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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Lost Years

After years of hearing how kindergarten has been turned into the new first grade, you'd think at the other end of the K-12 pipeline we would find highly advanced students. And yet-- not so much.



I am not going to report a ton of research on this, because the available research is bogus and part of the actual test-centric problem. What I can tell you is what I, as an actual real live classroom teacher who knows actual real live classroom teachers, see and hear.

This is the result of accelerated early instruction done primarily in the service of test-centric schooling ("We have to get them started early-- otherwise how will they be ready for the Big Standardized Test??")

It is lost years.

By the time these same start-em-early push-em-hard students arrive at high school classrooms, they are behind compared to the students that we saw twenty-five or fifteen or even ten years ago. They know fewer things, have fewer skills, and express lower academic aspirations.

Why? I can offer a couple of theories.

They have learned to hate reading.

They have learned that reading is this thing you do with short, disconnected, context-free selections, and when you read, you are not looking for something that sparks interest or enjoyment or curiosity or wonder or the pleasure of feeling your brain expanded and grown. You read so that, in a moment, you'll be able to answer the questions that someone else wrote-- and by "answer" we mean from the potions given the one answer that someone else has decided is "correct." There will be no expression of your own personal insights, and never the possibility that there's more than one way to understand the text. It is a stilted, cramped way to approach reading, and it means that students grow up with a stilted, cramped notion of what reading even is, or why human beings actually do it.

With some luck, some students will still discover the joy and, yes, utility of reading-- but they will discover outside of school, and they will not expect that the kind of reading that they love has anything to do with the test-centered "reading": they are required to do in school. That higher level course has additional "reading"? Then I surely don't want to sign up for that. And since the real task here, the real point of the whole exercise is not the reading, but the answering of questions about the reading-- well, I bet I can find a time-saving way to cut that corner. Because after enough years of this, many students conclude that "reading" is something to actively avoid.

There's no pleasure there, no discovery, no ideas to mull and discuss, no characters who help us pick apart the thorny questions of how to be human in the world. Just clues for answering the BS Test questions.

Their years are shorter.

The school year is now shorter. It is shorter by the number of days involved in the BS Test. It is shorter by the number of days spent on pre-testing and practice testing. It is shorter by the number of days spent on instruction that is only being implemented because it will help get them ready for the test.

By the time we've subtracted all those days, the school year is a few weeks, a month, maybe even more than a month shorter. It was only 180 days to begin with. The test-centric school has amped up a feature of education that has always frustrated teachers-- the 180 day year is a zero sum game, a bathtub full to the absolute rim with water. You cannot add something without removing something else. A really feisty or frustrated teacher might turn to an administrator who just said "Add this to your class" and say, "Fine-- what exactly do you want me to stop teaching?" But mostly we're expected to just make do, to perform some sort of miracle by which we stuff ten more rabbits into the hat.

It doesn't work. Every year students get less actual instruction than they used to, which means their teacher next year finds them a little bit behind, so the school year that used to start on Day One now starts on Day Thirty after the students are caught up-- and then it ends on Day 160 because, you know, testing. So the following year those students are that much more behind. And so on, and so on, and so on.

In the end, kindergarten may be the new first grade, but for many students, twelfth grade is the new eleventh grade.

There are certainly students who escape this effect, and there are certainly clever teachers who mitigate it. But mostly the injection of toxic testing into the bloodstream of US education has had the predictable effect-- it has weakened and damaged the entire body.

Mind you, that wasn't what we were promised. The injection of test-based accountability was going to transform the Steve Rogers of US schooling into a mighty Captain America of education. Those tests, linked to The Standards That Dare Not Speak Their Name (but which have never quite gone away, either), were going to lead to a surge in new and successful college students. Test scores would rocket upward, and we would get to be the Belle of the Ball at the next PISA Prom. We were going to have success out the wazoo.

And yet, none of that is happened. Mind you, I don't think the BS Test scores mean jack, and they have never been and will never be my measure of success. But reformsters chose the game, set the rules, picked the measurement they wanted (BS Test scores) and they STILL lost the game. We have wasted over fifteen years of education; some students have seen their entire schooling consumed by test-centric baloney.

Yet we keep plowing on, keep committing to Testing Uber Alles. We are losing students, losing education opportunities, losing the chance to awaken some young humans to what they could be and could become-- instead, we are still trying to mash their spirits flat under the heavy testing hand. We are losing years that we cannot get back, cannot give back, and this is not okay.

14 comments:

  1. I think you nailed it. Kids aren't just hating READING, though: they're hating ALL the disconnected discrete bits of learning that don't connect naturally (although sometimes they do connect in contrived ways, to some kids). All those surveys about student engagement put that "eff-it" mark around middle school, some earlier, some later, but kids begin dis-engaging around middle school and we don't get them back. That's not how adolescent minds work.

    My youngest was a book-o-phobe until 4th grade, when we successfully refused PARCC on her behalf and she was required to sit silently in the classroom with her class - but she WAS allowed to read. That week of 90-120 minutes daily of sustained reading got her hooked on an entire series of books and now she's a proper bookworm, but ironically it was standardized testing (and the not-taking of it) that lit that bulb.

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  2. You should also add that there are more mental health issues, more depression, more anger/aggression issues, more suicide in High Schools and college students. The reformsters chose the game, set the rules and still lost, but it's the children that lose the most. Karma is a butt kicker......and this generation of students will be the ones setting the rules as these reformsters age out and retire. I try to be nice to my kids since they will be the ones changing my adult diapers or picking out my nursing home.

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  3. Morning, Peter.

    On this topic, I'm going to post some stuff (w/video links) about Eva's deranged pedagogy regarding this concept.

    First up: the reports in the New York Times and elsewhere where former Success Academy teachers speak out about the rampant "crying" arising from S.A.'s "treading kids as adults" (read: child abuse) approach.

    Let’s take the “kids crying” issue. Eva doesn’t believe that the kids’ constant incidents of crying at her schools — reported by N.Y. Times reporter Kate Taylor and 20 former teachers quoted by Taylor —- is an unfortunate consequence of which she disapproves, but an actual “goal” of her pedagogy. On multiple occasions, she has said that it’s good when kids cry, because that means they care … or are being influenced to care about their education through their extreme and demanding pedagogy.

    In support of this, Eva keeps bringing up the comparison to Olympic athletes who cry when they perform badly, and lose out on a medal.

    No one ever objects to Olympic athletes crying, so what’s the big deal when Success Academy students are bawling away?

    Well, the big deal is that, unlike adult athletes, her students are children. Therefore, deliberately inducing states of despair to the point that these states are regularly accompanied by crying is child abuse.

    She defended this crying stuff at TFA’s 25th anniversary, where they had a module celebrating Success Academy. Here’s Eva’s inability to distinguish between adults performing in the Olympics, and vulnerable children (as young as 4 --- i.e. kinders with late birthdays) learning at her schools.

    The NYTimes reporter to whom she refers is Kate Taylor, by the way.

    ( 1:30:17 – 1:30:45 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-DOGIfuu-M
    ( 1:30:17 – 1:30:45 )
    EVA MOSKOWITZ: “It’s frustrating to us that when a New York Times reporter seeds a kid crying because the kid didn’t do well, her assumption is that that’s sort of ‘torture.’ Right? Whereas Olympic athletes, when they don’t do well, they cry … often. And that’s considered… ’cause they care! They care about their performance in the sport. Our kids care about their level of growth. They care about getting as close to the excellence as they can.”

    There’s a whole mess of wrong going on at this module:

    One of Eva’s principals even says that with Success Academy Students (as young as 4… i.e. Kinders with late birthdays), the teachers should place the same demands on them that a college professor places on university students.

    ( 1:30:17 – 1:30:45 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-DOGIfuu-M
    ( 1:34:44 – 1:34:44 )
    S.A. PRINCIPAL: “Eva likes to talk about how they’re SMALLER PEOPLE, not just small children,so you have to respect their intellect, and everything that you study and plan needs to be done as if you were in a college classroom.”

    It’s hard to respond to something like that, a comment that is so patently absurd and just plain wrong, particularly in the early K-1-2 grades.

    Campbell Brown, who is on Success Academy's board of directors, strangely opts not to send her own two sons to a Success Academy school, but instead they go to Heschel, a rich kids' private school WHERE THE KIDS ARE NOT TREATED LIKE "smaller adults."

    MORE ON NEXT POST:

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  4. MORE on Eva's "treat kids like adults" baloney.

    The following is from a video that was deleted after it was spotlighted in a Diane Ravitch blog piece. (Hmmm... if you're so proud of this, why are you hiding it?)

    And it's a doozy:

    https://dianeravitch.net/2015/10/31/jack-covey-reviews-evas-ed-talk/comment-page-1/

    ———–
    I just watched a one-woman Eva Moskowitz’ horror show… starring Eva herself. It’s her six-minute “Ed Talk” (get it? rhymes with “Ted Talk”) at the 2014 Corporate Reform jamboree called “Camp Philos”:

    (VIDEO SCRUBBED FROM YouTube)

    She glowingly tells the story of Sidney — an eighth grade Success Academy student — while projecting her picture on a screen. (Did she get permission?)

    During Common Core testing, Sidney was in a life-threatening battle with sickle-cell anemia. Even at the most severe moment of crisis in her health, Sidney insisted on taking the entirety of that year’s Common Core testing. The adults around argued otherwise, because she had just had her infected spleen taken out that very day, “had lost a lot of weight,” and “was extremely cold and weak.” In the light of this, the principal informed Sidney that she was entitled to claim a “medical excuse” and delay taking the test.

    However, Sidney wouldn’t hear of it, and took the test.

    “I want to get a 4,” Sidney replied, with Eva recounting these words with emotion.

    Eva’s point?

    ( 02:10 – 03:03 )
    (VIDEO SCRUBBED FROM YouTube)
    ( 02:10 – 03:03 )

    “EVA MOSKOWITZ: “Children are incredibly resilient, and I would urge you to think about NOT treating children AS children… I think that we have underestimated in this country the pleasure that comes from achieving mastery, and from performance. In my experience, kids actually want to perform. The want to master. Sidney was a perfect example, even though she was in a life-threatening situation.”

    Indeed, the infamous "rip-and-re-do" video of Success Academy teacher Charlotte Dial abusing a child ...

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3446147/Shocking-moment-New-York-teacher-secretly-recorded-ripping-homework-berating-grader-getting-math-problem-wrong.html

    ... is not the “anomaly’ that Eva keeps claiming that it is. It’s a deliberate outgrowth of thinking that is represented in the quotes above.

    Indeed, Eva put Charlotte Dial — who has no teaching credential in New York State or any other state, by the way — in charge of training other Success Academy teachers. Making Dial the top trainer of teachers is not just giving Success Academy teachers the “Green Light” permission or required directive to do likewise. It’s saying that treating kids the way Charlotte Dial did is actually mandatory.

    MORE TO COME:

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  5. Watch the video BELOW as Eva lets down her guard a bit, and reveals her hostility towards any type of regulation or oversight, as that is “strangling” her schools — in this case, she smears what she pejoratively describes as the “Special Ed. Compliance Machine,” and the adults who are part of this. She claims that unlike her, those adults don’t really care about the “special ed” children about whom they are supposed to care.

    This 25th Anniversary TFA event happened just prior to the Charlotte Dial abuse video, but after the Got-to-Go List controversy.

    Eva’s clearly angry about the reports about her schools failing to meet the needs of “Special Ed.” kids, and instead, kicking them out.

    In responding to those charges, Eva claims victim status, and insinuates that those critics don’t really care about Special Needs kids, whereas she, of course, does. To that, she claims that there exists a “Special Ed. Compliance Machine” is “strangling” Success Academy schools.

    She wants current policies protecting and looking out for special needs children changed to her liking.

    God forbid that should happen. (CAPITALS are mine.)

    ( 11:02 – 11:50 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-DOGIfuu-M
    ( 11:02 – 11:50 )

    EVA MOSKOWITZ: “We think that we’re not really going to make the dream of TFA come true until we change the public policies in this country. And I believe that educators don’t have enough of a voice at the table on those public policies.

    “You know, because you’ve been in the classroom, or because you’ve led a school … you know that it’s not just a question of resources. Resources, of course, are helpful. You know it’s about teacher training. It’s about ‘leader training.’

    “It’s about not being STRANGLED BY REGULATIONS THAT are really not driven, or ARE NOT REALLY ABOUT CHILDREN. If you take the…
    — (sarcastic tone & facial expression, waving her arms)
    “the ‘SPECIAL ED. COMPLIANCE MACHINE,’ it’s NOT REALLY ABOUT SERVING THAT SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD, so there’s a lot
    of work to do on the educational front… ”
    ——————-

    She just throws that cheap shot out there, but doesn’t elaborate or explain what the-hell she means. She then plays a slick propaganda video for Success Academy.

    What exactly is she referring to, anyway?

    Eva absolutely despises he fact that school officials are legally required to identify which children have Special Ed. disabilities, and then must provide them with extra, targeted, and yes expensive support – including smaller class sizes, extra classroom aide, an I.E.P. with a team that meets regularly to monitor whether or not the I.E.P. is being implemented.

    MORE TO COME:

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  6. I have something to add. Language is inextricably tied to social cognition. Language is actually learned along with gestures of the face, eyes, mouth and body. These things are represented together at the single neuron level of the brain. Narrative comprehension and working memory are probably in large part based on the experience of interacting with others. So when children play with each other they are using this system and training this system and developing it.

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  7. I know that since the Charlotte Dial "rip-and-re-do" abuse video, Eva has changed her tune about Success Academy serving all children. Her latest is that for Special Ed. kids, Success Academy is not the place to go, that S.A. cannot be all things to all children.

    Well, then don’t call your schools “public schools.”

    Politicos' Eliza Shapiro (link not handy) reported that there was a secret Success Academy memo leaked to the press. In that memo, Eva instructs staff on how to fight back against the dreaded "Special Ed. Compliance Machine. To bolster legal action against these evil bureaucrats, Eva orders her staff to amass documentation of whatever minor failing on the part of any outside, oversight personnel who visit the school … “and then escalate” a response … is truly pathetic.

    If a member of the DOE’s Committee on Special Education “shows up late, does not act professionally, does not listen, you must document it … and escalate,” the memo reads.

    Hey, why stop there? What about if that person has a tie that is crooked? Or body odor?

    Since these interactions are likely not videotaped (maybe they should be), Eva and her ilk can lie, lie, lie all the ding-dong day in court about DOE “Special Ed” compliance officers “not listening” or failing to do their jobs in some manner.

    Why doesn’t Eva and Co. use that same energy spent strategizing and acting in ways to kneecap outside inspectors, actually tending to the needs of her students .. again, instead of spending it trying to attack those who are there on campus trying to ascertain if Eva & Co. are fulfilling their legal responsibilities to those students?

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  8. Last post:

    One more thing, If I was DOE personnel tasked with visiting Success Academy schools to monitor their treatment of Special Ed. students, and I watched that video ...

    ( 11:02 – 11:50 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-DOGIfuu-M
    ( 11:02 – 11:50 )

    EVA MOSKOWITZ:

    “It’s about not being STRANGLED BY REGULATIONS THAT are really not driven, or ARE NOT REALLY ABOUT CHILDREN. If you take the…
    — (sarcastic tone & facial expression, waving her arms)
    “the ‘SPECIAL ED. COMPLIANCE MACHINE,’ it’s NOT REALLY ABOUT SERVING THAT SPECIAL NEEDS CHILD, so there’s a lot
    of work to do on the educational front… ”


    ... you know, where Eva called me and other DOE Special Ed. Compliance offers a bunch of frauds who don’t “really” care about “special ed” students, and that we were not truly or effectively carrying out the work that we had chosen to do in life … I’d be angry, really angry.

    As in…

    “Excuse me, but who do you think that YOU are in making such a charge? Aren’t YOU in charge of the charter chain where a video was just made public, a video showing one of your so-called ‘model’ teachers is shown viciously abusing a child?

    “Then, in the press conference that followed, you gave an insincere, half-ass apology, then turned that same press conference into a bizarre, paranoid rant — accompanied by pep-rally-style cheering — about being innocent victims of outside persecutors trying to "strangle" your schools?

    “Are YOU REALLY someone who should sit in judgment of MY commitment to the well-being of children? After all, at $600,000/year, you make ten times what I make, and almost double what the NYC Chancellor makes.”

    Here’s that press conference, or as I like to call it …

    “32 Minutes in Jonestown”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33utMIALM8U

    From the ridiculous pep rally-style cheering that accompanies Eva’s entrance ... through the entire orchestrated event, a cult expert would have a field day with this, picking out all the red flags.

    When you consider the horrifying abuse video to which Eva & her ilk are responding here — and Eva's defiance to and dismissal of the resulting criticism — this is truly scary stuff.

    AND THEY’RE CURRENTLY DEMANDING AND LOBBYING TO BE GIVEN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO OPEN SUCCESS ACADEMY PRE-K CLASSES ???!!!!

    Pre-K…. We’re talking 3-4 year-olds left to the mercy of the Charlotte Dial’s at Success Academy!!!

    Unlike the other charter operators who are signing on to cooperation agreements, EVA IS REFUSING TO SIGN ANY CONTRACT THAT GIVES THE CITY Dept, of Ed. ANY OVERSIGHT OF HER PRE-K SCHOOLS, or that demands her schools are in any way even slightly transparent to the people whose taxes will fund these SUCCESS ACADEMY Pre-K classes.

    Yeah, I’d want my kid to attend Success Academy Pre-K … NOT!!!

    This was bad timing, to be sure.

    Here’s the video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33utMIALM8U

    For a comparison of the mindless cheering, here’s the doomed Congressman Leo Ryan getting that same cheering from the Jim Jones’ cult followers in Jonestown:

    ( 00:39 – )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aubYoN2Bvt8
    ( 00:39 – )
    LEO RYAN: “There are people where who think that this is the best thing that ever happened in their whole lives.”

    THUNDEROUS CHEERING

    ———————————–

    What some people don’t remember about Jonestown was that Harvey Milk was a huge (and sadly misguided) backer of Jonestown and Jim Jones. Just before his own demise, Milk even attacked the San Francisco media’s detailed exposes of what was going on on Jim Jones’ People’s Temple as … you guessed it … a witch hunt against people who were just trying to do good for the world.

    People today have also been played for chumps in a similar fashion by Eva and her PR leviathan.

    It’s time for them all to wake up.

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  9. My greatest fear, and I tell this to my HS students, is that this testing regime is all you have ever known and, when you have your own children, you will believe that this is the only way it should be.

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  10. First of all, thanks for posting my stuff.

    Secondly, I missed a good quote from a Success Academy official (other than Eva) touting the "kids are just smaller adults" line.

    Let’s take the “kids crying” issue. Eva Moskowitz doesn’t believe that the incessant reporting of incidents of kids' crying at her schools — reported by N.Y. Times reporter Kate Taylor and 20 former teachers quoted by Taylor —- is an unfortunate consequence of which she disapproves, but an actual “goal” of her pedagogy.

    On multiple occasions, Eva Moskowitz has said that it’s good when kids at Success Academy cry, because that means those kids care about school, and --- as a consequence of their prolonged crying jabs --- Success Academy students are being influenced to care about their education. All of this is thanks to Eva's extreme and demanding pedagogy and rigid militaristic routines.

    In support of this, Eva keeps bringing up the comparison to Olympic athletes who cry when they perform badly, and lose out on a Gold/Silver/Bronze medal.

    No one ever objects to Olympic athletes crying, so what’s the big deal when Success Academy students do?

    Well, the big deal is that, unlike adult athletes, her students are children. Therefore, deliberately inducing children to descend to extreme states of despair, extreme to the point that these states are regularly accompanied by crying ... well, if that ain't child abuse, then what the-hell is?

    She just said as much at TFA’s 25th anniversary, where they had a module celebrating Success Academy. Here you can witness Eva’s inability to distinguish between adults performing in the Olympics, and the children learning at her schools.

    The N.Y. Times reporter to whom she refers is Kate Taylor, by the way.

    ( 1:30:17 – 1:30:45 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-DOGIfuu-M
    ( 1:30:17 – 1:30:45 )

    EVA MOSKOWITZ: “It’s frustrating to us that when a New York Times reporter seeds a kid crying because the kid didn’t do well, her assumption is that that’s sort of ‘torture.’ Right?

    "Whereas Olympic athletes, when they don’t do well, they cry … often. And that’s considered… ’cause they care! They care about their performance in the sport.

    "Our kids care about their level of growth. They care about getting as close to the excellence as they can.”

    Boy, that Kate Taylor at the Times just doesn't get it. Thank God we have Eva to set us all straight.

    There’s a whole mess of wrong going on at this module:

    One of Eva’s principals even says that with Success Academy Students (as young as 4… i.e. Kinders with late birthdays), the teachers should place the same demands on them that a college professor places on university students.

    ( 1:30:17 – 1:30:45 )
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-DOGIfuu-M
    ( 1:34:44 – 1:34:44 )

    S.A. PRINCIPAL: “Eva likes to talk about how they’re SMALLER PEOPLE, not just small children, so you have to respect their intellect, and everything that you study and plan needs to be done as if you were in a college classroom.”

    ...


    Wow. Kindergarten classes should be run like "college classrooms?" Sweet Jesus!

    It’s hard to respond to something like that, a comment that is so patently absurd and just plain wrong, particularly in the early K-1-2 grades.

    And now, with Pre-K, Eva will be starting with kids as young as 3 (again, Pre-K-ers with late birthdays), who, thanks to Eva, will now be treated the way university students are.

    Gotta start 'em early!

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  11. I have taught ESL for 20 years. In that time, I have taught grades K-12. In addition to reading and writing, ESL is also about teaching listening and speaking skills (which is also included in the Common Core). Because K is not mandatory in PA, ESL services were given when time and staff were available. Back then, I used to teach the K students socialization skills, read aloud stories, have students reenact fairy tales, etc. When I would pick up the K students, they were usually in centers doing a lot of ... well, talking! Socializing! Now when I pick up the K students, they're sitting, writing, or doing math. Not much talking, let alone socializing. It's sad to see the fun being sucked out of school. No more trips, no more arts and crafts, no more centers, no more reading for the he££ of it.

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  12. Apparently, I'm a really feisty and frustrated teacher! (My colleagues will be so shocked to hear!) Then I close my door and teach...the BS test scores come out the same anyway. �� As predicted.

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  13. Which outcome is worse, mashed spirits or lost years? Children are required to participate willingly in an environment that mashes their spirits?

    They are supposed to just suck it up and make the most of it?

    Is this the often lauded chance to develop grit so they can compete as adults?

    Sounds like a sick dystopian novel plot that no one wants to read.

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  14. "The school year is now shorter. It is shorter by the number of days involved in the BS Test. It is shorter by the number of days spent on pre-testing and practice testing. It is shorter by the number of days spent on instruction that is only being implemented because it will help get them ready for the test."

    This is my biggest complaint about the testing. I also think that you underestimated this shortening effect. When my children were in elementary school ion NC, the test prep would begin about 4 weeks before the exams. Then the exams would take an entire week. There was no instruction during that week. There were multiple exams and each one took the entire day. The other children had to be "quiet" during the exams. After that week, there were about two weeks of tutoring for the children who did not pass. The children who passed watch movies or colored. Seriously, my son was in 3rd grade and he needed crayons for the week after the test. WTF?

    When I added it up is was at least 7 weeks spent on testing. Throw in all the other tests here and there during the year, and we have a whole quarter of the school year spent on testing. That is a lot of time that could have been spent on instruction, reading, practicing math, drawing, painting, producing a play, or doing other creative activities. I went to elementary school in the 1970's. We put on plays in 3rd, 5th, and 6th grades. It was fun and educational. My children did not get to do that even once. That still pisses me off.

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