This morning we had Christianity class outside sitting on the grassy hill in front of the building, and it was so nice and warm and quiet in that little amphitheatre-type area that I stayed on the hill after class and took a brief nap before lunch, spreading my wool coat under me and over my stomach as a blanket. Mmm, sunshine.
Lunch was nice, too, despite the fact that I wanted to nap some more, as they were playing the usual late morning/early afternoon techno over the speakers in the food court, and I got a nice booth warmed by the lamps overhead, which I always enjoy. Sometimes simple things make me feel content when I'm not busy hating everything.
Beh. The online edition took forever to put up tonight, with 21 stories—that's pretty big for an issue of the paper. It took until about 12:30 a.m. to get it all together and online, and given that I got to the office to copy edit around 6:45 p.m., that means I was there for about six hours or so. Luckily I figured out that iTunes has some pretty good streaming radio stations—I started off trying to find decent alternative streams but couldn't find anything mainstream enough for my tastes, so I switched to Top 40, some of which was decent. Then I decided to try some Euro-pop techno, which turned out to be a wonderful, DDR-esque kind of catchy, so I listened to that until I left.
Jon called around midnight to check the new voicemail message he'd recorded and was surprised that I was still there. Of course, anyone that knows me pretty well knows that I've got that whole tilted sleep cycle going on, so 12 a.m. isn't that late for me.
Somehow the train of thought concerning Jon's amazement intersected with thoughts of payment. I wonder every once in a while if it'll ever be possible to convince them to give me last year's back pay for copy editing all spring without getting paid, since they hadn't printed out new copies of the forms I needed to fill out to get on the payroll. I'm guessing that's a pipe dream that'll remain unfulfilled, though.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the MAP Test
Earlier I think I made a good argument on the MSA Invision board about why one should bother to take the Missouri standardized achievement tests, the MAP and TerraNova. See my testimonial/argument here:
Reprinted here for posterity:
Junior year when I took the MAP test, there was this English section question about how to raise/rear children properly (stupidest question ever, in my opinion—not at all relevant to things we learn in school). Smartass that I am, I took the topic and ran with it, making up a state pamphlet on how to raise/rear children properly. Points of emphasis included making the most of your food stamps, ensuring that your child is as popular as possible, making sure to buy the best, coolest clothes for your kids on your food-stamp budget so they'll fit in, getting your kids involved in sports so they learn how to obey authority figures, etc. Added bonus: If your kid gets hurt badly enough playing competitive sports, they can be put under state-funded care/state custody so you no longer have to pay a dime, and if they survive, then they'll have the foundation of a good ol' boys network from sports that'll prepare them for future jobs as a civil servant of the state/government employee. This was all written with impeccable grammar and an insouciant wit such that there was no way they could call me out on the actual English involved, which was, after all, what the test was ideally supposed to be about.
Yeah, so I had fun with that one, and surprisingly enough was deemed proficient or competent or whatever despite mocking the school system and the MAP test itself. I really did rock it as far as proper English is concerned, though, so perhaps they were forced to recognize that.
As far as whether your MAP/TerraNova scores appear on your permanent record, yes, they may appear on your school district permanent record. That has absolutely no bearing on getting into college, though—it definitely didn't show up on my high school transcript as far as I recall. It is nice to get that state kickback on AP tests for doing well on the MAP test, though.
Anyway, here's what I think as far as your protest is concerned: I think it's a little misguided, but hear me out here, and I'll explain why. I think it's better to protest by just taking the test and putting a slant on your answers than by refusing to take the test at all. While you want to learn things during those couple of weeks that they're using for the MAP/TerraNova tests, there's probably no one at your school (there wasn't at mine) who's going to teach it to you. Even if they let you abstain from test-taking, you'll probably end up cooling off in the office (like you apparently were forced to anyway), doing menial tasks and running errands, rather than working on anything of value.
Further, so much in the way of state/government funding depends (for better or worse) on those scores. While you may be self-directed enough to make good use of your time instead of taking the tests, I'd say that's the very reason you should be taking them, despite the fact that they're often poorly worded and don't really measure what they should. Here's why, in several steps of reasoning:
Reason 1: We know the tests don't measure what they should. That doesn't actually matter, though, unless you personally have a desperate need to find out about yourself through standardized testing. The tests may not be a completely accurate way of evaluating people, but if they're inaccurate the same way for everyone, then it matters not—the key here lies in differences between students/populations, not in what a given individual student gets on the test. You're smart, so you're going to help up the average for your school even if you do poorly compared to what you know your own potential to be.
Reason 2: The real point of measuring anything with the tests is to determine which schools get more or less funding. While it may be exploitative, the schools generally rely upon intelligent students like us to bring up the average scores. Why do we care? Why should we go along with it? We care and comply because better scores, especially when there's improvement in scores between years, give our schools/districts more funding. More funding, as long as it's not put towards helmets for the football team, may allow them to provide us with better teachers (higher salaries attract the better among educators), more money for district gifted programs, and more money for activities we're interested in, like academic teams, math clubs, etc. Obviously the allocation of funds will vary by district, but yeah...with the emphasis the state and federal governments are putting on "leaving no child behind," it's getting so that (again, for better or for worse) districts need to show improvement on test scores every year to continue receiving a high level of funding. (It's the capitalist model of achievement—remaining steady isn't an option, you've always got to be making progress of some sort to be considered legitimate.)
Reason 3: In a certain sense, all rebelling does when you're dealing with autocratic morons who run schools and school districts is confirm stereotypes about intelligent students—namely that intelligent students are "difficult to deal with" or "uncooperative" or "elitist." I'm not saying you should go along with everything they try to push over on you—it's a fantastic thing that you actually have a sense of values that you're willing to stand up for, as so many students really don't recognize the problems with the education system we're working with—but in this case, it seems more detrimental to resist, especially for so little personal gain.
Reason 4: If you don't take them in a given year, you don't know how bad they are, so you're in no position to argue that they should be changed or abolished. Experience is what counts when you're making such an argument to try and change things. Further, if you don't take them, you can't have fun complaining about how dumb the questions are and how you're too smart for the test. ;)
Reason 5: You get money back when you, intelligent person that you are, go to take AP tests or take dual-credit classes through Missouri universities. While it's not much, it's often enough to convince your parents that the extra expense it takes to enroll in such classes is justified. What do you get out of it? Advanced placement in college (possibly, depending on what the subject is and where you go), several college credits out of the way, and less cost per credit hour.
Reason 6: Further, even if the tests register incorrectly that you're doing poorly, it doesn't affect anything besides getting money back for APs/college credit, which you probably don't care about that much if you've initially decided to boycott the tests altogether. That make sense? In any case, if you're this intelligent, there's less chance that you're going to do worse than the truly poor students. Given the reasons outlined above, I think the potential benefits of actually taking it definitely outweigh the slim potential losses.
My advice? Be subversive rather than confrontational. Take their crappy little tests and ace them while making fun of them at the same time. Perhaps work to get things changed at the district or state level so these tests are made better. When you find a crap question, write it down, then note it in the section at the end of the test (there should be one) where they ask for problems with the test. Make note of the problems and write them down on a separate piece of paper, too, then write an email or letter to the powers that be telling them what problems you found and why it should be changed. If your teacher won't let you write down questions that are poorly worded or irrelevant or what have you, then go to your principal and tell them that you'd like to help improve the test and that they should support you in that. Get other people to do the same thing. With something that's been made into such a big deal by people in power, like President Bush with his friggin' national initiative, standing up for yourself by refusing to take the test altogether seems like an unnecessarily difficult way to go to make your point.
Also, it may help if next time around (if there is a next time, depending upon what grade you're in now), you tell your parents about your objections beforehand. Do that, giving them plenty of time to consider your reasoning, and they may support you, regardless of what the administrative powers that be have to say about it. When they end up hearing about it in a one-sided phone call from a principal, though, you've just lost any leverage you might have had. Parents oftentimes have a real need to project the image that they're concerned and doing all that they can to "raise you right," especially when confronted by an authority figure who has a hand in their kid's future. Undoubtedly the principals and other key administrators know this and will use it against you when given the chance—and when they themselves feel threatened. In such circumstances, parents will often reactively pronounce things and come down against you unnecessarily in the game of appearances the administrators manipulated them into playing. That's why I say to be subversive and get your opinion on the table well in advance—if you don't, you don't really have a position to fall back on.
For further reference that's not really related to testing, per se, but rather just to being an intelligent student in our flawed school systems, check out this stuff I read lately:
Also, before I forget, I should relate this anecdote from Postmodernism class on Tuesday. I was sitting there, watching this girl who's also in my Karma & Rebirth class talking to the guy who makes a point of getting up about halfway through class every day and walking out of the room, then coming back a few minutes later. The guy wears awful shoddy house slippers to class when he can (I mentioned offhandedly one day how awful they look as I was passing him on the way out the door) and looks like a weasel or something, with uncut hair, unshaved blond stubble, and abounding arrogance...yet he's just a smarmy malnourished freshman who takes too many philosophy courses.
I have a lack of patience for the freshmen in that class, as they remind me of freshman dorm kids in their faux-art-rock pretentiousness, and I think that most of them are in it because they thought that a "fun," snarky name ("What is Postmodernism, Anyway?") would equal a fun class. Guess what, kids? It doesn't. So they annoy me, always whispering to each other and talking through class, and on this particular occasion they kept standing there talking even as the TA walked by and gave the girl a stack of handouts to pass down the row...then kept talking as Professor Bourg was clearing his throat to start class...and didn't pass the handouts down the row. You need the handout to follow along in there, yet no one was doing anything—the girl next to me, Laura or Amanda something, wasn't paying any attention at all, despite the fact that she hadn't gotten the handout either.
Class was starting momentarily and they were still gabbing—so I got up and stalked to the end of the row: "Hey." They looked up. "Hey, yeah, I know your conversation's really important and all, but can we have the handouts now?" [stunned, distasteful looks from both of them and the people in the row of seats behind where they were standing] "Wow...that was really rude," said the girl, looking down her nose at me. "Yeah, that was really rude," echoed the weasel guy, staring at me in amazement. "I didn't even know I had more than one sheet," the girl insisted indignantly. "Yeah, OK, can you just give me the handouts now?" She gave 'em to me, and I stalked away without looking at them again. They all spent the rest of class snickering and whispering at intervals. Screw them. I want my handout, especially when class is about to start and they're still standing there gabbing away. Talk about rude—after all, it's rude to point out someone else's rudeness, and I don't really see how asking for something that I was already supposed to have received constitutes rudeness.