The political mania for inflicting high-stakes tests on students has reached such insanity that a couple of years ago when a teacher revealed that Harcourt, publisher of the widely used Stanford 9 test, sends out instructions on what a teacher should do when nervous children vomit on the tests (soiled tests cannot be discarded but must be returned to Harcourt), it wasn't even a three-day wonder. No group stepped forward and demanded that schools discontinue practices that make kids vomit.For many students, these Stupid Pet Kid Tricks -- as inane as they are -- are not easy. So why might this be the case? As part of the focus on simple, measurable skills, 4 and 5-year-old children are being asked to perform their knowledge in an environment in which their performance on these measures bears an extraordinary weight. The vast majority of children have their fate determined by them. As Monty Neill noted,
The long history of tracking in the US also suggests that students who enter pre-K or K "behind" will be assumed to be less capable of learning and thus put in "slower" classes through which the gap in learning outcomes will expand. "Intelligence" tests have long played that pernicious role, complemented by "achievement" tests. Through these instruments, race and class effects are instrumentalized as "scientific" or "objective."High-stakes assessment, indeed. Starting in pre-K.
As I noted here, a lot of kids are being asked to do things they simply can't do. My daughter is one of these kids. I don't know what it's like from her perspective, but I imagine she looks around and sees one or two kids rolling over, fetching, and playing dead rather well and perhaps thinking to herself that she will never be able to roll over, fetch, and play dead as well as some of her friends can. And -- since school is the place where you are taught to roll over, fetch, and play dead -- that school is not the place for her or, at the least, a place where she will never be good at what is valued there.
For the students that don't excel at high-stakes displays of intellectual acumen/precociousness, learning and schooling become synonymous with anxiety. Reading becomes synonymous with anxiety, as does writing, math, etc., etc. But this is true even for the students who do excel in this context: reading becomes synonymous with anxiety, as does writing, math, etc., etc.
In other words, anxiety becomes the driver of learning even for those that excel in such a context, where the goal is to roll over, fetch, and play dead even better than you currently can.
And for those that do not excel, the physical expression of this lack of achievement comes in the form of the vomit they expel onto the bubble sheet of the standardized test they're forced to take.