The real reason standardized testing sucks

middle-finger-poster-flag-6185-pI walked past the office on the way back to my room from lunch and noticed one of my students and her older brother sitting in there waiting for someone.  They’re in different grades, so it seemed unlikely that they were both in trouble, and normally she’s almost annoyingly conscientious about letting me know when she’s not going to be in school, so it wasn’t likely that they were waiting for a parent to come pick them up unless something had gone wrong.

I stuck my head in and asked what was going on.  She said she didn’t know.  I glanced at the older brother; he shrugged too.

“Will you be back in class?”

Another shrug.  At this point I asked one of the office staff, who gave me a don’t ask right now look and said that she’d be back sooner or later.  Well, okay; not worrying about it right now.

She came back with about ten minutes left in class.  Changed her seat to an isolation desk (I don’t have assigned seats; the kids can move whenever they want so long as they aren’t being disruptive.  I’m also free to move them when they are being disruptive) and put her head down.  She’d been in a perfectly good mood when I saw her last.  I was swamped with kids wanting help with various things, so I left her alone for a couple of minutes, at which point it became clear that she was crying.

I pulled her out into the hall to find out what was going on.  The crying quickly turned into sobbing hysteria; the kid was completely unable to even get a word out.  It took ten minutes— during which time my classes switched, and I told my eighth graders to find the next section in their textbooks and teach themselves how compound interest worked– before I could even get her coherent enough to talk.  What the hell happened down there?

I didn’t get much detail, obviously, but apparently child protective services had met with the two of them for some reason (not that I’d share it if I did, but at this moment I have no idea why) and toward the end of the interview had either asked them if they thought it would be better if they were removed from their home or suggested that it might be better.    And she, understandably, freaked the fuck out.   And, again, I have no idea why– I’ve never seen any real evidence that this kid comes from a fucked up household, although I’ve also never met or heard from her parents, and she’s a good kid so I’ve not had reason to contact them on my own.  I sent her off to the counselor on a pass once I got her calmed down and went on with my day.

This post isn’t about that.  This post is about my reaction when this sobbing child who has been in my room for a year and a half, and who I’ve watched blossom from someone who insisted on either a calculator or a math facts sheet when presented with the slightest challenge to someone who is, two or three days out of the week, one of the best math students in her class, told me that the reason she was crying was because someone had threatened to take her away from her parents.

My first thought was How dare those fucking assholes do this to me the week before ISTEP.

Do this.  To me.  Because clearly if CPS thinks this child has a reason to be removed from her parents, that is something that they are doing to me.  Because apparently there is part of my brain that thinks my fucking test scores are more important than this child’s basic health and safety.

Fuck standardized testing.  Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it.  And fuck me for a soulless bastard for even allowing that shit into my head even if I have the decency to be ashamed of it afterwards.

10 thoughts on “The real reason standardized testing sucks

  1. Jazy

    Honestly I think you have no reason to feel bad about your thoughts. Perhaps it’s a little heartless of me to suggest it, but it is something that you have to deal with and it’s adverse to your student doing well on the ISTEP — which will affect you based on her results (at least, I’m fairly sure that’s how it works.)

    It’s like how people tend to tell others “You have nothing to be upset about, there are children starving in Africa” — that doesn’t make your problems nonexistent. You still have to deal with it.

    Don’t get me wrong — having been in her situation personally more times than once, I can guarantee her problem isn’t something to overlook. The fact that you can feel badly about your reaction to her breakdown is enough to realize you care about it too.

    It’s perfectly fine to worry about yourself as well as her, though. Don’t beat yourself up over that. Hopefully any of what I just wrote makes sense @___@


  2. Don’t feel bad about your thoughts – they popped in relative to where you stood and what was going on in your world. I hope everything works out for your student and her brother.


  3. Your job as an educator is to help these students succeed, and inevitably when something arises that may interfere with that, you’re going to be upset. I believe that is understandable. The great thing is you do care, and you realized hey, this child’s reason for being upset goes beyond the testing and I’m sure you’ll do what you can to support her while she goes through this ordeal. Which, by the way, is there something the school can do to allow her to test later seeing as she’s going through such a horrible situation?


  4. CPS has to get some issues straightened out in their system. I was a foster child and then adopted. CPS let me down and a lot of my foster brothers as well!


  5. No matter what they say, you cannot help the thoughts that come to mind. The ones you had were reasonable in a sense that testing affects not only you but your students, and she’s is definitely going to be affected.

    Here’s hoping, though, all goes well with the student, her family, and your scores. It’s highly unlikely that good things happen all around, but we always have hope!


  6. Pingback: How standardized testing screws up your priorities |

  7. I teach in Texas. A lot of the world’s standardized testing is our fault (well, George Bush’s fault, anyway). Please find it in your heart to forgive us. And I wish your student all the best, too. It is a terrible thing to have kids go through something like that, and you learn about it, but you can’t do anything about it but feel totally powerless.


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