April 7th, 2008


Today my daughter has her first day of AIMS testing, the cornerstone of Arizona's attempt to promote "standards" in K-12 education and a prime example of how the Bush Administration's No Child Left Behind program affects the practice of teaching. She was surprisingly calm this morning. With any luck she will learn to regard standardized testing the way I did when I was in elementary school, as an interesting ritual rather than a weighty responsibility. For my part, though, the arrival of this day caps a long process of reflection in which I have been questioning the value of pedagogy focused on quantitative results. The third-grade students in Skylar's district are all studying from the same spelling lists this year. Two of her recent words were "pretest" and "testable." I'm not even sure whether the former constitutes a legitimate word at this point. I do know, however, that the fact that she had to memorize these two words, instead of other, orthographically unique ones, testifies to our society's prioritization of testing over what might be called "nontestable" experiences.