Have you ever been told by your child’s teacher to “bring a no. 2 pencil?” Have you dreaded the days where your child comes home and says, “Oh God, Mom and Dad, I have a test tomorrow.”? Well, peoples, ladies and gents, I’m sorry, I feel the same way you would’ve felt. Our education system is under attack, thus my title here is “Attack of the Bubble Sheets.” Why would I pick such a title?
First off, we only go to school in some places for 180 days at the most. If Brian Crosby, author of Smart Kids, Bad Schools would have seen what improvements we have made, one thing stands out as a step backward. He writes a whole primer on NCLB, No Child Left Behind. Standardized testing is stupid, evil, and indeed so evil that even Hell will spit out your answer sheets.
First off, the word ‘standard”, according to Crosby in another chapter, is so clinical, not educational. So we’re training our kids to “meet standards” as Crosby points out in most of his book’s chapters on tests and scoring standardized tests and the Golden Rule. We’re wasting our time teaching to the test. Crosby says, in clear plain English, bar none, kids are being “reduced to ethnic categories and test scores.” Ugh.
I could go on quoting the book for hours, and there are lots of wonderful books that pinpoint the evil Standardized Test papers and how bad they are. Testing, testing, testing! It’s so evil even Hell could be like this.
Anyway, there is a major problem with Standardized Testing. For one, my personal experiences prove a point. the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, better known as FCAT, was a requirement I had to meet in order to graduate Titusville High School. For one, my TVI and others had to provide a Braille copy, and for the mathematics portion, tactile graphics that were understandable and comprehensible by the student, myself in this case, had to be provided. Now, thank God I was able to pass the FCAT so I graduated, and there was a further motivation for us to pass that purring paper filled fire pit. We got free admission to sports events such as basketball games and got this thing with “fcat” written on it. You might as well have put a cat logo on my student ID! Seriously!
Blake, a more recent high school graduate, had to take the Arizona version of the FCAT, known as AIMS. Ugh. When he talked about the AIMS test, he pretty much drooped a bit. For one thing, he’s not the only one that the test “aimed” to weed out. And it’s not just the AIMS that aims to please the test taking company in Arizona or wherever. This evil piece of work could have spelled disaster for Blake due to what he and his advocates perceived as a “learning disability in math.” This was caused by a memory issue with one of the medications he was taking, which had lots of side effects. Memory loss somehow was one of the side effects. Because of this, Blake and his mother asked the state, along with the TVI at the time, to provide the use of a talking calculator during the test due to the deficiency in the teaching of math at school. Math seemed to be one of Blake’s weaknesses, but because standardized test requirements like that of Florida and Arizona put so much pressure on kids to pass in order to graduate, Blake had to pass at minimum a Math, English, and Writing test. Science, according to Blake, was added after he left.
Most of these standardized tests are done while the child is both in elementary and secondary schools. For me and the Florida students, FCAT was administered starting in the third grade, and that is scary stuff. The big ones are administered in tenth grade, and science is required now for all THS and Florida seniors. Blake, in a way, was lucky he missed the science test. Tests like AIMS shape the curriculum the teachers can use to show students concepts. Teaching to the test can be fine for some kids, but sometimes the teachers can cheat as happened in Atlanta, Georgia.
For all kids, though, it’s not a good feeling to have nothing but math, reading, and science offered in school. Science experiments are discouraged due to the attack on gifted kids, and yes, the attack of the Bubble Sheets where your test answers are drawn. AIMS and the FCAT and other standardized tests aim to pretty much shrink what kids can do. Children will leave the school systems if this keeps up, and this should be encouraged. Why go to schools where music, arts, and creativity are discouraged anyway? See the previous post, The Day the Music Died.
In closing, Blake and I had two different experiences with testing. I luckily passed the FCAT’s math, norm reference, reading, and that stupid science test. The thing I hated about this was the biased standards, lack of wide ranging vocabulary, boring reading selections, and yes, the bad essay topics. The Florida Writes Test was administered in the fourth grade, and I’m sorry, nobody rated me high enough. Funny though I got a 5.5 on the so-called FCAT Writes. I was able to be a bit creative, and I thank “your governor” at the time, Jeb Bush. He sent me that neat little award letter for receiving a well earned 5.5 on that test. Blake, however, suffered some barriers in completing and passing the Math portion. Kathy, as heroic as mothers ought to always be when their children face this challenge, swung into action upon seeing and hearing this. Supermoms are good for this reason.
What the State of Arizona failed to do was provide the calculator Blake requested, and it was clearly written in black and white on his plans. Kathy decided to spring in and bring in the big guns, the family lawyer. When the state realized their error, they wrote saying they were sorry. Blake was allowed to walk the stage and graduate high school at Camp Verde High School class of 2008, and the math portion of AIMS did not stop him thanks to the efforts of both Mom and lawyer. Nobody should have a disabled kid not graduate high school because of a perceived inability to do something, in Blake’s case, math. Learning disabilities in math are common with a lot of kids, and some kids have English deficiencies. You bet that states like California and Arizona have a high Mexican and Non English population of people, and they are being forced to take English written tests. The ones who pass these stupid Hellish paper weights are the ones like the white and rich Asian kids. All this is according to statistics. The ones who are in the poorer sections of town usually do not pass, and the whites and nonwhites’ achievement gap just won’t stop! But there’s an Ableist biased achievement gap as well, and as we have seen with Blake and today’s generation of high school graduates and future high school graduates across this country, the issue isn’t race, ethnicity, or really the ability to write stuff on an answer sheet. The issue becomes disability. What is the solution?
Simply put: we will have to end the standardization of our education system. Tests should be taken, but not in a standard format set by politicians who have no brain, no pain, no idea what it’s like to both be students in a public school or parents of students in schools. The teachers are the ones who spend hours upon hours with our children, so why are the white colared, black tie wearing idiotic politicians making these decisions? Part of it we will discuss in a later post on teacher trust and status in the social context. Most teachers, being female, are treated like dirt! So politicians are not being given good credit for a reason. Politicians never raised a disabled kid, except maybe Rick Santorum, but will his Trisomy-18 daughter ever really grace the pages of a standardized test answer sheet? No. What about if Kathy herself stepped into the political ring? We need more loud proud parents of disabled kids and students past and present to say the following, ‘We’re mad as Hell, stop turning my disabled child into a piece of crap. Stop standardizing my child’s education!” And do not forget that history tests are a bad idea because some parts of history books can be biased. Also a subject for a future post.
If anyone else has been hurt by the Standardized Testing Attack of the Bubble Sheets, please talk to me. I will find a way to get you some medication so you can cure your Test Taker’s Fright.
Disclaimer: All of the anecdotes about the tests were true and I had Blake’s permission to write this account down. Also, if the attack of the Bubble Sheets gets worse, who cares about Hillary Clinton? I vote Kathy for president. I vote someone who really cares about disabled kids, someone who taught a blind child, knows about mental issues, etc. for president. Not a black tie wearing, extravagantly dressed, rich snowflake as president. We need a real person who represents what we call the “little guy” for president, but yes, we need a real live female in the White House. But Mrs. Clinton does not know anything about disability. Chelsea and her son were both able, so forget them Clintons. I vote Blake’s or somebody else’s mom for president, so yall get the campaign trail going. Let’s do it! We’re here to defend our world and education from the villain that nobody sees, the bubble Sheet and the word “standard” on all report cards.