I don’t think there is anyone, outside of Pearson, Harcourt, and a number of politicians who have clearly never met children, who isn’t at least a little bit up in arms about all of the testing we are putting our nation’s children through these days. And if you aren’t up in arms, you should be, because it is ridiculous! In Texas alone, fourth graders will spend 15 ENTIRE school days devoted just to standardized testing.
Last week the fourth graders at my school were chosen by some sort of lottery to take a national test in addition to our local and state exams. We don’t ever see the scores, but it is for the “Nation’s Report Card” so it’s important. Or something. It is a big enough deal that outsiders are sent in to administer the test. So I readied my students with sharpened pencils and desks in 1950’s spaced out rows.
“Don’t worry.” I told them. “This isn’t going on your report card. They aren’t ever going to tell me how you did, but it’s important that you do your best because this test is for America. Who is it for?”
“WHO IS IT FOR???”
Because that’s how we roll.
Then we got to waiting and wondering if Obama was going to proctor the exam. We agreed that we hoped he had better things to do, but this being America’s test and all, we couldn’t rule out a presidential proctor.
And then in he walked. He’s not Obama. I mouthed to my students behind his back. They stifled their giggles and kept straight faces. Nope. He was not President Obama. He was Oscar The Grouch personified. Way to put on your best face, America. He grumbled and frowned. He hung up his directions and mumbly tossed out directions with his heaviest disdain. It was unclear who exactly he was speaking to: Adults? Minons? Robots? Certainly not children.
Toward the end of the test, one of my students raised his hand. He was finished.
“Can I read my book?” he asked politely.
“No you may not read your book!”
“Um…then..what do I do?”
“You just sit there.”
Oh America. Really?
After the testing portion, the students needed to fill out a survey and the proctor read the questions out loud. America wanted to know if they were black or hispanic and if they lived with two parents and had a dishwasher in their house or apartment. When my students asked about that later I told them that was probably America’s way of finding out if they were poor or not. The survey also wanted to know their zip code. None of them knew, but most of them are neighborhood kids, so I stepped in and told them.
Oh. Dear. God.
I was met with immediate and harsh reprimand from the proctor. There was a stern yell and some very serious finger pointing and wagging.
“NO! YOU DON’T HELP THEM!!”
To be clear, this was with their zip code. The other proctors in the other rooms actually asked the teachers to tell the kids their zip code. He turned back to the class to continue but then quickly turned and gave me another stern glare and finger pointing.
I could see the fire in my students eyes. It was the fire and glare that said, “hold my baby, I’m about to cut a bitch” because these kids have my back. And I love them!
But they sat there quietly and did me proud. He finished the survey and then read a paragraph in his script about how this had been for America and they could keep their pencils for their time. Not so much a “thank you” as a condescending “here, you pathetic minions, I will let you keep these pencils because I am doing you a favor.” He packed up his things and the room was silent. We watched him walk out the door. And then we sort of stared at each other in disbelief.
America’s proctor had forgotten to collect the test booklets.
A moment later he shuffled back in, posture low and mumbling. He quickly grabbed the booklets and left again.
We all laughed. Not with you, America. At you. We laughed at you.