Wednesday, September 13, 2006

3 Children - Way Ahead

We hadn't run into school testing... darn it, I was trying to break the upper case habit, but this is School Testing, proper noun, (note to self, taper off upper case? maybe rationing...) until we got to Virginia. I suppose Alaska schools must have done some testing, but they certainly didn't make enough of a production of it to hit my radar. Or maybe the kids were just too young at the time. Tests, however were a major issue in Virginia, a life changing, daily thought-of issue of gigantic proportion.

When we went to tour the school, one of the first things the principal did was mention the testing. She looked at us sourly, with our three mid-year transfers of unknown quantity. Testing, she said, was the school's top priority. I noticed she didn't mention how the school actually did on the tests. I also noticed that this elementary school - shabby, slightly down at the elbows - had no playground.

Child 1 came home and announced that it was 'selected' for special after school work. Selected meant that the teachers, whose salaries, promotions and even employment were all tied tightly to test results, would do anything to keep scores high. Our kids had not been groomed carefully through the Virginia curriculum (including local history) and so Child 1 was slung into extra tutoring. Luckily the tutor was about the only inspired teacher in the whole place, and Child 1 had a great time. The principle of the thing set my teeth on edge though. (edit: so did the principal. I have had to correct my spelling of her title all way through this post. I'm not sure what that means, but I have a feeling latent whatchamacallits and supressed whoojits have a lot to do with it. Principally.)

I was more than a little irritated that our children were judged before they had turned in a single assignment. These kids, and rest assured this is an unbiased opinion, were any school system's fantasy. They were bright, eager about learning, politely attentive and participatory in class, and never once had had a discipline issue. They were (remember, unbiased) practically perfect.* But the fear of the Tests hung over the school like a black cloud and without a Virginia Testing System result for each Child no one was taking any chances.

Turns out there was a reason for no playground. The school allowed the teachers to decide if they wanted to give recess time each day. Most teachers chose not to lose precious Test Preparation time. The kids said that twice a day (if they were lucky) the class was taken outside and told to run laps. I think the theory was they would sweat themselvse into exhaustion and stagger back in, quiescent and passive to have more Standard Learning poured into their flaccid little brains. (note to self, strong feelings about school appear to make upper case rationing unreasonable. Postpone project for later post. Also check tendency towards alliteration, and think hard about parenthetical asides which appear to be getting out of hand)

We had a run-in over the discipline policy as well. One of the kids came home quite upset because for four days in a row they had all had to keep their heads on the lunch room tables because of a minor infraction by one child. Once I got over the icky-shudder thought of my little darling's pristine cheeks pressed against a lunch-room table, I joined Kirk in getting worked up over this practice of punishing the innocent many over the sins of the guilty few. He wrote a fantastic letter to the principal about it. It went something like: Sacred American rights... rant rant... historical precedent.... rave rave... probably cutting remark about questionable psychology... rage rage... threat threat threat THREAT, yours cordialy, etc. It worked too, although I'm not entirely sure it endeared us to the administration.

There were a few other moments as well, and by the time we were getting ready to move (again mid-year, we always seem to do that), we were all five more than ready to shake off the proverbial dust. We thought the feeling would be mutual, and weren't shocked that the principal was hostile when we walked in the door. To our suprise though, it was anger over our leaving.

Turns out our questionable children were being counted on to raise the test scores for their respective classes. Gosh, just broke our hearts to do it, but...

*Note to practically perfect children - the past tense is not intended to reflect on your current perfection, only to work nicely with the story. Thanks to your amazing genetic heritage, and fantastic parenting (ahem) you have only improved on what should have been unimprovable. You are, my darlings, utterly marvelous. Now go clean your rooms, and if I find one more homework assignment has not been turned in there will be Blood For Breakfast!


SU said...

There was blood for dinner accompanied by much wailing and nashing of teeth. 2/3 semi-grounded until grades improve. If no improvement, further privileges will be removed. Hmm... by semesters end will there be freedom and much rejoicing, or only homework, chores, food and shelter?

For Kirk said...

And that is why you are superior!


ha HA!!! i have become ungrounded. my superiority says that i have raised my grade!!! other child who was NOT grounded has become grounded. i am ungrounded. tee hee. i am now free FREE I tell you, FREEE!!!

Child 1 said...

a word to to the wise about those school lunches and the tables. the kids, in a fit of recess deppression, would conduct evil experiments with the affore mentioned variables. THE HOT DOGS BOUNCED! oh wait. they still do. guess whats for dinner!