the midst of the March State Board of Education meeting,
one Board member related how a grandchild—who was doing
fine in school academics—was sick and vomiting over
the worry and stress of the state assessments.
is assessment time, and schools across Kansas are pouring
on pressure to get students to work as hard as possible.
Any school that repeatedly fails to make adequate yearly
progress toward the 2014 goal of everyone being proficient
schools do all they can to get students to make every
effort on the assessment tests.
Certainly nothing can be wrong with that. Or is there?
e-mailed this example in a summary of the Board’s actions
that I send to teachers across the state. Boy did I
get an earful back.
Board member had noted that cheerleaders are used to
get students pumped for the tests. It goes much farther.
Score above proficiency or above average and you may
get a pizza party or a bowling party or a free afternoon
in the gym. Students who score low get to cool their
heels back in a classroom. Then there are the posters
in the hall with student names or pictures, labeled
by who scored above average or exemplary. Getting your
yearbook picture can depend on your score. Or it might
be stamped with the special “E.”
the sample I received, there must be many hundreds if
not thousands of Kansas students who are physically
ill during this assessment season. Students who don’t
care about grades and academics will just sit down,
mark all one letter, and “blow off” the test. This epidemic
of stress is mostly among students who will pass the
state assessments. They sense the tremendous tension
the school is under. They are empathetic. And they recognize
the stigma this places on classmates who do not test
a student is three grades behind in reading, and a hard-working
reading teacher has brought the student forward two
grade levels in one year, that student will still be
below grade level and fail the test. For all of this
work, the student will not get the pizza or bowling
party, and will sit in the room with the other “dummies.”
No one says that word. They just think it. You have
to know kids at this age to know how much this hurts.
students know. There is at least one reported case of
a student who just passed the assessment asking to not
go to the reward party but to sit with classmates who
didn’t. That is heroism similar in nature to the Hollanders
who all wore yellow patches in unity with the Jews who
would be persecuted. No, we are not killing children.
But for some, we are just killing their spirit.
am the last person to defend the “self esteem” movement.
But this is not about self-esteem. It is about administrators
and teachers thinking they are justified to use shame
as a means to an end. They feel forced to take these
wrong actions by the despotic No Child Left Behind high
stakes accountability system—a blame game. Students
are the victims of schools trying to cover their...assessments.
are not branding students’ foreheads with the letter
“F” for life. Just ostracizing them. Labeling their
names. Omitting their pictures.
so many good youngsters get physically sick during these
assessment weeks, we fairly well know that it will leave
lesson students learn is that adults—who should know
better—can be coerced into hurting them.