Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Testing Part 3: O Recess, Where Art Thou?

When all is said and done, however, Testing Hell might best be illustrated not by what is done to us, but what we do to ourselves. Take recess for instance.  At many schools, including ours, morning recess has been effectively cancelled or at least delayed and shortened for third through fifth grades, the grades that take the tests. This may seem necessary due to the fact that the tests are untimed and will therefore not necessarily end before the beginning of morning recess.
In an odd and somewhat cruel twist, outdoor morning recess at our school for kindergarten, first and second grades has also been either cancelled or delayed, both out of "solidarity" with the test takers as well as to not disturb the students who are testing.  While this could be construed as an admirable and even thoughtful gesture, it is draconian and unnecessary. The few distant, joyous voices from the playground that happen to penetrate the classroom walls will hardly distract most kids from their testing. They are used to far greater visual and audial distractions while they work on classroom assignments throughout the year.
And while it may be true that reducing distractions can help children academically, where is the reduction in distractions during the rest of the year when teachers are trying to teach the content that the standardized tests ostensibly assess?  Why don't we prohibit classroom phones from ringing, intercom announcements, recess bells, fire drills and hallway distractions during the rest of the year when concentration is no less important than during testing month?  
But the most important question is:  why are we punishing young children who are not even taking the tests?  Won't they be punished enough when they get to third grade?  Do we now feel we have to take the kindergarten, first and second graders through punishment training?  Is it so they will be better adapted to withstand even more punishment when they reach third grade?!  Are we so incredibly brainwashed by the national testing frenzy that not only do we willingly submit ourselves and our intermediate students to Testing Hell and its inherent punishments, but we also feel obliged to train their primary level counterparts for the punishment they will receive in the future?
Testing is, well, hell.  The flames are hot enough.  The devils in charge of fanning the coals and feeding the fires do not need any help from us.  Wake up teachers.  Wake up parents.  Wake up administrators, school board members and politicians.  It's time to grab the firehoses and extinguish the fires of hell once and for all.  Our children and our schools deserve it.  (End of Part 3.)

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