When Test Scores Drive Schools

“A Pep Rally for Tests…?”

An interesting post from Will Richardson:

As I said, Emerson is not alone in this pep rally effort. But I wonder what the parents of those kids at Emerson think of this. Sad to say, most of them probably are just going along with the flow, missing the whole point of what their kids are really learning by going through this exercise — that the test is what we do school for, and that it’s something to be conquered.

I’m not even sure I dare to say what I’m about to… First, let me say, as an employee of the school district, I am not a free agent. I am well aware that I get paid to deliver the education that the Board of Superintendents mandates. Further, I sincerely mean no disrespect in this post as I realize that probably everyone in my district realizes that the tests are awful and that the emphasis on them is totally ridiculous.

Find me someone that works as a teacher, principal or other administrator in K-12 education that likes standardized tests, honestly, and I’ll show you someone whose relative probably writes the tests, scores the tests or makes test prep materials. In short, we all hate them and what they are doing to the schools.

But, my friends, until we get through this cycle of “educational reform” and teacher bashing, this is the way of it. This is what you, the public are asking for. If you weren’t so dead set on getting numbers and data to prove if teachers are good or not, if schools are good or not, then we wouldn’t be using these tests anymore.

It’s as simple as that.

See, because here’s the truth. My principal wants to me to put on a CST (California Standardized Test) pep rally. I’m doing it, too. Monday, right after 2nd period, the entire school is going to gather in the stadium. We will hear the choir sing, BSU dance, Marching Band play. The kids are going to shave my head because I promised I would do it if we met our goal last year. So, we did and I’m getting a free haircut. We will shoot off confetti cannons. I have even been playing “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey for the last 50 school days every morning over the all call system. No kidding.

I bet you think it’s ridiculous. I agree. But, I’m doing it because I don’t blame my principal. His job is on the line. Ifene doesn’t lift test scores then he’s looking at being replaced. That’s what they do, almost first thing, if a school “fails”. Last year, our school was incorrectly listed as a low-performing school in California, one of the bottom 5%. The truth was, we were more like bottom 7%, but, still. We got put on a list of failing schools. Now, if you came on my campus, you wouldn’t think we were a failing school. Know why? Because we’re not. So, we all got pumped up and the kids made a 48 point jump in the API. We went from 666 to 713. But, if we don’t make our goal this year, then we have only one more year before we will again be considered failing. And, then, they almost always get rid of the principal first.

So, can you blame him for pulling out all the stops? I can’t.

But, this is what happens when test scores drive schools. We have to produce higher and higher scores because that’s what No Child Left Behind says we have to do. It’s Federal law. So, until you, or We, the people, convince the politicians that these tests are actually ruining our schools, not making them better, we will continue to do these things.

My daughter says to me on the way home from school, “Dad, I got a magic bowl from my teacher. She says we have to eat breakfast out of it all next week! Whatever we eat out of it makes us smarter because of the magic!”

I died a little inside. They think they have to lie to my daughter and tell her that a piece of plastic has supernatural qualities just so she will think she is smarter?

Look, I’m not trying to boast, but my daughter is guaranteed to test at least in the 80th percentile or higher in all of the categories. She even told me that they took a practice test and she got all of them right but one question. So, I gently told her that she was already smart and she didn’t need a plastic “magic” bowl to make her smart.

Honestly, am I alone thinking that is some messed up brainwashing? What happens if the bowl gets lost? Can you imagine what will go through her little 2nd grade head if she forgets to eat out of the bowl on Monday? Or if it gets melted in the dishwasher? She will FREAK OUT! And can you blame her? The teacher told her it would make her smart so she could do well on the tests next week.

But, can I blame the teacher? Well, a little. But, not really. She’s just trying to make sure that the school keeps it’s test scores going up. But, personally, I think it’s really screwed up to tell a kid that the bowl is magic. I mean, dammit, this is education!!! And we are resorting to fairy tales and superstition to help the kids do better on the tests?

Does anyone else not see what a betrayal of the truth that this is? But, this is what happens when test scores drive schools. And, if you think this is bad, wait until they force merit pay on teachers and use the tests to decide who gets the bonuses and who gets fired.

I will buy a bunch of magic bowls. Just see if I don’t.


3 thoughts on “When Test Scores Drive Schools”

  1. From all the ones I've read, I like this one the most. It reveals the plain truth.

    I really enjoy (dread) reading your blog. Dread because it's depressingly true.


  2. I enjoyed this too, but it was painfully true. Just finished testing my second graders Friday. Came to school sick all week, because if I didn't, they'd all have to take it next week while the rest of the school was done.

    Did you know second graders are supposed to know range? How about understanding “wing span” to do a measuring question? The list goes on and on. I'm a visual learner. But the math test does not have the math questions in the booklet. They are expected to listen and take notes if necessary to complete the problems. I thought it was a math test, not a listening test. I can go on and on.

    The pressure was greater this year. We fell into program improvement. Our scores went DOWN to 796 from OVER 800.


  3. @Anon 6:47 Thanks for the compliment. I'm trying to mix it up a little bit by blogging some things that aren't so doomy gloomy. My real hope though is that I can be a part of helping people to stop just being bummed about things and start doing something about it. We can change the world!

    @Anon 8:21 Program Improvement because you dropped 4 points below 800? Is there any doubt NCLB is designed to create failing schools where there are none? That's just wrong! Thank you for sharing that and for the compliment.


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