When do complaints about ‘too much’ standardized bubble testing become strong enough to bring about change? Now that some students are spending more than 10% of their school ‘instructional’ time on test-prep and testing, have we reached the tipping point? Now that some students are reported to be taking 20 different bubble tests during a school year, are we there? With some students taking bubble tests in art, music and physical education, have we gone over the cliff?
Our kids are already the most tested in the world, and now the Common Core tests are on the doorstep. Is anyone in power demanding that schools swap out tests–eliminate one for every one they add? Or eliminate two when adding one? Or sampling a la NAEP? Those voices are out there, but they are hard-to-hear and hardly heard.
Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets, and his “Mending Wall” inspired this effort, which I call “Mending School.”
Something there is that doesn’t love more bubble tests
And students bubbling and learning how to bubble
When they might be making robots or reading Frost.
They take test upon test in arid classrooms,
Mixing memory and guesswork, stirring
Dull anger and gnawing fear of failure.
The work of test-makers is another thing:
Teachers come after them and make repair
Where they have ground down creativity.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill,
And on a day we meet to walk and talk
Of learning, testing and hopes for children
But we keep a wall between us as we go.
To him, this is just another kind of mental game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
Now is when we do not need more tests, I tell him.
He only says, ‘More testing makes good education.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good education? Isn’t it
Where they are timely and used to help?
But here the tests punish takers and givers alike.
Before I gave more bubble tests, I’d ask to know
What I was I testing for, and why,
And to whom I was like to do harm.
Something there is that doesn’t love bubble tests,
That wants them stopped.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘More testing makes good education.’
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