New York State has found a new testing company to pay. Pearson is the lucky winner of a rather large profit, to the tune of $32 million over the next five years, with costs totaling a heaping $8 million for this year alone. McGraw-Hill, our previous publisher of torture-tests was much more affordable for the state, with costs totaling $26 million for the past eight years. Still quite a chunk of change, but about half of what the state plans on paying Pearson with taxpayer dollars, while class sizes are still expanding, teachers are threatened with layoffs, and millions of kids remain below the poverty level. Policymakers have made it quite obvious that those who profit from education will be the CEOs of publishing and testing companies, at the expense of the teachers on the front lines and the students who are filling in their bubbles.
In the eyes of a creative teacher or a disgruntled student, the Torture Tests are all interchangeable as long as they consist of multiple-choice questions. The "differences", however, are: Pearson will be eliminating tricky questions that include the words "which is not...", (very common and frustrating)"all of the above", "none of the above", (although I haven't seen either of those answer choices on any McGraw-Hill test in years) and will be eliminating the use of bold and italic letters in questioning. I have no doubt, however, that Pearson will find innovative new ways to throw off our kids. After all, their job is to produce data, and as soon as there is either a sharp upward or downward trend, there will be revisions. The test will still be the test, even if written differently. Students will still be perceived as data points, and teachers will still be judged based on that data. Put a pig in a dress, it's still a pig. Take a politician or CEO out of his tailored business suit and silk tie, and put him in some Bananna Republic Khakis and a pink polo shirt, he's still a greedy little snake.
These are not the only changes in the testing content. Quoted from the above cited New York Times article:
"Tests next year will resemble those given last spring, but by 2013 they will reflect new national standards, (Gates-Funded Common Core) and include more difficult reading passages, more open-ended math questions, and writing assignments that ask children to focus not on their own experiences, but on interpreting information from texts."
You may have noticed that the last sentence is in italics. Yes, that was me. What education policymakers fail to understand is that children have a knowledge base that is comprised of their own experiences. These experiences include personal memories and literary content that they have learned in the past. This applies to the learning process of all human beings, not just children. For example, I fancy myself a decent writer. When I tap away at my keyboard writing this blog, my content is a combination of information I glean from articles and studies I have read and my own personal experiences as a teacher and a student, and the conclusions I reach using both knowledge bases. Without using both content and experience, my blog would suck, and you wouldn't be reading this right now. One cannot expect a student to correctly interpret information from a text without allowing them to draw upon their experiences. And we all know, because this will be the format of the writing section of the test, teachers will be expected to teach to that format, so the student data is pretty enough for our state to win The Race To The Top. We will continue to be forced to teach our students to interpret texts in a way that is completely irrelevant to their lives, thus hindering their ability to form unique opinions, and, yes, think independently.
By now, I can conclude, based on the articles I have read and my experiences in the classroom, that the wealthy politicians and policymakers want our kids to become their servants, empty, unquestioning, and easily programmed.
Luckily for my son, these "revisions" in questioning will be in full force by 2013, the year he enters middle school. And by 2013, there may be such a sharp trend in data under the old model that the revisions will then be, well, revised.