BY SHARON MARTIN
We just finished testing week – you know, the week that will determine how our school has functioned for the entire school year. It will measure the tragedies, dramas, hunger, fear, and even the mental stability of a group of kids in grades three through five. And it will instill fear in babes as young as five, as they tiptoe down the hall past closed doors and are denied morning recess by tight-lipped adults.
Next fall we will, maybe, get the results of these tests. A while after that, our school will get a grade. And just this week, I realized what the grade is really about.
How do I know? I’ll tell you. I spent some time talking to a principal who is filling out forms and forms and forms sent to him from the State Department of Education. He has a personal turnaround mentor, paid for by our tax dollars, I’m sure.
Three years ago, this principal presided over an A school. He received accolades from the State Department for his turnaround of a low-income school.
This model principal believes in diversity. He welcomed special needs students into his school, students with autism, Down’s Syndrome, emotional problems, and physical problems. These students spend part of the day with well-trained Special Education teachers and part of the day in mainstream classrooms. The principal believes that this experience has made the lives of all the students richer.
It has not been so kind to the school’s grade. Because of the number of ways that the bottom 25% of test scores are counted, the school’s grade has slipped a few notches.
Now the same principal who turned around a failing school is expected to turn around a failing school. This time, he is expected to help students with autism, Down’s syndrome, emotional problems, and physical problems score proficient on standardized tests.
Did I mention that there are no more modified tests?
Yes, this is what is expected of educators today: we must standardize all children. And if we don’t, we fill out forms and make a turnaround plan.
What’s a turnaround plan? Well, that’s what this A-F thing is all about. Every little thing that is entered into the forms leads one to the same website. It offers services, for a price, to help schools turn around.
Yes, another corporate entity that will make sure our kids, like those in Lake Wobegon, are all above average.
Aren’t you glad our education dollars are being so well spent?
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer