April 22, 2012

Really no need to panic during test time


---- — Parents are well aware that their children (in grades three through eight) have spent the past few days taking government-mandated standardized tests, which will continue this week.

Please, do not panic.

Sure, these tests are important. As I understand it, teachers will be judged by how their students are graded on these tests. Those labeled as underperformers could face the loss of their jobs.

Administrators whose schools don't do well could be demoted to cleaning crew and lunch preparation.

Schools that don't do well could lose federal funding, resulting in the laying off of both teachers and administrators, and the elimination of unimportant subjects like golf, reading and science.

Districts that do poorly could consolidate or shut down schools.

States that post low scores will be mocked by those overachievers in Vermont and American Samoa, and may just give up on education altogether, leaving students with no options but home school or expensive private school.

Individual students who don't do well on these tests will have their career paths irrevocably changed, at age 8. Their earning potential and the location of their future homes (or hovels) and the quality of their spouses and children will be determined.

They will receive red marks on their permanent records and the good colleges — even, really, the not-quite-average colleges — will blacklist them. Scholarships and school loans will be denied automatically. Welfare applications will automatically be submitted on their behalf.

More immediately, the underachievers will receive ridicule from the high achievers, and will be treated with contempt and spite by the teachers and administrators whose jobs and salaries are dependent on the tests.

So, again, no reason to panic.

At this point, your child may have already bombed the English Language Arts (ELA) tests, but all is not lost. Colleges realize that by 2019, 82 percent of their enrollees will have only the faintest understanding of written language, and books themselves will be an urban legend.

Math testing is this week, and good scores can identify your child as a future engineer or computer wizard or physicist or Bill Gates or actual wizard.

What you need to do is put your kids in the best position to succeed this time.

Make sure your young students get 17 hours of restful sleep, and play them subliminal tapes (whispering about isosceles triangles and pi) as they slumber. Give them a good breakfast that includes protein, fiber, pie and at least eight cups of coffee. Dress them in brightly colored clothing to keep them and their classmates alert.

Certain classes have wisely been teaching nothing but test prep for the past six months, but it wouldn't hurt to give your child a few more sample tests and several hours of practice filling in the little circles without going outside the lines.

Get your little pupils to school on time, and see that they are armed with fully sharpened No. 2 pencils. Be careful. If someone uses a No. 4 pencil, the graphite will mix with the ink on the answer sheet, potentially causing a rift in the space-time continuum.

Make sure your children know that if they just don't know the answer to a particular question, they can phone a friend or poll the audience for help.

Tell your children that cheating is most certainly wrong and abhorrent, but, you know, since all the world depends on these tests, well, a little stretching of the rules might be OK. Who could be hurt? Who is going to stop it?

We can help by embedding tiny calculators under their skin, installing tiny radio receivers in the frames of their glasses and etching itsy-bitsy quadratic equations on the surface of their contact lenses.

If all these preparations aren't enough, line up some lawyers to sue the school system and/or the federal government because the test unfairly discriminates against your child due to his height, weight, race, religion, age, sexual orientation or video-game addiction.

So, really, don't panic. It's just a test.

Email Steve Ouellette at: