Have you heard that there’s a breakfast bar that instantly makes a person write better? Of course it’s true; I read about it on the internet.
OK, so I’m not that gullible. But many children are, and educators are not above using that vulnerability to boost the test scores that determine Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) under the No Child Left Behind act.
Hagen Road Elementary School in South Florida has purchased a large quantity of “FCAT Power Bars” clearly labeled “Warning: Improves Writing Power!” These apple-flavored cereal bars will be given to 4th grade students before the writing portion of the FCAT exams this week, in the hopes that there will be a placebo effect. Students will believe that the breakfast bars will make them smarter, and so they will achieve higher results on the tests. That’s the theory, anyway.
This is a downright dirty trick. Until they grow to adulthood, these children will believe that it was a magic breakfast bar and not their own abilities that helped them to be successful on the test. What happens when they have to take another writing test and there is no special breakfast bar to make them smarter? This mind-game decreases self-confidence and sets the children up for future failure.
Why don’t we simply teach the children to write and to use test-taking strategies, and then stand back and let them show what they’ve learned? Let them be proud of their achievements when those scores come back. Crediting success to a breakfast bar instead of a child is unconscionable.
One final note: The obvious solution to testing problems (including lying to children, correcting answers on student bubble sheets, "inadvertently" dropping failing scores when calculating AYP, etc.) is to dump NCLB and the high-stakes testing that came with it. NCLB isn't improving education, but it is making children, parents, and educators insane. Enough already.