As our children are undergoing the gruel of the high stakes standardized tests in New York, I can’t help but notice the silence. So many voices silenced. So many stories left unheard. Will all the time, money, and effort that has been spent on making the tests, preparing for the tests, and grading the tests make our children any better off than before these tests?
Did these tests ask our children how they’re doing, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and what they care about? Did these tests ask our children to innovate or create anything? Will these tests tell our children what their gifts and talents are? Will these tests tell us what our children’s hopes and goals and dreams are or what their ideas are for a better today and tomorrow? Do these tests really care about our children at all?
Instead of asking questions and finding solutions to real problems, our children are asked to answer questions that have only one pre-determined (and sometimes, quite a debatable) answer. Instead of sharing about their own lives and experiences, our children are asked to give examples and details from something they most likely have no real connection with. Instead of developing their own voices, our children are being asked to give their audience (the “graders”) what they want to hear. Instead of looking at what our children can do, they're punished for what they can’t do.
When it’s all over, instead of getting feedback on how they did and how what they could have done better, they’ll be given a number that’s supposed to mean something... everything. That one number will label them as below grade level, on grade level, or above grade level. That one number will determine whether they can read or write or think. That one number will determine whether they’re “good enough” or “smart enough” to move up or move on. There’s so much focus on this one piece of data that doesn’t even come close to giving us the story behind the mind of each and every child. This is the reality that has been given to them.
Who are we listening to and whom are we learning from?