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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Flogging the NJASK

With my daughter facing the start of the middle school NJASK, I made an amusing little animation about the ill effects of high-stakes standardized testing (using Xtranormal - I’m no animator). Well, I thought it was amusing, anyway. The point is, after I posted it, I got to wondering if other people had made similar videos.

So I went to YouTube and searched “NJASK.” What I found were dozens of videos, not criticizing the test, but designed to motivate students who are about to take it. Apparently, that is a thing schools do. Perhaps you know about the pep rallies many schools hold before the test. Many seem to just record the rally and put it on YouTube--I guess with the optimistic assumption that kids will want to relive the glory again and again. But many schools go further, creating special videos which, I assume, are shown at the pep rallies, in classrooms, etc.

 And these....boy. These videos just smack of fear and desperation -- fear that bad results will lead to sanctions, firings, closure, etc., and desperate willingness to try anything, no matter how embarrassing or misguided. Please understand: The schools and teachers involved have all my sympathy. They really, really do. But nothing demonstrates so forcefully just how pathologically test-obsessed our public schools have become, or explains so clearly why so many kids are getting very stressed out about something that should be so fleeting and insignificant in their lives.

 Here's the video I made:


And now, a selection of the various other NJASK videos I found. But first, a disclaimer. I understand that everyone involved in the making of these videos is just trying to do the right thing. There are no bad guys here, only bad situations and bad choices. In fact, many videos feature students, so I just want to say that I have no desire to mock kids who should actually be applauded for participating in what they are led to believe is a useful and positive project, and for showing pride in their schools. So kids, hooray for you and hooray for your schools. As for the teachers and administrators involved -- well, you have my sympathy, too. I know you mean well.

My favorite first. I'm giving this one the award for Most Bizarre and Disturbing, With Extra Gold Star for Mentioning Barfing:

This musical number gets two awards: Worst Overdub and Most Inexplicable Repetition of a Big Word Kids Don't Know (Metacognition):

The award for NJASK Motivational Video With Most 60s TV Clips (and Anti-NJASK Subtext) goes to:

Award for Most Realistic Portrayal of Test Prep Your Kids Suffer Through (also known as the Teaching to the Test Award) goes to this: a 45-minute video of a teacher modeling a persuasive essay about why kids should or shouldn't be allowed to chew gum in school. Really. And, no, I didn't watch the whole thing. But your kids have no choice.

This one gets the God Bless You for Trying, But Teachers, Your Kids Don't Even Know This Song award:

And last but not least, Most Gratuitous (and Boring) Use of Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi:

That's all for me, but if you find your own winners, feel free to post them in comments.

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