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14 March 2014 @ 09:03 am
Matilda and the state tests  
I was thrilled when the audio version of Dahl's MATILDA received an Odyssey Honor nod. Not that I needed an excuse to revisit this book, but I loved the idea of listening to Kate Winslet narrate this story of children and caregivers (parents, teachers, administrators) and perhaps of starting a new movie in my head without the cast from the adaptation many years ago. I am enjoying this audio version of MATILDA. In particular I am struck by the school scenes.

Why am I thinking about MATILDA and school right now? Simple: so many schools across the country are in the midst of or preparing for the state tests (insert ominous music here). Books have to be covered over; teachers are told to turn in their cell phones at the office; and children are being punished with day after day after day of tests. In some places, once they complete the test, they must sit silently. No books or reading are permitted. Teachers must "actively" monitor, trolling up and down the aisles (make no mistake, kids are not sitting together for this test), making sure no one cheats. It sounds positively Dickensian or, in this case, Dahl-ish.

When did we cede this much autonomy to the almighty tests?

I read a piece this morning by Anthony Cody this morning entitled THE COMMON CORE EQUITY CRISIS: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/03/the_common_core_equity_swindle.html. In this piece, Cody cites research by BURRIS AND AJA: "...the percentage of black students who scored "Below Standard" in third-grade English Language Arts tests rose from 15.5 percent to a shocking 50 percent post-Common Core implementation. In seventh-grade math, black students labeled "Below Standard" jumped from 16.5 percent to a staggering 70 percent. Students with disabilities of all backgrounds saw their scores plummet- 75 percent of students with disabilities scored "Below Standard" on the Grade 5 ELA Common Core tests and 78 percent scored "Below Standard" on the 7th grade math test. Also, 84 percent of English Language learners score "Below Standard" on the ELA test while 78 percent scored the same on the 7th grade math exam."

How can we allow this? If a test has this high a failure rate, does it not mean that there is something wrong with the test itself? I once had a colleague who bragged that 80% of his classes failed his course tests. Why is that something of which to be proud? Why will we spend millions of dollars on PARRC and SB tests so that our kids can be made to feel like failures year after year after year? How many of us read or listen to or view MATILDA and root for her parents and Miss Trunchbull?
 
 
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