3/29/2010

When I am King: No Child Left Behind Left Behind



When I am King...

There will be testing testing.

The U.S. government decided recently that the “No Child Left Behind” policy of the former administration wasn’t working. Perhaps it should have been called “Many Children Left Behind” or “No Child Left Behind, but Many Run Over by the Bus,” because it clearly wasn’t making the grade.

Maybe it was the fact that it was a system designed by America’s favorite C-student president (“I pledgify my allegiance…”). Or perhaps the kids in the failing schools are just plain dumb, and no amount of attention focused on those schools can compensate for their willful thickheadedness. Or maybe it’s just time to try something new because that’s what governments do.

But I think the problem is rooted in testing.

In order to judge whether schools are failing, the children in those schools take standardized tests. Schools with enough children who pass the tests are considered okay, and the teachers can get back to work beating some sense into the children. Schools without enough passing children (a.k.a., “dummies”) are considered failing, and the spotlight of shame is focused on the school to inspire fear and educational prowess.

This system of ritual embarrassment is apparently not succeeding. Of course, anyone that was ever ridiculed in school for doing something unusual could have told you as much; taunting only benefits the ringleader and the laughing onlookers, not the victim.

But how can you successfully test all children on what they’ve learned in a systematic and consistent way across the whole country? What tests will you use? Who will create them? Will they need #2 pencils? Will they test the children’s ability to fill in the circles completely? Will they allow for bathroom breaks? Will there be more “C” answers than “A” because it always seems like cheating to have the first multiple-choice answer be the right one?

When I am King, there will be a focus on testing. In particular, we need to make sure that we have qualified testers to create and administer the tests. We need an entire system designed to test the people that write the tests, to make sure that their testing skills are tested. Testers that succeed can go on to give other tests to testers. Those that fail will be mercilessly teased, and can then apply for a job at the local Department of Motor Vehicles.

This system of writing tester tests, testing testers, and grading tests taken by testing testers test-takers, will result in a progressively more refined testing environment with the best testers we can produce. But in the meantime, teachers can get back to actually teaching and children can focus on learning. Or taunting the weak ones and taking their lunch money, which is what school is really all about.
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