Friday, April 15, 2011

Surprise, Surprise!

Happy Friday, dear friends!

I'm going to try and make today's update a brief one. And for once, that sentence doesn't mean that I'm going to work a magic turn of the wrist and splatter another music video up against the glass of your monitor. No, I do honestly have something of interest to share. *insert overly dramatic gasp here*

Now, this is a subject that has always been close to my heart, as it is a section of our society that every child is forced to deal with, and is progressively being revealed to be the ineffectual nightmare that nearly every kid realizes it to be. Standardized Testing.

Check out this article from The Minneapolis CityPages titled Inside the multimillion-dollar essay-scoring business.

OK. Now. It hasn't been all that long since I graduated from High School and forever turned my back on piles of Scantron sheets fit to make your eyes bleed. And I know for a fact there have been some pretty serious changes to the formatting of some serious standardized tests since back in my day. For example, when I took the SATs back in...2004 I guess it was...there was no such thing as a writing section. I'm sure that most of you are reading this now going, "What fucking writing section?!", which is a completely fair response. The only reason I know about it is that I was right on the threshold of the change. Had I not landed the score I did on my first try through, any retake I looked into to boost my score would have required that I complete the new writing section of the exam, completely changing the entire scoring rubric from the standard 1600 possible points to the now used 2400.

Now, for those of you whose eyes didn't widen at the announcement of the induction of the writing section, it's probably because you're of an age where the regulations behind these lauded Standards have little to no effect on you anymore. But this crap will effect you regardless of your age, thanks to No Child Left Behind. The scores the children in your area are receiving on these exams are directly linked to the level of federal compensation the schools in your district are handed.

Now, here's where the details of that article get scary. In case you didn't read the thing (and it's a long one, I won't hold it against you if you said "Fuck it" this time around), it's a long collection of testimonials from former employees of the primary organizations that are responsible for grading the miles upon miles of paper trails that result of these forced essay tests. Logistically, one can easily imagine the nightmare that would be cranking through an essay for every child in America and turning around with a grade in a reasonable period of time, but the practices outlined in this article are simply atrocious.

The very idea of supervisors walking into sweat-shop factories of essay grading terminals and telling their vast army of temps that they need to start giving out more of the top scores because they need to start fleshing out the bell curve of results is just mind boggling. I can understand that it would be difficult to maintain a constant level of critique as you scan through upwards of 200 essays a day, it's fucking impossible and no one is going to hold that against you. But the idea of just tossing out extra points here and there so the overall grades more closely match the curve of a parabola is fucking nuts.

And as I said before, the results that your school district is pulling in on these standardized tests directly correlate to the likelihood of receiving enough federal funding. We're talking about windowless buildings in middle America arbitrarily tossing around scores that have an honest and tangible effect on not only the futures of individual students, but the future of an entire town or county.

What really upsets me here though is that I've finally found written recognition of the fact that the grading of our childrens' testing is handled by an organization for profit. Shouldn't be so shocking in a country where we've privatized the prison system. I mean if you can make money off of incarcerated citizens, why not make money off flicking a pencil across a student's test paper. Doesn't matter if you scratch out an F or an A, as long as you make that pencil drag across the paper and make the client happy. We're talking an estimated 2.5 billion dollar a year industry here. For grading tests. What the hell??

OK, sorry, said I was going to try and keep this one short, and to be perfectly honest I've lost my desire to drag myself through the mud anymore on this one. So I'm cutting it here. Show's over. But in all seriousness, please, do yourself a favor and read that article and educate yourself on education a little. I don't care if you have kids or not, if you're in school or not, this is the kind of shit that effects every single person in this country, whether you want to admit it or not. And from where I'm sitting, it looks pretty ugly.

Now get the fuck out of here and enjoy the weekend, you freaks.

Well, we've got no class!! And we've got no principles!!!

And we've got no innocence!! We can't even think of a word that rhymes!!!!

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