Huffpost Education
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Larry Strauss Headshot

The Big Sell-Out

Posted: Updated:

Big news for fake educators across California: the CST Released Questions have been released!

Now we can stop teaching and have our students answer random test questions from years past in the hope of inspiring brilliance in May when they are handed bubble sheets and #2's. Their scores will be published by the Los Angeles Times which will rank the district's middle school and high school teacher accordingly --as it has already done for (to) elementary teachers.

As always, schools will get their own numeric indicators of success and failure and so will districts, states, and our entire nation. These scores could swing elections, influence housing prices and predict the future of our economy.

Does it matter that the numbers themselves may be at least somewhat dubious? That they measure, as much as anything, a student's mood on testing day and the degree to which students -- especially older ones -- are willing to use their brains and wrists and fingers for an endeavor they've already figured out has no direct impact on them?

Take pride in your school, I urge my student, even if the place is an aesthetic and environmental disaster and even if your teachers keep getting layoff notices and your school year keeps being abbreviated. Make your test scores reflect something real so that the effort isn't a complete waste of time and money and so that we don't end up wasting more time and money giving you remediation you don't need.

But I refuse to lie to them about the purpose of these tests. If asked I will confirm their suspicions that these instruments are for the benefit of school board members and district officials, the mayor, the governor, the president, all the bosses of all the departments of education and the corporations that wish to insinuate themselves into the system and make education a business with their money and the strings attached.

Because all of these so-called educational leaders and visionaries have to eventually demonstrate what great leadership and vision they have provided and showing up to a few classrooms and feigning interest for some television cameras and newspaper snapshots just doesn't convince a skeptical public anymore. They need data they can cite and spin and sell.

My friends in the television industry understand. Careers are made and unmade on the shaky samples that are the Neilsen Ratings -- those few thousand boxes spread out across America, keeping track of which sets are on and to what channels they are tuned but not how many actual humans are in front of each set and conscious. Advertisers and executives, like so-called education leaders, need numbers and for them bad data are better than no data.

Same goes for the United States Government which bases cost of living adjustments on a so-called consumer price index (CPI) that excludes the price of the two most important things people consume, food and energy (which, I suppose, biologically speaking, are the same thing).

So forgive me for sitting out the testing mania that starts sweeping our schools this time of year. Forgive me if I don't think anyone's "released questions" deserve the attention of my students who will instead be reading and writing about The Grapes of Wrath and Richard III and Martin Luther King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Pardon me for not believing in a test that purports to measure a student's writing ability by asking multiple choice questions.

In May, I will be a good soldier and proctor these exams and encourage students to do their best and bring them healthy snacks and tell funny stories during breaks to get them through the tedium of filling in hundreds of multiple choice bubbles.

But for now, for all the high-stakes hysteria and political and corporate insincerity around these alleged tools of assessment -- and all the debate about the proper use of their results -- my students and I are going to try to forget they even exist.