Friday, March 20, 2009

March Madness

I know I said this is a place to distribute information but I am going to digress and give a little opinion editorial on last night’s budget meeting.

Ms. Cornish gave a very detailed, documented presentation of the proposed budget for school year 2009-2010. She took the information of the past five years and found that the average percentage increase is a little over 4.5%. This year the proposed budget is a mere 2.65%. She went on to say how the money has been spent in years past and where the money will be going this year, as well as where significant cuts have been made through the reduction of staff, expenditures and transportation costs. She made great effort through the use of charts to show the results of the money given to the Board of Education. She stated that because of the money infused into the school system, our districts CMT scores have gone up, removing the stigma of the dreaded label“In need of improvement”. This is all well and good. She received applause when the graph was shown. She also showed the trends in the CAPT test given in 10th grade. These scores too, trended upward with the exception of science which was slightly lower last year than the year before last. She acknowledged this stating that in fact, more attention should be given to science BUT it is not reported on NCLB.

This statement made me angry. I walked away from the presentation feeling like my child is a pawn in a much larger political game. I envisioned every child at school with a speech bubble above their head but instead of knowledge, creativity, or musical notes, I saw a giant dollar sign. I feel like my child is not seen as an individual, a child with a mind to develop, inspire and fill with dreams of larger things but merely a means to an end. A good test score and Ms. Cornish can continue to show detailed graphs, compliment herself on a job well done and receive the coveted funding from the state and federal government.

Rather than taking time to play outside, breathe fresh air, paint a picture or read a fantastic story, my third grader has had time taken out of her day twice a week to participate in CMT study groups to teach her strategies to answer a open ended question in a way that will allow a high score. She has taken many writing prompts, brought prompts home for homework and has said to me many times, “I hate writing”. Will the strategies taught in prompt writing apply to creative writing? Yes, they will. However, when does she have time to write creatively? Rather than have a half hour of artistic expression, her art class began last week with a pep talk about what else….the CMTs.

Our children are discouraged from celebrating Halloween in school. Birthdays cannot be celebrated with food. Holidays are frowned upon because of diversity issues. Yet…March comes and music class is dedicated to teaching children K-6 songs such as "Test us Test us we are ready"! A pep rally is held school-wide to promote the school spirit surrounding a standardized test. Letters are sent home to remind parents of what we already know – that our children need a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast not to succeed in school, mind you. No, they need these to perform well on a test. The first day of CMTs was again celebrated with food and drink. Muffins, cereal bars, juice boxes all greated the children at the start of the day. Presumably to catch those few children who may not have had a satisfying-enough breakfast at home. Lastly, during the test items usually confiscated during the day like gum and mints are allowed freely.

To me, all this nonsense surrounding a standardized test implied that our children are not seen as individuals. The almighty CMT test is more important than our children’s birthdays, holidays and personal individualities.

Remember, a test tells the state what our child knows on one specific day. If he or she is having an off day, does that nullify her validity as a student? Does it lower her net worth as a student because she lowered the cumulative score? Does the anxiety the test and teachers cause justify Ms. Cornish praising our significant increases? To me, it does not.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Jessica I LOVE this post!!
Aren't you so excited that you have your girls at home now?
Hugs,
K

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