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Let's Turn the Tables

Publication Date: 2003-04-18

Why are we quizzing kindergartners when it's CEOS and their political cronies who should be answering the questions?

The political mania for inflicting high-stakes tests on students has reached such insanity that Harcourt, publisher of the widely used Stanford 9 test, sends out instructions on what a teacher should do when nervous children vomit on the tests (Soiled tests cannot be discarded but must be returned to Harcourt.)

No one seems to be stepping forward to demand that schools discontinue practices that make kids vomit.

Instead, a principal in San Diego insists that kindergartners must take pre-Stanford-9 tests, declaring ?Unless students become familiar with the exam format, they cannot zero in on the academic skills. Try passing a bar exam without preparation."

Hello. This is kindergarten.

Standardistas call it more intense kindergarten instruction. We should call it child abuse. We must defy federal bullying and return kindergarten to its roots?a children?s garden. Kindergarten should be joyful. Every day. It should be a song. Every day.

So should first grade and third grade and seventh grade. And yes, even high school. Childhood should be returned to our children, not handed over to the get-'em- ready machine for the Global Economy, the machine that insists schools must sort kids into winners and losers and serve them up to the marketplace.

Remember, they only get one childhood.

Now, children in Atlanta have no recess. The superintendent of schools insists that they need to know that school is serious business and there?s no time to waste hanging from monkey bars.

Now, we surround children with fear. A Manatee County Florida kindergartner asked his mom, ?When am I going to have to take the FCAT?? An 8-year-old in Texas comes home sobbing. He?s worried that he and his classmates won?t do well on the state test and then his teacher will lose her job and her children will starve because she won?t have money to buy them food.

Now, homework mania dominates family life. In Virginia, a third grader brought home 45 pages of multiple choice drill sheets. Test prep material. If she gets a parent?s signature testifying that she has spent 45 minutes a night on those sheets for the eight days preceding the day of the state test, she gets to attend an ice cream and cake party. Homework pressure causes children around the country to drop ballet and soccer.

Now, according to a feature in the New York Times, the new rage is $85 an hour tutoring for pre-k children?so they?ll have ?an edge? of the other five-year-olds when they get to kindergarten.

Thus, we sacrifice our children to the demands of the state. When the state threatened to take over Birmingham, Alabama schools if they didn?t increase their Stanford-9 test scores, Birmingham officials took the easy way. They got rid of the low scorers. In Birmingham, 522 students were kicked out of school right before the administration of the state test. Some students were given termination papers on their 16th birthday. And when Steve Orel, an adult ed instructor, tried to blow the whistle on this atrocity, he was fired.

In Tennessee a first grade teacher received an official letter of reprimand?for comforting a sobbing child during the high-stakes state test. Teachers aren?t allowed to talk to children during test time in Tennessee.

In Indianapolis, students were required to continue state testing on September 11 and September 12, 2001. Officials reasoned that students should be able to compartmentalize their emotions; children were asked to shove aside the emotions engulfing everyone else in the country and concentrate on doing work required by the state.

High anxiety testing will only get worse. Our Congress gave George Bush what he wanted and passed the No Child Left Behind travesty. Among its many atrocities this act requires lots more testing. No one is yet admitting what the massive testing will cost in dollars, never mind the human costs. Dropout numbers are escalating at an alarming rate; kids are dropping out in droves as early as seventh grade.

Clearly, the wrong people are taking high-stakes tests. We need to turn the tables and start quizzing the corporate-politico bedfellows who make hay dumping on the schools and terrorizing children.

Let?s start by quizzing the members of Congress. We should include members of the Business Roundtable who?ve been yammering loudly for this testing. And let?s include the media pundits who love to sneer about teacher incompetence. Here are a few questions to get things started.

1.What is the correct order to show the complete life cycle of a horsefly?
A. Horsefly
B. Maggot
C. Pupa
D. Eggs
a) D, B, C, A
b) D, C, B, A
c) A, D, C, B
d) C, B, C, A

2. Which of these belong to the kingdom Monera?
a) Ferns
b) Mosses
c) Mushrooms
d) Bacteria

Informational Note: Questions 1 and 2 come from Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments, Spring 2001, 5th grade

3. Samuel Slater is credited with the development of the
a) first textile mill in the United States
b) technology for building the Erie Canal
c) first banking system in the United States
d) use of interchangeable machine parts

4. Which president refused to enforce the Supreme Court ruling in the 1830s that supported the Cherokee nation?s claim to remain on its land?
a) John Quincy Adams
b) Andrew Jackson
c) James Monroe
d) James Buchanan

Informational Note: Questions 3 and 4 come from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, Spring 2002, Grade 8.

5. Which of the following equations represents a line that is parallel to the line 4x ? 2y = 8 and passes through the point (0, -8)?
a) 2x + y = -4
b) 2x ? y = 8
c) x ? 2y = 8
d) x ? 2y = 16
6. Aircraft design engineers use the formula V = ? 841L CS
To determine the same landing speed of aircraft where V = safe landing speed in feet per second L = gross weight of the aircraft in pounds C = coefficient of life S = wing surface area in square feet. What is the approximate safe landing speed for an aircraft with a gross weight of 9000 pounds and a wing surface area of 225 square feet, when the coefficient of lift is 2.8?
a) 4 feet per second
b) 110 feet per second
c) 414 feet per second
d) 22,000 feet per second

Informational Note: Questions 5 and 6 come from the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, Mathematics, Grade 10. Starting in 2003, Massachusetts students must pass this test to get a high school diploma.

Next, the Standardistos can move on to essay questions.

7. Describe the effects of calcium deficiency on young women who attend schools who?ve signed exclusive contracts with soft drink companies.

Informational Note: Colorado Springs will receive $8.4 million over ten years from Coca-Cola. If the district exceeds its ?requirement? of selling seventy thousand cases of Coke products a year, it will rake in even more moolah.

8. Describe the relationship between junk food and juvenile diabetes in schools participating in Pizza Hut?s ?Book-It!? program. Include in your answer school districts that plaster their buses with advertisements for Burger King, Wendy?s, and Kellogg?s Pop-Tarts. Also consider a Hershey?s-sponsored curriculum, ?The Chocolate Dream Machine,? which includes across-the-curriculum lessons in math, science, geography, and nutrition.

9. Explain the relationship of free speech to a school?s commercial contracts.

Informational Note: Mike Cameron was suspended from Greenbrier High School in Evans, Georgia, for wearing a Pepsi shirt on ?Coke Day.? The school was competing in a national ?Team Up With Coca-Cola? contest, which awards $10,000 to a high school that comes up with the best plan for distributing Coke discount cards.

10. Explain the relationship between student scores on high stakes tests and the classroom time spent studying lessons in a unit called ?The Carbonated Beverage Company,? doing lessons about wildlife in Prince William Sound prepared by ExxonMobil, or taking an online tour of the Dole Fresh Vegetables Newest salad-making plant in Soledad, California.

11. Explain how the policy of requiring eight million students to watch Channel One affects a school?s commitment to high standards. Include in your answer a discussion of the qualifications of the Channel One curriculum committee for analyzing, synthesizing, and reporting world affairs. Also include their expertise in cognitive development and adolescent psychology. Consider the price tag for allowing other institutions to capture 24% of a 50-minute instructional period every day of the school year: National Rifle Association, Greenpeace, the Palestine Liberation Organization, Planned Parenthood, Daughters of the American Revolution, The Flat Earth Society, The Gay Alliance, vivisectionists, vegetarians, Rotarians, Rosicrucians, Scientologists, the local skinheads.

12. Document how much time you have spent with a 5-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 12-year-old, and a 16-year-old. Make sure the children sign your submission.

Let the CEO and Congressional scores on these questions be published in newspapers throughout the land. Then the nation will know: Who?s smarter: IBM or Wall-Mart? Ford or Chevvy? Coke or Pepsi? ABC or Fox? USA Today or National Enquirer? Republicans or Democrats?

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