Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Getting Stupical In NY

It seems that some state legislatures are competing to pass the worst education laws. Whether it's Kansas deciding to strengthen education by destroying teaching as a career or Florida beating up on disabled children and grieving mothers, there seems to be a race going on, and if it is to the top of something, that's a mountain I don't ever want to see.

New York has most recently made its bid for the front of the pack with its anti-test-prep law. Like the rest of these laws, it's a legislative action that requires me to invent a whole new word.

You have to be really cynical to be that stupid, and you have to be really stupid to be that cynical, so our new word is-- stupical. (I considered cynipud, but that just sounded like a walking breakfast pastry).

New York has an advantage in the stupical contest because they have Andy Cuomo, whose Thinky Leaders Retreat for High Rollers is pretty stupical all by itself. But New York's new stupical move was to put an actual limit on the amount of time that schools may spend on test prep (2%). This is monumentally stupical for two reasons.

Reason #1. 

Here in PA, we have rules that limit the number of weeks during which high school sports teams may hold practice. So, prior to those weeks, coaches hold "open gyms." An open gym is a totally optional gathering at which the athletes practice the skills involved in their sport. But it's totally optional. You don't have to attend if you don't want to, and you will be completely free to ride the bench and be cut from the team, but that's just a coincidence.

When the stakes are high, people lie. I'm pretty sure we've already documented plenty of instances of schools feeling pressure to cheat their way to acceptable results on their high stakes tests. Cheating was pretty severe and indefensible (though some people received fines and some people got to walk off into $50K speaking gigs). This won't even require actual cheating-- just creative renaming.

Reason #2

And it won't even require that, because these stupical people don't know what test prep really is. They keep saying that it's memorization and drill. It's not.

Test prep is squeezing out real short stories and novels and articles out of the course in order to make room for more "selections"-- one page or less.

Test prep is passing over the 147 different forms of legitimate assessment so that we can do one more assessment in multiple choice form.

Test prep is practicing how to spot the trick answers in those multiple choice questions.

Test prep is teaching students how to stifle their authentic voice and actual thoughts and feelings so that they can write a response that fits the formula and satisfies some faceless test-writer's template.

Test prep is tossing out teacher-made materials to make room for the materials from whichever company sold the district its "CCSS-ready" materials.

Test prep is teaching six-year-olds to do seatwork, sitting in place, for 30, 40, 50 minutes at a time so that by the time they're eight, they can handle the gritty rigors of a full-length test.

Test prep is ignoring the interests, strengths and weakness of the students, and driving right past that Teachable Moment because all of them involve material that is Not On The Test.

And in some parts of New York, test prep includes following your module script from the website instead of using any of your professional judgment and skills.

But of course the NY test prep limit law doesn't recognize any of that as test prep, because the legislators are stupical, monumentally stupical, stunningly stupical. It deserves a stupical statue, but I haven't designed one yet. Make your submissions in the comments section. I promise to steal your idea and lie about it, because stupical is as stupical does.


  1. A trophy cup inscribed with the words, "Winner of Race to the Top of Stupical"

  2. Thank you for this. Sharing is my privilege.

  3. Asinine is just asinine---I prefer not to sugar-coat it. I do love your blogs though. We need more satire to address the extraordinary amount of stupical coming from the deformists. Keep up the good work!