Test Fright, Why We Should
All Be Scared of the CSAP
After reading the directions, I calmly sat down, ready to
enjoy the silence that overwhelmed our usually bustling classroom. That’s
when I realized my stomach was doubled up in knots. I never suffer intestinal
distress. What’s going on? Was it something I ate? I asked another
teacher to cover for me while I ducked out. Walking down the hall, I couldn’t
help but notice the severe and profound silence. The only thing more distinct
than the silence was the tension. It was so thick you could eat it with
a fork. It was this tension that was eating my gut.
State tests are nothing new. We’ve all been forced
to take them. For the most part, they were boring, had nothing to do with
our usual curriculum and, seemed generally irrelevant, which they were.
But something changed two years ago that made these tests a lot more relevant.
And gave us all reason to share in the panic of our students.
Thanks to the Bush endorsed education plan known ironically
as “No Child Left Behind” the results of these bizarre and
inaccurate tests are now being used to determine school funding. Or rather,
these tests are being used as an excuse to pull Federal funds. This is
not confused thinking on the part of politicians; this is sinister.
Standardized test results are only one measure of the achievements
of our students and they are a poor measure at that. Standardized test
results are tallied based on the number of students enrolled in a school
– not the number present or testable. There are no adjustments to
account for students who do not appear for testing days due to sickness,
truancy, or outright protest. Scores also fail to account adequately for
students with special needs, including the severely disabled students
I’ve worked with – some of whom are non-verbal and physically
unable to hold any kind of pencil whatsoever, No. 2 or otherwise. Most
importantly, these tests do not measure the full scope of skills essential
to a comprehensive education. Under this system, students resemble lab
rats instead of creative, diverse thinkers.
The day before testing began, I was assisting in a Freshman
Government class whose teacher was explaining how test results determine
“It’s important to do your best next week,” she said. “Schools whose students’ fail to meet requirements loose Federal funds.”
There was a confused pause. Then one girl threw her hand
up, uttering a perplexed, “wait!”
“So, schools that aren’t doing well get less
money? Wouldn’t it make sense to give them more money for books,
and computers, and better pay for teachers?”
Wow, I thought. These kids are smart
Another student raised his hand. “Yeah, why would
they take money away from schools?”
The teacher replied, “remember when I told you about
Republicans and the movement toward privatization? Their idea is that
if these schools are failing, they should be replaced by private schools
that are run like businesses, competing in the marketplace.”
I watched the students wrestle with the concept.
“But,” sputtered another student, “that’s
“You blast ‘em!” offered one smart aleck
in the back.
“You vote,” said a student.
“Yeah,” continued the government teacher, “exactly. You vote.”
Unfortunately, most of these kids can’t vote yet. So come November, let’s ditch “No Child Left Behind” and hold accountable the vultures that created it.