#77: What I’m Doing While My Students Are Taking Standardized Tests


I’m writing poetry, of course.
Early in the semester, I’ve got no
grading to do and I’m unusually
planned for the upcoming unit.
My students are taking a standardized
writing test for which they choose
one dumb prompt from four dumb
prompts in each of the four and only
four dumb categories of writing that exist
in the world: expository, persuasive,
narrative non-fiction, and imaginative.
They cannot write poetry.
So I am writing it for them.
But these are poems about teaching.
And this poem here is a poem about writing
and the teaching of writing and the
testing of the teaching of writing.
An argument could be made that
of all types of standardized tests,
that this one, because kids actually
have an opportunity to show how
they think and how they write, at
least is authentic. But I’m not sure
that it is authentic—in fact, I’m rather
convinced that it is not.  Disconnected
from any course content, it’s an
assessment that reduces learning
and art down to a set of supposedly
quantitative and objective skills.
And it’s high stakes.  A kid’s
graduation almost entirely depends
upon it.  And these are my biggest
gripes about the test—its do or die
ethic, its uniformity, its rigidness,
its total disregard for divergent ways
of learning and knowing, its
displacement of curriculum, its
dissimilarity to any actual writing
that’s done by real writers.  The
only thing I like about the standardized
test is that it affords me time to think
and write poetry about how I don’t like
standardized tests.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: