Surely you've heard of it, right? The pineapple that soured (ha!) the public at large on the whole idea of standardized tests? You know. If you don't, here it is. Now, I myself was soured on standardized testing already when this sinister pineapple rolled into town, and for more reasons than those that the pineapple brought to light (I promise to stop saying "pineapple' very soon, by the way).
Standardized testing is great in theory, isn't it? It's a way for parents and educators and the powers that be to assess the effectiveness of a government body. It's a corporate model designed to measure performance and churn out statistics that can be used to adjust the system, improve it, and start over the following year.
One problem. When it comes to education, one cannot use this sort of "cog in the machine" philosophy. Kids aren't cogs. (Duh). In no other large body system is the idea of the needs of the individual so important. And actually, that's the kernel of capitalism that is still inspiring: the unique spirit of the individual, the idea that one man's vision can be fruitful enough to carry him up the ladder into the cloudy haze of the American Dream. So why are we coming at education from the other side of capitalism and treating our kids like last year's sales figures?
Do we, in this country, not know how to think any other way? Have we become so corporatized, digitized and homogenized that we forget about what education is supposed to be? Maybe. Or maybe education never has been what it should be.
In either case, back to the um, piece of fruit that dare not speak its' name. At their best, if standardized tests are to be a useful tool, they should make sense, right? So if I, an adult educator with an MFA, can't understand a cockamamie parody of The Tortoise and the Hare that involves a bizarre anthropomorphic piece of fruit, then what hope does a 5th grader have? How can we assess our children accurately with trickery and typos? Standardized tests don't even accomplish what they set out to do, and I'll go you one better, what they are trying to do is dumb.
Yes, I said it. And eloquently too. Well, as eloquently as was deserved by the test creators, who are not educators, and really, shouldn't be in charge of any standard, given their track record so far. Why do we feel we need to assess our children? Is it because of the poor literacy numbers, graduation rates, and math scores that abound in the US? Is it a response to No Child Left Behind? Nope. Those may be the reasons we've widened the range of the children we actually test, but we've been testing them since long before the dreaded Dubya was in The White House, and as far as I'm concerned, school-wide performance in this country is chicken and egg.
In other words, which came first, the test or the F? The answer seems obvious, but think about it. Isn't it a self-fulfilling prophecy to teach kids that knowledge is a good thing solely for the purpose of achieving some finite goal? Who cares about a test? Isn't the idea to get them thinking, stretch out those brains, help them find out who they are meant to be, build communities, confidence, skills? Aren't we meant to be growing good people here? And don't good people see the merit in having knowledge for the sake of itself? I think they should. And not because they understood a story about a pineapple.