Wednesday, May 14, 2008


They're back again.

The dreaded, terrible, disgusting, epitome-of-the-absolute- demise-of-American- school-systems STAR tests. The mere name is so dastardly it demands all capitals.

And with them come the exemption letters from parents, the new rules
dictating a required minimum score for AP participation, and the simplistic, almost insulting test questions.

Here's a little sample of what millions of students around California have had to put up with in the past few weeks.

"You are going to take a test that will assess what you have learned. Some questions will be easy and some will be harder. Don't worry about the ones that seem hard, just do your best and don't spend too much time on any one question.

Before you begin, please mark your ethnicity in the bubbles below.
o Asian
o Pacific Islander
o African American
o Hispanic
o White

Ready? Begin.

Read the sentence.
"And with them come the exemption letters from parents, the new rules dictating a required minimum score for AP participation, and the simplistic, almost insulting test questions."

What is the best way to rewrite the above sentence?
A) The STAR tests bring a barrage of letters, rules, and insulting test questions.
Exemption for come with them almost students and, future letters insulting.
C) Future AP students must now score a minimum of "Proficient" on the STAR tests, which by the way make parents write angry letters and insult students with stupid questions.
D) STAR tests are bad.

The following question is not related to a reading.

Which of the socially unjust institutions related to STAR testing is the worst? (Yes, there is a right answer.)
A) Making students who will be in college in a few years read about why the mother of the author decided to try and replicate her great-grandfather's recipe for a mint snowball.
B) Asking students who will be in college in a few years whether the word "volcano" comes from the name of the ancient fire god "Pele", "Hephaestus", or "Vulcan".
C) George Bush's decision to pass the NCLB (also known as nicklebee or, for those who can't spell but are creative when it comes to acronyms, NLotBC - Nothing Learned (or taught) By Choice)
D) The fact that there is SO much more one could do with their time than try to decide which circle with a little letter in it to color in.


You still have an hour and a half left in your testing time.

You may not use a cell phone, iPod, or any other electronic device.

Your results will be mailed to you by next spring. Of course, these results really mean nothing because a) by next spring you won't care anymore, if you ever did in the first place, and b) if your school was really going to be closed because of atrocious test scores, it wouldn't matter what your score was anyway.

I think the quote that bests sums up standardized testing was uttered by President Bush. In a speech at Townsend Elementary School in Tennessee, he said quite simply,

You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."

Enough said.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Politics: When enough is enough

"Clinton Pledges to Fight On Despite Split Primary Result."
"Obama picks up superdelegates; undecideds moving his way."
"Clinton vows to press on as time, options running out."

These are just a few of the headlines from today's top AP stories. As the wills (and egos) of the candidates battle on without an end in sight, New York Times reporters must be finding it difficult to make their four-articles-per-day quota.

As the primary campaigns head into the summer home stretch, even diehard fans and politicos are beginning to wilt. "I was really excited at the beginning of the campaigns," said one Paly teacher. "But now, it's almost like I don't even care anymore."

Sure, all the buzz about Jeremiah Wright and Bill Clinton and the name-calling between candidates was fun for a while. I love a good debate as much as the next person. But after all the same scandals were discussed and all the same names were called, the market for new political information got thin - and now it's getting to the point where I'm tired of hearing our two favorite candidates bash each other with the same old hammers.

Of course, if most of the two Democratic candidates' faults are displayed to the public (and republicans) during the primary season, it could make for a less gruesome (or at least less shocking) general election in November.

And speaking of red elephants across the aisle, John McCain will be in Atherton on May 22. The event - and indeed, the candidate himself - have been receiving remarkably little press in the past month. We can only assume Mr. McCain is biding his time (and saving his money) for a harder general election campaign.

But on the whole, whether blue or red, the collective color of United States voters seems to be fading a little. I only hope the candidates still have the energy to inspire us into a darker shade of enthusiasm before November.