Question No. 12 put me over the top. But I continued my outward calm, even as I watched the kids squirm, and as some began to lose their focus and their positive demeanor.
The mumbling had begun. The sentence I read to the class said something like “she realized she could store her belongings in the bureau.” “Bureau.” There were four pictures to choose from. One was a building that looked like a public “bureau” of the government to me, but I doubted my students would think of that. One was of a tractor. Scratch that. But I looked at my students whose families speak Spanish at home. And I looked at the burro in picture “C.”
Then I looked at the picture of what my family calls a chest-of-drawers. And I thought about how we have never used that word, “bureau,” for a piece of furniture. And I have never heard that word in the homes of my students’ families. And I thought, how crude, how cruel, how ignorant, how disrespectful of these children. What a set-up. Who would do that to kids?...
By the end of the Vocabulary section these children had been through 57 of the 106 questions. They were more than half way done. But the double period was almost over. They were about to go home, having entered the classroom feeling strong and ready to learn, about to leave feeling, in their words, “stupid.” They had lost two full periods of real teaching/learning. What had they gained? Really, what?…
Like them, I left for the weekend feeling defeated. What happens when our beautiful children face this kind of situation over, and over, and over again. The phrase, “first do no harm,” consumed me. I was leaving school for the weekend on the wrong side of that admonition.
What had they gained? A better question: what had they lost? One person didn't lose, and that's for sure: somewhere out in Educationland a testing company is pocketing a nice chunk of change.
The fetishization of standardized testing must end. You want to know why kids don't like to read? Read that whole article. And then think back on your own schooling. The younger you are, the more likely you are to relate to the kids in that teacher's classroom. We're taking this country's kids down the wrong track, and profit is a big reason why.