A recently-penned opinion was carried in the News Journal yesterday. It came out in favor of the takeover by the state of 6 schools. As I said in the line above, it is an “opinion piece”, meaning simply it is someone’s “opinion”. Perhaps they are looking for more money… Whatever they state, isn’t fact.
Except for this sentence: focus on the children. So that is what we are going to do and by that show exactly why we should not privatize these schools. We will look at this statement first: The fact that less than 50 percent of the children in those schools can read and write on grade level should be a clarion call for action.
That sentence has several parts and they all hinge on this one phrase: “at grade level….” How is that correlation determined? Is it decided by working with that student for a full year and then giving him a pass or fail? Oh you say it is determined by a test! A test?
Yes. A single test determines whether a student is capable of being considered proficient in English… That might be ok if the test was something like this: what is a bus? what is a car: something children would know. Wasn’t that how you in high school when taught a language that was not English, received your grades on tests? But let us see what these kids are really being tested on?
Here is the reading assignment:
Little Liang lived in China a long time ago. When he turned seven, his
father said, “Tomorrow you will start school and learn to write.”
“No, thank you,” said Little Liang. “I like playing outside better.”
“School tomorrow, my boy. Not another word from you.”
So the next morning Little Liang went off to school, writing brush in hand.
His teacher showed him how to make one stroke to write the number one.
“This is easy,” said Little Liang.
The next day he learned to make two strokes to write the number two.
“Well,” he said, “who needs to go to school? I’ll bet I can write the
number three all by myself.”
Sure enough, on the third day of school, the teacher wrote “three” on the
paper just the way he expected.
“That’s all the learning I need!” said Little Liang. He sneaked out of school
and went looking for birds in the woods.
The next day he left home with his schoolbag. But he didn’t go to school.
“I know all there is to know,” he said. “I’ll just go fishing.” Off he walked to
On the way he met Old Mr. Wan.
“Why aren’t you in school today, Little Liang?”
“I know all there is to know, Mr. Wan.”
“That’s wonderful,” said the old man. “I myself never learned many
characters. Will you help me write a letter to my son?”
Little Liang went to Mr. Wan’s house. He took his brush and ink from his
“I’ll write the address first. What’s your son’s name?”
“Wan Bai Qian.”
In Chinese, “wan” means ten thousand, “bai” means one hundred, and
“qian” means one thousand.
Little Liang began to make brush strokes. One, two, three, four, five . . .
ten . . . fifteen . . . twenty . . . thirty.
Soon his hand hurt from so much writing.
“Look how many strokes I’ve made! Why is your son’s name Mr. Ten
Thousand instead of Mr. One?”
“I’m so sorry, Little Liang. Why don’t you use my hair comb? You can dip
it in the ink and make many lines at once.”
Just then the schoolteacher walked past the door. He heard the name
“Little Liang.” He looked inside and saw a boy writing with a comb.
“What have we here?” he asked.
“I’m writing Mr. Wan’s name.”
The teacher picked up the brush and made three strokes.
“This is the way to write the number ten thousand,” he said.
“Only three strokes?” Little Liang’s face got as red as a cherry.
“Only three strokes,” said the teacher.
Click on image to enlarge:
With all your adult knowledge, answer those two questions?
If you were a child, it could very well be A… The little boy was on his way to go fishing, and instead, because the old man needed help, he didn’t go, but went in to help the old man; he never got to fish after all. How many of us would have done that instead of saying : “sorry old man, can’t do; goin’ fishing!” ? So A is a very good option….
Why not B? The task should have been simple. Just write a letter. But no, it was demanding. He didn’t give up but doggedly dove in and tried putting 10,000 marks to paper because he’d committed himself to helping. But he didn’t give up. He didn’t go back on his word. He promised and fulfilled his promise. So B is a very good answer to the child taking this test.
And C? It sounds most like what a test answer should sound like; doesn’t it? Something promoting hard work and calling that a success? But the only hard work involved came from the non-successful depiction of the word ten-thousand… Even the teacher wasn’t working… Really? Why in the hell, was he wandering the streets in the middle of a school day? Was anyone watching the other children? Must have been a TFA teacher; no work ethic there.
And D? Really? There is always more to learn? Doesn’t that sound weak? Like duh, yeah there is always more to learn, but no written line at the end of the story says “there is always more to learn?”. But yet that sort is what the story is about, but nah, that is too far off and sounds too light to be the answer for this big important test….
Pretend you are a little kid who lives in the hood, has never been out of Wilmington in your life… which of these four values will you pick?
This is not a test on English… This is a psychological test. It is no different than an ink-block test.. Something so amorphous that when people look at it and try to define what they see, they input their own sentiments and determine the outcome. If one holds being of assistance to be highly desirable, to them A is the definite answer. If another has siblings that will never, ever help him when he asks, in this story he is seeing that helping a stranger is the most moving part of this story. He will chose B. And isn’t hard work what the Chamber of Commerce and Republicans say is what causes one to receive the ample rewards they do? C makes the most sense, even if it isn’t supported by the text. And it could also be D, saying there are always more ways to learn… But who has time to even worry about everything out there one could possibly learn? When you enter kindergarten with a 5000 word vocabulary and others have 20,000 word vocabularies, that there is always more that can be learned is a given… More importantly to them, is learning how to get by on what they have. Where is the class that teaches that?
So which would you choose? Now, why did you choose that one? Would you have chosen that one if you were 8 years old? You see, these tests do not test English at all.. To test English, you say first read this passage…
“You must be 21 to enter here… ”
Ok, bud, can you tell me what it says?
“It says I have to be 21 to come inside here…”
Ok, bud, you can read….
Reading is about understanding… It is not about “guessing” what some unknown stranger wants you to guess, who makes it as tricky and as hard as possible to answer. Questions like these are like the old questions at polls; the ones they used to keep black people in the South from voting…
Click for larger image.
What is your answer here… “red as a cherry”… first of all, does the text say why he was as red as a cherry? it doesn’t.. Damn it. We have to guess. Second of all, has anyone seen red cherries lately? I just realized all the ones I’ve seen across these past two summers in ShopRite were bing cherries. A child in Wilmington probably has never seen a cherry, much less a red one; it’s not on school lunch, and their closest association with it would be with the purplish bing cherries featured on diet Cherry Coke, or cherry Dr. Pepper. Even when you go through the Taco Bell Drive in, their cherry frozen drink is deep purple… Red as a cherry? That is confusing… Red as purple, huh?… these kids must really wonder what is the author is trying to say?
But the boy’s face was red… Obviously any kid would be embarrassed… Hell, any adult making a similar mistake would be totally embarrassed… BUT THAT IS NOT AN OPTION! Damn, more guessing.
Would he be upset? Answer A? Well a little, but not enough to get red in the face. Would he be worried? Answer B. Hell yes… What if the teacher tells the whole class and they all laugh at him? I’d be sick for a week so I wouldn’t have to go back… Darn right I’d be worried…. Would he be happy about what he’d learned? Answer C? Well he might be. Now he has a reason to go back to school! There is more to learn… When people get really happy, their faces do get red… especially when the grown ups have parties with their friends and stay up late, all giggling and acting silly. Faces are very red by then… But, if all you’ve known are brown skins.. do you even know what a red face is supposed to mean? Have you ever seen one? Like on really dark skin? Like on someone whose genes come from Ghana? And D I would think so… Hopefully he hopes to learn some more tricks…. I mean, what kid wouldn’t….
Again, this is an aptitude test… There are four correct answers. The one you chose reflects YOUR personality… The answer is not explicitly written in the text… No where in the text does it say “why” the boys face reddened… So how does that teach English? When all you test is on what ISN’T there?
So how are we determining whether or not these children can read? My making them guess for answers that are not in the text! What is truly amazing is that no adults get the right answer on these tests, but we are closing schools and shaming students for their inability to do the same! We are turning public schools into charter schools because impoverished black children have never seen a real cherry…
White people; affluent people, suburban people, have all see books that have red cherries in them… what if you’ve never seen a book?
Bottom line, is this is not a reading test but an interpretation test. And it is highly slanted against Blacks and Hispanics…
Lol… Imagine Markell’s son, (Charter School of Wilmington) having to read a passage like this and answer questions to represent his school???
“Yo, these jauns is tight son!..Yah… I know I’m just a wallet for my gold digging whore, but she’s damn good in bed so I’ll keep her around for now. Joy Ride a ford escort. ‘Yo, where da green at?’ I get my dope straight off a brick. Empty out, reloaded and throw more slugs…”
A. Is this person happy or sad?
B. Is his day going well or rather poorly?
C. What advice would you give this speaker?
D. What is he talking about (not a women) when he says his whore is good in bed?
Yeah… I don’t think Charter School of Wilmington would be in the top ten schools in the country if tests were made like this… But I bet Bayard Middle School would be right up there….
These standardized tests are made up in Chicago and reflect the thought processes and language of the Midwest. There is a reason inner city people do poorly on them, and since they can interpret the passage directly above and Markell’s son can’t, they aren’t stupid.. There is a reason Hispanics in Southern California do poorly on them… Hell, there is even a reason white Southerners whose dialect has closer traits to Kings English that these German interpretations in the Midwest found on the tests, do a lot poorly in English. And, people in England, who take the Germanic influenced Midwest styled American tests do rather poorly on them as well. Are we to say, they don’t know English? Ha!
The reason is not in what you read. But how your value system is when asked to determine out of four truisms, which of the four is the “most” true…
You can’t measure English on a Standardized test… But can these children read? Yes. for the most part they can. Can these children do basic math? Yes. for the most part they can. So it is rather evil to say because Wilmington inner city children do poorly on a test written in Chicago dialect, the same test smart southern whites do poorly on, or smart English people; we have to close their school, let someone make a profit off of them as a charter, and then accept they still will do poorly on that same test written in Chicago dialect…
To get better test grades you can go over the answers and try to get them to understand that what they are being tested on is a foreign language to them, and so they had better work 3 times harder than a Wisconsin cheese-head to get the same answer… It is just completely unfair to these kids to be held accountable to a test which no teacher prepares, no teacher has seen until it is sprung, and for which no teacher can prepare …. and hold schools, teachers, and districts accountable…
If so, then hold Markell’s son accountable for speaking street….
That said, despite what the Chamber of Commerce tries to say, kids in Warner are doing alright. They are improving and not going backwards… Their teachers are highly effective.
They will never be as good as Wilmington Charter, but then, they enter school without the advantageous that Wilmington Charter students had growing up in affluent families. The English being taught is a second language to them, not is the same one they learned when their ears first heard sounds of people talking.
They may be smarter than Wilmington Charter… We just aren’t comparing apples to apples here….
The other points in the opinion piece deserve posts of their own… State school money has been taken away since 2008, Schools are working with less money directly impacting students, not more. If you truly want quality schools, then you need to use a new approach, 11:1 student teacher ratios, and have each teacher work with each of those 11 closely to get them to understand what they need to know…
When you have a test no adult can answer correctly, the low scores are because of the idiotic test. Not the students…
And this was a third grade question; asking 8 year olds to think like adults who’ve gone to college and worked for 10+ years… Common Core is both stupid and dangerous. Nothing substantial can be evaluated with these tests. Nothing.