Tuesday, March 4, 2014
The credit for this article goes to the great Alexander Russo, who urged journalists to do a better job reporting on testing by finding the many parents and students who don't oppose excessive standardized testing. This is much the same way that the media overemphasized Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, when the vast majority African American ballplayers were content to stay in the Negro Leagues.
Alexander Russo has long been a friend of this blog and that's because he has a clear way of getting to the bottom of a story. When other "journalists" were reporting on the teachers at two Chicago Public Schools refusing to give the ISAT, Russo saw that the real story was the nearly 50 people on his blog who vented about CPS principals.
I didn't have to go much further than Chicago's Bernard E. Epton School of Sufficiency. For those of you who don't remember, the Epton School got in some trouble last year when the principal was caught importing unlicensed standardized tests from China. The principal, Dr. Michelle Perry claimed she acted at the urging of her teachers who noticed a 2 month period in the beginning of the year when there was no standardized testing in the school.
I was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview an entire family about their pro-standardized testing attitude and how they have found a home at Epton. I was joined by Lois Winslow, the matriarch of the Winslow family as well as her sixth grade daughter Kenyata and her fourth grade son Devon.
LS4C1: You are a big fan of standardized testing. In fact you moved your children to Epton School, specifically because it had more standardized testing than any other school. Is that correct?
Lois: Oh yes. Last year, we were at a public school and Kenyata had a teacher who really took an interest in her. She saw that she loved reading so she was always finding books for her and challenging her to go the extra mile. We loved that woman. Meanwhile, Devon's teacher seemed to just go through the motions. She was going through a difficult divorce and she smelled of bourbon. Well, we were surprised that at the end of the year, Devon's scores went through the roof, while Kenyata more or less stagnated. It turned out that all the time Devon spent reading movies and putting his head down on the desk was just what he needed. I only resent the money I spent getting Kenyata's teacher a nice Christmas present.
LS4C1: So you were happy with Devon's education?
Lois: Far from it. Actually, I was disturbed with the education he received in the lower grades. He had a picture of a snowman to color and he colored it purple. I can tell you, snowmen aren't purple. At his old school, that kind of thing went on all the time. Boxes were treated like space ships and pillows could be horses. They don't tolerate that sort of thing at Epton. Now, if he colors a snowman it looks like snow, thank goodness.
LS4C1: What do you want to do when you grow up Kenyata?
Kenyata: I'd like to work for a large corporation in a big office building downtown.
LS4C1: Do you think that standardized tests like the ISAT are helping you achieve that?
Kenyata: Oh yes! My test scores show that I'm in the 64th percentile. My mom told me that the people running corporations are very smart and score at least in the 90th percentile, but most of the workers are at 50% or even lower. With my score, I know I should set my sights on middle management.
LS4C1: How about you Devon?
Devon: I love testing.
LS4C1: Do you think it'll help you with your future job?
Devon: Yes, I want to make cartoons. Today, when we weren't testing, we saw The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo.
LS4C1: You like catoons?
Devon: I love cartoons.
LS4C1: How are you doing in art?
Devon: I love art, but we don't have it this week because the art room is used for testing and our art teacher passes out tests to all the teachers.
LS4C1: So no art this week?
Devon: Coloring in bubbles is a type of art.
LS4C1: I stand corrected.
There you have it. A family who loves their standardized tests, but you'll never see reporters come anywhere near them. Fortunately, there are people like myself and Mr. Russo who strive to make a difference.