Ah, yes. Mid-May in the United States public school system can only mean one thing: SOLs. Standards of Learning tests. Such a happy, cheerful time.
We can thank George W. “Dubya” Bush for this mess. Stupid “No Child Left Behind” law. They say these tests are supposed to measure our academic achievements for various subjects to judge how successful we will be in the emerging technologies of tomorrow, or some crap like that. What these tests really do is determine whether Mr. Frattalli keeps his job. If enough of us fail, our school is taken over. Hopefully by some people with enough sense to not dress up like apples and sing and dance about the health benefits of fiber.
As a result, the state is paranoid about us passing. (I personally think some bribing was involved.)
CASE ONE: They had an entire seminar on how to take the new “technology-enhanced” tests, when the only difference was clicking on a little button instead of bubbling in a little Scantron sheet. Come on, guys. Are there people out there who are so technologically clueless that they can’t figure out what the Next button does?
CASE TWO: The testing blocks. Three. Freaking. Hours. They’re worried that we’ll feel rushed, so they give us three hours to answer maybe a grand total of sixty questions. And if, for some reason, your brain operates at a speed slower than it takes for the English teachers to return papers, you get even more time! You have as much time as you need! Hell, you could be still taking the test in the next grade if you wanted to! As a result of this, the schedules got all screwed up. I got to spend three hours in Japanese, as well as miss PE (which I’m pretty sure Ms. Lohman was as happy about as I was.)
CASE THREE: The instructions. The teachers are required to read the instructions word for word from the little instruction sheet. And it seems like they’re written for five-year-olds who have just immigrated from a country with a name like Zrbyjkstan and know maybe a grand total of three words in English (Me go potty.)
“Today you will be taking the 8th grade science SOL.” Oh! That’s good! I thought this was a prostate examination!
“During the test, you may use the provided paper and calculators.” Why, thank you for informing me of that! I thought they were there for decoration!
“When you are done, please exit the test.” Well! I thought that after I finished I was supposed to erase all my answers and take it over again! You guys are so damn helpful!
CASE FOUR: The questions. Come on, guys. At least try to make it hard.
For the science SOL we had to do an entire book of questions to prepare. That was hard. It got me all paranoid about the test. I was prepared for a question like “This eukaryotic cell has just undergone mitotic cytokinesis. Assuming that she sells seashells on the seashore, calculate the angle of sunlight on Guatemala.”
And then I actually took the test and I get this:
What is the best procedure for smelling chemicals?
A. Gently sniff the chemical.
B. Immerse your nose into the chemical and inhale.
C. Pour the chemical down your nostrils.
D. Snort the chemical.
I propose we get Dubya to take one of his little SOL tests. After all, he created them, he must know everything on it, right? We could set up a whole Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader type show where the people who make up the standards are the contestants. Instead of competing for cash prizes, they’re competing for their monthly salaries. Now that would be a show I’d watch.
But back to reality. I think that our school is smart (enough), and that we did relatively well, and that Mr. Frattalli will get to see another year as principal. Unfortunately.