Friday, February 22, 2019


Standardized tests. As a teacher, I wasted many a day administering these tools of the devil to children who, like their teachers and principals, were merely doing what they were told. People talk about local control of schools, but it's funny how widely accepted state mandated tests have become with barely a whimper of protest. The picture above is sort of quaint, pencil with bubble test. Tests are administered by computer now. Bland as hell. Unimaginative. A broken pencil at least expresses something.

I did everything I could to let the students know that their teacher didn't care about this test. I read the instructions in a comically threatening samurai voice.


We even created a class gesture to go along with a chant of "UP Your MAP Scores!", for which I probably could have been reprimanded if not fired. My students covered me on that one.

Test prep included covering the door window with brown paper, which seemed ridiculous. Bulletin boards, possibly containing helpful info, were also covered. It felt like an intruder drill. The intruder, in this case, would be the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE). The weapon was the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP). No one was shot, but the learning environment was seriously wounded.

I submit that the MAP test is the scourge of public education in this state. If parents were really paying attention and weren't stressing over their job, kids, bills, health issues, prison or worse, they would rise up and lead a massive boycott of MAP testing.

By the time MAP scores are finally released, the teacher is already involved in a new school year with different students. It's like getting results from an autopsy that reminds you somebody died a year ago.

If Score Are Low, If Scores Are High

If MAP scores are low, it's because we cannot measure what's truly important. If scores are high, we celebrate their importance and claim that our schools are successful.

Ask an administrator about standardized tests, and they'll sigh and say, "This is the world we live in," or some such thing. Then they'll busy themselves scouring the data for nuggets of insight. Lucky for them, the world we live in rewards them pretty well for their sighing compliance.

Inverse rule of measuring: If you cannot measure what's truly important, one must place extra importance on what can be measured.

MAP tests do not measure physical health, mental health, nutrition, resilience, creativity, kindness or compassion. Nor do they measure the acceptance and the simple love that can grow between teacher and student, even those who are unlucky enough to be in "failing" schools every day.

Thought exercise: If a school is determined to be a failure through the lens of a failed assessment tool, can it then be deemed successful?

One Salient Piece of Data

This Annually: Students living in higher income areas have higher levels of proficiency. Students in poverty-stricken neighborhoods struggle with basic skills.

This is perhaps the one salient piece of data that every standardized test proves true, yet it is effectively swept under the rug by school boards and education leaders out of political expediency. A task force of usual suspects will surround the issue and provide a report.

Issues like minimum wage and Medicaid expansion that would make substantive differences for the poor are off limits and considered far too political, a tacit acknowledgement that our political/economic system still favors those living in the "proficient" neighborhoods.

No, we'll pay top dollar for an expert speaker on the effects of poverty, the best.
Teachers, learn how to talk to and teach poor kids!
Early Childhood Education is the answer, just you wait and see.
Write up some charity grants for shoes and coats. Look at those numbers! Great job!

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