If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how I feel about state tests. Basically? I feel uncharitable towards them. Very uncharitable. Large, standardized monsters are taking over my children's education (or at least, that's how it feels).
I had more or less made my peace with it though. After all, there are a lot of stupid useless things in this world, and we all need to learn to deal with them, and if the ELA and the math tests weren't actually teaching my children anything useful on an intellectual level, at least they were showing them how to handle the idiocy of daily life.
Don't I sound positive?
Then this happened:
The first thing to know is that Chestnut is really happy at her new middle school. She's enjoying the hell out of it: the new kids, new subjects, greater freedom. Then, one day, she came home and said, "It feels sort of bad that I'm not in book group."
Chestnut: Yeah, they take a few kids—all the ones who are my reading level except for me—and take them somewhere separately to read The Diary of Ann Frank.
Me: Well can't you join them?
Chestnut: No, this other teacher comes in and takes them all out to some other place. It's obvious no one else is supposed to go.
Me: *black look on my face*
Chestnut: Mom, don't do anything…
Me: *furrowed brow*
Chestnut: Mom, it's fine, I'm going to read it on my own anyway, don't say anything, don't say anything!
I said something. Well, I sent a polite (I promise) email to the English teacher, noting that Chestnut really liked to read and wanted to be in this book group. Could she join?
I figured, really, that it was a misunderstanding, and Chestnut is shy, it's hard for her to ask for stuff, etc etc. Because, after all, why wouldn't they let a kid in English class join a book group if she wanted to?
I got an email back:
We've definitely noticed how much [Chestnut] loves to read and we're proud of the work that she's done in class so far. However, she won't be able to join the group. At the beginning of the school year, our administrators gave us a list of students that are required to be a part of these small enrichment book club groups for each class. The list was based on last year's test scores. Unfortunately, [Chestnut] didn't fall into the criteria that was determined by administration. In addition, each group can only have 5-6 students. Currently, the [Chestnut's class] group is full.
I know that [Chestnut] would have really enjoyed being part of this group. I apologize for having to decline.
Can you feel my rage from here? Can you believe this? CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT THE SCHOOL IS ACTIVELY EXCLUDING CHILDREN FROM BOOK GROUPS THEY WANT TO BE IN BASED ON THEIR TEST SCORES?
Chestnut, in fact, did well on the (stupid) ELA, but not the very top. Which is fine: she reads constantly, cares about school, and is an all-around excellent student (and person). After all, it doesn't really affect anything, right?
Except that it does. Her school is using her test score to exclude her from a book club.
This is just wrong. Kids who want to be in a book group should get to be in the damn book group. ALL kids. I know the schools struggle with personnel and levels and teaching classes of 32 kids—but this? This is wrong, I don't see it any other way. It's teaching kids the wrong thing. It says, "You know how you did on that test you took LAST YEAR? That's what matters. Not how you may have improved. Not what your teacher things. Your test scores."
This sickens me. It enrages me. And most of all, it makes me really sad, for everyone, really. For the teachers who don't get to decide for themselves. For all the kids, especially the ones who suck at tests but might, just might, be induced to read because books engage them more than tests. For everyone.
Chestnut, however, has gone off and read The Diary of Ann Frank AND Letters from the Secret Annex. So there.
I just wish she could have done so with other kids.
This, my friends, is the absolute opposite of what book clubs are about.