Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sex, Shit 'n Standardized Testing!

First, there was this:
"You get this rage up that we're wasting time testing, and you're making testing shorter and shittier," Coleman said at a Brookings panel Thursday.

That's David Coleman, one of the architects of the Common Core English & Language Arts Standards, and president of the College Board. This isn't the first time Coleman has cursed when speaking publicly about education. Several months ago, he reportedly said in another public speaking engagement, “as you grow up in this world, you realize people really don’t give a shit about what you feel or what you think.”

But people do give a shit about what language you use. As I always tell my students, cursing is not wrong, but there's a time and a place for it and an art to it, and school and academic work (making exceptions for creative writing, but you still have to have a justification for it there) are not some of them. Furthermore, I tell them, when you curse instead of using other words, people think you're not smart, that you're not articulate. And, it lets me, as a teacher, know that you need more vocabulary enrichment.

How are we take one of the lead advocates of the more "rigorous" and intellectual ELA Common Core Standards seriously when he doesn't see fit to use appropriate, professional, and specific language when advocating for the standards and for their accompanying tests. Coleman may be thinking I'm brash, but all I can think is, No, you're full of disdain. Disdain for teachers, disdain for students, and disdain for engaging in any process of education reform.

It also epitomizes a chasm in status and experience between reformers like Coleman and the students they are trying to help. What would happen if a student were to use the word "shit" or "shittier" in a Common Core aligned essay exam? How about on the writing section of the SAT? How about on the College Board's AP English exam? What happens when students curse in school, especially at a "no excuses" school with a rigid, zero-tolerance code of conduct? A white elite like Coleman can curse without consequence in public academic or professional settings, while a poor black kid using the same profanity publicly in a KIPP-esque school would likely face severe consequences.

In the same article, there's this other pro-longer and -better testing statement quoted:
Such changes can bring anxiety for the test takers. Gerard Robinson, the former education chief of Florida and Virginia, put it this way: "I won't pretend that tests don't matter and there's no anxiety -- but I also tell people there's anxiety with sex. There's anxiety with sex, but there isn't any talk about getting rid of that."
Standardized testing is just like sex? What? This, from a former state education chief? Are you kidding me?!?! This guy is in charge of people who educate children? First of all, unlike Coleman's statement, this statement is not in any way logical. Second of all, and more gravely, it's indecent. 

Is that what I am supposed to say to my test-stressed children--that their anxiety surrounding high-stakes testing is just like anxiety surrounding sex? Is that supposed to help? What if a K-12 student asked critical questions about standardized testing and their teacher responded in the same fashion that Robinson answered? How would that go over? Wouldn't Campbell Brown come after him with a pitchfork? Finally, this statement indicates that Robinson, too, is disdainful of criticisms of high-stakes testing and that he refuses to engage with the substance of those criticisms. For teachers, for parents, and for students, this anxiety, this stress, is not a joke, and it's not like sex.

If people like Coleman and Robinson expect parents and teachers like me to take seriously what they say, they need show these topics some respect. Save that other kind of talk for the StudentsFirst locker room.


10 comments:

  1. Standardized testing IS like sex because we are totally getting f**ked!!!

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  2. It's a major failure on the part of both.

    And Teacher Anon, I think, for the purposes of this conversation, we need to clearly delineate between consensual sex and ... non-consensual assault. Just saying.

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  3. Y'know... a comprehensive sex education could reduce that anxiety... too bad there's no time for it.

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  4. Why are we afflicted with these buffoons??? Can we start a media campaign about the failure of the current education leaders?

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    1. Most of the folks leading education in this country, like Coleman and Duncan, are not educators, so I think we should call them faux educators or non-educators leading education rather than "education leaders".

      I don't know any educators who would ever claim that teachers "are ethically obligated to take responsibility that kids will practice" ANYTHING "100 times". AND Coleman said that shortly after he said, "They shouldn't be doing test prep." WTF?

      The guy clearly knows absolutely nothing about children, learning or teaching, let alone developmentally appropriate standards.

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  5. Thank you so much for this content, It is very intresting

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  6. The difference between Coleman and a student in a KIPP school is that the student is a child (of some stripe or another).

    Being allowed to swear is like eating ice cream for breakfast... it's one of the perks of being an adult.

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  7. Anonymous - Like I would say to my 7th graders, just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. But more to your point, it seems Coleman believes we should "feed ice cream or breakfast" to children. Thanks for providing an acceptable analogy.

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