Special Testing: Have we gone far enough?

After reading the article in the March 31st Gainesville Sun detailing the new requirements for testing art, music, and PE, otherwise known as “specials”, I have had to rethink my stance on Florida’s preponderance of testing. Maybe we should question if we’ve reached a point when we’re testing too much. After putting much thought into this subject, thoughts that should be put to the test, I have come to the conclusion that there are many other areas of student performance that need to be taken into account.

It has always been a bone of contention for art teachers when young students, especially those just beginning school, pre-K students and kindergarteners specifically, do not color between the lines. This is an early indication of a serious problem that needs to be addressed from several angles. What are the consequences for that child who colors the face of Santa Claus purple? What is she learning if later, faced with a blank sheet of paper, she draws a car with three wheels and one door? Certainly her future performance in the primary STEM areas will be questionable, and that doesn’t bode well for her economic future.

There needs to be a new perspective on how failure to perceive an object and render it correctly will effect this youngster’s potential. It is not enough to just hold the art teacher accountable for this students abject (object?) failure. I say we must hold the school nurse or counselor accountable as well even though he or she might only come to the school on an irregular basis. It is the responsibility of these professionals to get this child the additional help he so obviously needs, so it is essential that a test be designed to hold these school professionals accountable. When a referral to an eye doctor or a psychologist is warranted, an exam on the correct way to fill out the requisite forms is one aspect of these positions that could be tested.

Music and PE are also essential areas to test. How else will the administrators know how effective teachers in these subjects are if students don’t perform at grade level? I agree that there is a good reason to hold a child back if he can’t carry a tune or doesn’t know that Every Good Boy Does Fine. Identifying on a clip whether “two singers are hitting the same pitch” as the article mentions, is a question that needs to be on an exam. This will hold to account teachers who have not been effective in teaching tone-deaf students how to hear the right pitch. Music teachers must be graded so children grow up feeling positive about their potential as future stars on “American Idol”.

And PE classes, so essential in teaching children how to understand the action in their video games, can only be evaluated by ensuring that the PE teacher be held accountable for students who, just out of the dribbling stage, learn how to dribble. That dribbling a basketball is performance based should not be a factor for developing a question on a standardized test. There must be a way, possibly by showing brief video clips of dribblers and having the students check the box for the one that is right. Imagine the impact on a child who later in life is unable to throw a 3 pointer? She will be an embarrassment to the nation. As part of the mandated 150 hours of exercise a week, recess must also be on the test to determine whether students know how to play right. This should be a significant part of how the PE instructor is evaluated.

But I wonder if testing in just these three areas is enough. Student performance in the cafeteria is an important benchmark in their learning potential. There has got to be some accountability for lunchroom staff, so if a student doesn’t eat all his vegetables, or purchases Jello™ instead of pudding, we must develop an exam that can show whether students are benefitting from their lunchroom experience. Third graders could be tested on the appropriate way for a server to wear a hairnet. The exam for Tenth graders might ask how many chicken nuggets the average student can eat in a 15 minute lunch period.

Additionally, it would be remiss for administrators not to have the means by which to test the bathroom skills of students. A 5th grader who leaves a puddle around the toilet should not be allowed to advance to middle school. Should toilet paper be used indiscriminately without holding the janitorial staff accountable? Formulating exam questions on bathroom usage should not be an issue for test developers who are used to throwing out a bunch of s***. Younger students could be asked to identify the shape of a toilet seat, and the exam for high school students who have a bit of math under their belt could ask them to calculate the trajectory needed for certain methods of toilet usage or the volume of water displaced by other functions.

These are but a few of the areas of schooling that should be subject to testing as a way to determine whether benchmarks are being met for each grade level of Florida’s students. Other areas to test are still in the development stage such as determining how to hold parents of students who receive free lunches accountable. Just as Governor Scott continues to pursue the requirement that those who receive welfare be drug tested, it would not be too much of a stretch to drug test each student who gets a free lunch to determine whether there are residual markers that indicate drug use in the freeloading welfare home in which these students live.

Clearly, as has been shown with the increase of testing and holding everyone accountable for everyone else, the administrative, the legislative, and the executive authorities in Florida are doing everything they can to assure that they are doing a good job.