New Crap Laden Baloney


W.B. Yeats once described education as “not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” These days, that dear voice of Ireland would probably say something like “education is not the celebration of understanding, but the taking of test after test after test.” American education is in a sad state of affairs because all that matters is (cue the ominous music) The Test. Well, I say . . .


Tuesday past, our faculty had our annual testing inservice in preparation for next week’s two day writing portion of our state’s NCLB qualifying High Stakes Test. The theory behind this latest retooled monstrosity is that by giving the writing piece of the test this early in March, we will have “useable” results earlier than halfway through second quarter next year.


This test isn’t even normed yet, so how do they expect to give us any meaningful results early enough to be of any “diagnostic” use? Bottom line is, they don’t. This test is just the latest in a line stretching back nearly twenty years now of ways that politicians try to reduce something as complex as a young human being with hopes, dreams, issues, baggage and aspirations to nothing more than a raw test score so someone somewhere who also has no clue about education or children can “compare” two students, schools, or states.


If you are reading this and you are not an educator, you have no CLUE what sitting in a testing inservice is like. It’s not the boredom or the endless procedures. Oh no, it is something much more palpable and terrifying than that. It’s the gut wrenching fear of knowing that every single thing you’ve done in your classroom this year is about to be judged by one blunt instrument . . . The Test. We pour an academic year into cramming standards into our pupils’ heads and it all comes down to this. One week of testing that is a minor aggravation to the students, but is of unsurpassed major importance to the teachers. Your career, your livelihood, and (if we educators will admit it) a big chunk of our self esteem is on the line every spring just because some politicians think we aren’t doing our jobs so we must be “held accountable.”


Hold US accountable? Who, may I ask, is holding the PARENTS accountable or the politicians accountable who make these ridiculous policies that are enforced with draconian measures but funded with penny mandates? Worse, how can any reasonable person believe that any two states in this Union or any two children in the world can be compared based on the results of ONE TEST? What is more, what sane, reasonable person with any understanding of children would WANT to?


Tests, by their very nature and definition, are designed to show what someone has “learned” or “retained” or “knows”. Unfortunately, this kind of instrument is patently USELESS in this 2009th year since the stable in Bethlehem. We are no longer in a paradigm where what you know matters. What you “know” is USELESS in many more cases than people want to believe. What you “know” will be outdated tomorrow. In this modern paradigm, the important thing isn’t what you “know;” it’s what you can FIND OUT and how you can use what you find. It’s the Information Age, but we are forced to evaluate our digital natives using hopelessly analog anthropology. It’s the equivalent of trying to tune a Ferrari’s engine with a wainwright’s tools.


We mourn the fact that so few students care about school or education. I’ll be honest; if I’d had to sit through a day, week, year of classes that drilled me for one big test that carried no relevance to me or my life, I probably wouldn’t care much about school either. I don’t work with poorly trained teachers. I don’t work with hard hearted, slave driving administrators. No, I work with and for some of the brightest, most caring, most student centered people you will ever meet, but their hands are tied. I cannot tell you how many wonderful units of learning or how many great teachable moments have to pass by unfulfilled because it would take time from what is essentially TEST PREPARATION AD NAUSEUM. Teachers and administrators have no choice. School funding, the lifeblood of any facility, lives and dies — rises and falls — on test performance so we have no recourse to, as much as possible, TEACH THE BLOODY TEST.

And meanwhile, a generation of students who could otherwise be engaged learners become passive vessels whom we hope can spill their contents successfully and accurately onto a page full of bubbles and thereby validate our existence as educators for one more year.

It’s a load of baloney; it is crippling our educational system; it is robbing our teachers of their joy; it is destroying our students’ desire to learn.

It. Is. Awful.

If we don’t find someway to take a stand and get politicians in office who can change this “high stakes, win or lose, testing as the be all and end all” mentality, our public education is doomed.

Then where will we be? Where will we wash our feet, y’all? 😦 ?

4 responses »

  1. Okey dokey—–we are one day short of 3 weeks since we last checked our Grocery Store Feet. Surely you have some fodder for discussion!

  2. I think many parents (and teachers) are ‘shouting’ about the state of public education….you can hear it in the unprecedented number of people who are choosing private schools or home-schooling over what is offered at the neighborhood public school.

  3. How about if all teachers and parents shouted from the rooftops, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”?

  4. This should be on the op-ed page of the Times, shouted from the hilltops. Do you think if teachers stood up and all shouted “BALONEY!” with one voice it would help? It would be a good try.

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