These past 7 months have been some of the craziest of my life in a long time. This past fall my daughter became depressed while away at school in Ohio. Helping her through her difficult time from 800 miles away via the telephone was challenging…to say the least. Then my father, now 84 became very ill and almost passed away at Christmas in the midst of their trying to sell their condo and buy a new house. Then February 1st, I get a frantic phone call from my Dad telling me they are across the river watching their condo burn up in flames. That night they moved in and stayed for 6 weeks. The day after my parents moved out my son crashed my new car and it has been in the shop ever since. And then my dear friend Karen lost her son, Jimmy to cancer.
And yet here I am 7 months later and my daughter has made some very difficult and adult decisions to improve her life and is doing fabulously. My Dad recovered miraculously and is doing better than ever. My parents have moved to their little house up north and although my car is in the shop, it is all good. What is not so good is my friend Karen. How does one even begin to live after losing a child? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
And so here I find myself evaluating what really matters in life when I receive a letter from my son’s High School punctuating, yet again what really matters in our public school systems.
The first paragraph states that several years ago our 11th grade students were not performing well on the State Test, NECAP. It goes on to say that the “Data Strategies Team” (don’t even get me started here!!) investigated and interviewed students to understand their lack of motivation. This study revealed that our students got smart and stopped performing on state tests because they realized these tests had nothing to do with their futures because they did not have anything to do with their class ranks or GPA’s. (I was on the school board at this point in time and remember celebrating these students and how smart and courageous they were!)
The second paragraph goes on to say that after these findings they decided to create a big fat carrot in the name of senior privileges for those juniors who achieved a score of “proficient” or above in all three areas of reading, math and writing on these state tests.
The third paragraph tells me “You are receiving this letter because your son or daughter will be allowed Junior Privileges beginning April 29th”. This means that my son can leave campus during unassigned periods and it allows him the freedom to “go to various destinations within in the building.” It is his get out of jail card and all because he was able to perform FOR them.
I am outraged by this…what are we doing hanging out carrots for a one time test? What about those kids who may not test well? What if those same kids who bombed the test are stellar students working hard each and every day? What about students with Special Needs? WHAT are we rewarding here? And why?
Why? I will tell you why…because these tests have nothing to do with our kids, how they learn or their futures…it is all about feeding the big number crunching machine to demonstrate that our schools are not failing.
Well…I would argue the opposite. School is failing my son miserably and yet he gets these privileges because he conformed and performed and did what was expected of him…NOT because he was learning, thinking, creating, wondering, exploring and discovering the joy of learning. What is the greater message we are sending here?
Is it just me? I am sure that some parents might be celebrating his or her child’s ability to test well and “earn” these special privileges. The letter is written on beautiful school stationary to be framed and hung on the wall. Another badge of honor to be worn by parents to show their child measures up. But not me.
It is just another reminder that it is not about our kids and their learning. What matters is that our students consistently conform, perform and then get a goody bag for doing so.