As we wade further and further into the testing season, we get to see more and more ham-handed attempts by testocrats to convince parents that the Big Standardized Test is really their friend. For instance, High Achievement New York, an alliance of businessmen and reformsters, produced a flurry of PR spots promoting the test (they might have done their homework-- "Say Yes to the Test" was a slogan previously used to promote tests for chlamydia or HIV).
The campaign was pretty typical in its use of recycled talking points and PR spin (the tests are new! and improved!) as well as some flat out lies (2/3 of high school grads aren't ready for college or career-- and the test will somehow fix that. A double lie). It also appears to have failed miserably.
If testocrats really want to promote the BS Tests, here's the press release they need.
A coalition of state and local officials gathered today at the district offices of Upper Baldweasel Schools to celebrate the district's spectacular turnaround.
"It's exciting," said Superintendent Pat Whipsnagle. "And it all started with the test."
Three years ago, when Whipsnagle first saw the results of the federally mandated, state chosen SHNARCC tests, the picture was much more grim.
"We had terrible results. A huge section of our students simply weren't getting it. The scores were terrible, and they put us on notice."
Upper Baldweasel is located in the poorest section Big Urban Metropolis, and the student body is largely minority students. "We knew that there was, you know, poverty out there," said Principal Pat Pzzaltstitz, "But we thought we were doing a great job. We had no idea that so many of our students were actually lagging so far behind. But once we saw the SHNARCC scores, we knew we had a problem."
That was when the state and local alliance sprang into action.
"I got the call from Pat, " said Pennsylsippi State Senator Pat Del Wafflestein, "and I was just rocked back on my heels. I remember turning to a couple of my fellow senators and telling them that we had really failed in our responsibility to support these local districts. And I decided at that moment that we would make sure that UB schools got whatever resources they needed."
Asked if they had considered a new school as an option, Wafflestein continued. "Sure, we could have built a new school and filled it with just the kids who do well on the SCHNARCC. But that would have meant abandoning the rest of them, the ones who showed the most need in those test results. Why start from scratch for just a few students when we can invest in what we already have and serve all students?"
Governor Pat Jones chimed into the conversation. "That was when my office got involved. If the tests are showing pockets of poverty in the state that keep our students stuck behind their wealthier peers, then clearly we need to address the issues of poverty in the state while at the same time addressing the specific resource needs of districts like Upper Baldweasel, as well as long hard conversations about system inequities and, frankly, some of the racist impulses behind those inequities. That meant legislative initiatives, and it also meant turning to our friends in the private sector."
Pat Wallpockets of the Grand Allienace of Totally Economically Secure Businessmen waved off the Governor's praise. "At GATESBiz, we just wanted to help. But we have no expertise in education, so we simply made the resources available to experts like classroom teachers and then got out of the way. These are the trained professionals, the people who devote their whole lives to these kids. If they don't know what's needed, nobody does."
"The test results were so useful to us," said teacher Pat Chalkwhacker. "Those exact and specific results-- I could look right down the row and see the exact questions that each student was missing and what wrong answers they were giving so that I could target test pre-- er, instruction for each student."
State and local leaders, supported by business and philanthropic groups, worked together and within two years had transformed the district into one where the achievement gap was nearly erased and all students achieved higher test scores. District reports indicate that more students are achieving college and career success, including driving nicer cars and marrying more attractive spouses.
"It was all the test," repeats Whipsnagle. "Teachers, administrators, parents, the students themselves- nobody had the slightest clue of how students were really doing until we saw those test results."
"And once we saw them," continued Jones, "we knew what we had to do. We knew that all of us, from government on down to local school boards, had not met our responsibility to provide these public schools with the support we needed, but with test results to hold us accountable, we knew to step up and provide these schools with the support and resources they needed."
If reformsters could release that story, they could build some real support for the BS Tests. And they assert and hint constantly that this is the story, even as it is somehow a story they can never tell. After years of test-driven accountability, you would think that they would be able to point to at least one single example of the success of their policies, and yet they never do, for the same reason they never show photographs of magical elves writing the test while riding on the backs of rainbow unicorns.
If someone keeps telling you, "Stand right here and you are going to see the most amazing unicorns jump up and turn water into flowers," and you keep standing there, and you never, ever see a unicorn, you have to wonder if A) they are just slinging baloney at you and B) if they are up to something behind your back while they keep your attention focused Over There.
Until we get the news from Upper Baldweasel, there's no reason to believe that the BS Tests are not a huge waste of our time. We can and should believe that opting out remains the most sensible response to further senseless acts of testing.