Last Friday I actually told a child who had left three questions unbubbled on a district periodic math assessment to go ahead and fill something into those circles. He looked up at me nonplussed, “But Ms. B, I don’t know how to do those problems.” And I found myself about to launch into a discourse about how some tests penalize you for guessing and others don’t and this is one of the ones that doesn’t so…
Then I saw his 9-year-old face.
One summer in the 1980s, I earned money by preparing undergrads test for the LSAT, the law school entrance exam. The field of test prep was brand new back then, and its one or two companies paid a princely rate of $30/hr. The class I taught was not about content and knowledge, but rather about how to game the system: how to analyze questions, answers, negations, distractors, etc. We were in our early twenties and gaming the system seemed pretty cool.
Now it’s 25 years later, and I can’t believe I’m teaching this stuff to little kids. New test prep companies open daily: giant corporations, boutique test prep, specialized test prep. They have come to dominate the education reform debate, and they generate ever more tests for which to prep. This is the world we have bequeathed our children?