Tis the season, again. The season for standardized testing. Ugh, ugh, and double ugh. Chestnut is in the crosshairs, because she's in 7th grade, and naturally, what you're doing academically in 7th grade should determine the course of the rest of your life. That's just obvious, isn't it?
Because here, in NYC—well, here's how I put it to Chestnut's friend who visited over February break.
Chestnut: THE TESTS are coming up.
Chestnut's Friend: Ugh!
Me: Double ugh!
CF: Well, at least they're just to judge the teachers* so we don't have to worry about them too much.
Me: Um, yeah, except, er, um...
C and CF: look at me questioningly
Me: Well, actually, in New York City they are part of what determines which high school you get into...
CF: blank look
C: look of grim despair
Me: ...so they sort of do count. Chestnut's friend still looks confused. Oh, yeah, you have to actually apply to get into high school in New York City.
And so, it is time for me to remember (and remind you) that there are voices in the wilderness.
Voice 1: Kate Messner. I saw her speak on failure at SCBWI conference, and she was really pretty amazing, and part of what she talked about was how paralyzing the fear of failure is, and how it's being pushed earlier and earler in our culture, and standardized tests are a big part of that, with their insistence on one right answer, right away. Failure lurks in all the others, it's the way it works.
Major caveat: I have not read this. But! I read the first page, and it's the I.P.T.U. test (say it aloud with me now) and that's enough for me.
Voice 3: These ladies. Go read it. The whole idea of saying to a kindergartener "I can't help you with that" really hit me hard.
OK, so there you go. That's my semi-annual testing rant. Here's hoping you and yours are engaged in something completely other right now.
*Incidentally: WTF? I mean, I know this is how parents and schools try to lessen student anxiety, but can we talk sometime about what it means for a kid to have his/her teacher's credibility/autonomy/judgment undermined like that?