The Broad Brush Misses Sometimes
Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" All in all we're just another brick in the wall.
Today at the Vo-Tech the juniors got their High School Proficiency Test scores. Those who passed were cheering out loud, hugging each other, brimming with happiness. You see, it's extremely difficult for the student population at the Vo-Tech to pass that test. The test is a cornerstone of "No Child Left Behind," laden to the plimsol line with tough math and literature exercises.
We don't want to leave any children behind. But I have to wonder what they mean by "behind."
When you figure that there are immigrants who can hardly speak English running convenience stores and making good money, while there are blue-bloods with Ph.D.s driving taxis and hardly making ends meet, what is behind?
When I graduated from high school, there were some graduates in my class who could barely read. So, if you can barely read, are you unemployable?
Suppose a kid starts working at McDonald's at age 15 and shows a good ethic. The kid stays with McDonald's, gets older, moves up to shift manager by age 18. But the same hard-working kid doesn't pass that high school test. Can't get a diploma. What does McDonald's do? Do they fire the kid, keep the kid in the lowest rung, or keep promoting a hard worker? All snobbiness aside, it is possible to earn a middle-class living from a McDonald's restaurant if you own it or manage it, or both.
I am a tutor who helps prepare students for the high school proficiency test. Most of my students will tell you they need the tutoring. And I'm glad to help them improve their reading skills. We are a reading culture after all. For now.
But I have a student who is kind, punctual, and quiet. He's slightly disabled in the lower limbs. And he can hardly read. He says he doesn't like to read. My guess is that this student will struggle mightily to get that high school diploma, if he does get it. He is the child in danger of being left behind. And if he is, that's just a disgrace. It means that we measure students by the correctness of their tests, not the content of their character. Nice means nothing.
I don't know how this could be done, but here's what I think should happen. I think any student who can't pass the standardized testing required for a high school diploma ought to be given the chance to argue his or her case for the sheepskin, mustering any evidence of worthiness. Perhaps a student would fix a broken car or build a shed. Perhaps a student could bring testimonials from employers, pastors, teachers ... I don't know. The devil's in the details.
But I do know that using standardized tests -- The Spare took another one today, and said it was hard -- lets some good apples go to rot in the barrel. Let's expand that high school evaluation to include some intangibles. If you met some of the people I know, you would see what I mean.