How a Bubble Sheet Killed Learning

“‘There was this transformation of the whole culture—and curriculum,’ Andrea says. ‘I could see it mostly through the homework. It really looked like test prep. There were even ­bubble sheets.’ Oscar had more than a year before the third-grade test, when students start taking the New York State ­English ­Language Arts (ELA) and math tests—but the thinking goes that the sooner they learn how to take big standardized tests and the sooner any skill shortfalls can be dealt with, the better they’ll do in the long run. Oscar, however, had a paradoxical reaction. ‘His interest in school,’ says Andrea, ‘took this immediate plummet.’”

“She felt as if her son had been caught in a vortex: The school starts teaching Oscar differently, he loses whatever spark of curiosity inspired him to want to learn, and the school punishes him for it. He made it to third grade, but by then, test prep had come to dominate his classroom. Grand plans for science experiments and hands-on interactive projects, Andrea says, ‘would just kind of fizzle out and disappear because there wasn’t time to do them.’”

Robert Kolker, in New York magazine, on parents opting their children out of standardized tests. Read more on education from the Longreads Archive.


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