCT testing was eliminated?
How much money would one district save?
How many jobs would be saved?
Could we spare our children from the claws of rigidity and a one-size-fits-all schooling experience?
We are all to blame.
I kissed my eight-year-old goodbye this morning and put her on the school bus to go take a test today that I don’t believe in. I smiled at her and sent her into a testing culture that I resent. And I didn’t organize a rally against testing.
Last year my then seven-year-old was outraged and exhausted by the tests and even wrote a letter to Governor Sonny Perdue telling him all the reasons the CRCT should be stopped (it seems, by the way, that will happen in first and second grades beginning next year). This year, however, she just got on the bus and went to take the test.
At least one thing is for sure, she has accepted this horrible reality as simply the way things must be so she plays along without resisting.
I would rather her resist.
Perhaps we still have time.