105 Ways to Give a Book

Thoughtful Thursday: SOL

In Virginia the tests that are given to all school children under the No Child Left Behind Act are called the Standards Of Learning tests, or “SOLs.”

Yes, many people sat around in a room and named the tests SOL. Did anyone say, “Hey isn’t that the common shorthand for Shit Out of Luck?” I guess we’ll never know. As it turns out, the name describes the test perfectly, because if the schools don’t do well on their SOL tests, they’re SOL.

Recently, it’s been “news” that perhaps getting one hundred percent of school-age children to pass these types of tests all around the country is — surprise! — impossible. However, when you’ve locked yourself in with a catchy name like No Child Left Behind, it’s really hard to back off. No Child Left Behind Except Joey, Tina, and Angel just doesn’t fly.

At the time it was a great name, because when anyone brought up anything against the act — like the fact that it’s impossible to achieve — supporters could indignantly say that the evil person speaking up wanted to leave a child behind. But now the name has become an albatross, and yet another proof to me of the power of words.

What made me think of all this today? A Year of Reading posted something that apparently has been passed around among teachers, but by golly, I’d never seen it. It’s a perfect description of what No Child Left Behind looks like from a different perspective.


Kaz said...

Yeah, I've been wondering about that 'SOL' name as well.
So glad I read that dentist link!! Such a good analogy.
Thanks for pointing it out, MR!

Tricia said...

Hi Mother,
We use the dental version in our foundations class to get students thinking about the fact that one size does not fit all. My new favorite, however, is this one a friend shared with me in the fall.

No Child Left Behind – The Football Version

1. All teams must make the state playoffs and all must win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship, their footballs and equipment will be taken away until they do win the championship.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents. All kids will play football at a proficient level!

3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own, without instruction. This is necessary because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic abilities, or whose parents don't like football.

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept on the 4th, 8th, and 11th games.

5. This will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind. If parents do not like this new law, they are encouraged to vote for vouchers and support private schools that can screen out the non-athletes and prevent their children from having to go to school with bad football players.


Jone aka MsMac said...

The NCLB is the bain of teaching these days. Sometimes we say no district left standing. Our students are facing the "WASL" (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) after spring break. I couldn't agree with your thoughts more.

zeelibrarian said...

Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

kismet! the school just called ten minutes ago about this years testing in my kid's school.

I love tests. standardized tests are the best! I think we should have more. I think we should test one week a month, two weeks a month! more tests!

of course, they are a big fat waste a time and a huge waste of money and corrupt like nobody's business, but by this time of the year all I can think is, "NO HOMEWORK NEXT WEEK! WHOOOT!"

MotherReader said...

Oh, the football one is good too.

I wish more people outside the teaching professions saw these. Both analogies really bring home how ridiculous the whole thing is. It's great as support within the education community, but it needs to break through to the parents, to all voters.

Though I'm feeling pretty disillusioned these days about the impact the desires of the American people actually have on American politics, I still believe. I'm still trying to believe.

Anonymous said...

I'm the bad mom who posted above, not so much a bad mom, but a bad villager. I know that no matter how much my child's curriculum will be limited in order to teach to the test, my kid will still be fine.

everybody else's kids. . . i don't know. and i really believe that we must all hang together or we will hang separately. it doesn't do any good to be well educated in a dying economy, in a collapsed democracy.

i know why NCLB has appeal. it's simple. or at least it looks simple to outsiders. the alternatives seem so messy. too bad that when you take something as complex as education and try to simplify it, what you get isn't simple, it's simple-minded.

is there a clear cohesive alternative to NCLB? it's easy to tear down NCLB for so many good reasons. Is there something else we should replace it with?

MotherReader said...

I'm not the one to offer another plan, but I'd say that one place to start is by acknowledging the differences in communities that teachers and schools can't control. I'm not sure when it became a crime to recognize that socio-economic status does reflect in testing scores. Perhaps instead of pretending that fact doesn't exist and punishing teachers and schools for operating in less priviledged areas, the government could reward and support those teachers and schools so that they can do the best they can for the community as a whole.

Also, it might help to realize that achieving 100% success rate is impossible, unless you start doctoring the numbers. Which means schools that are really doing well are STILL stuck with a program that does not help the school or the students within it. Or, the schools get to select their students, and then SURPRISE they can have perfect scores.

We're demoralizing our teachers, limiting our kids, jepordizing our public education system and for what, a statistically unreachable goal.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

This would be a theraputic meme-- apply NCLB to your own profession and write about it. Thanks, Tricia, for sharing the football version!

Mary Lee said...

Thanks, Tricia, for digging out the football/NCLB one. I had forgotten about that one.

I agree with Alkelda -- this is MEME material!

Lady S said...

When I was student teaching the state of Virginia had just introduced the (or new) SOLs (the actual standards, not the tests). I was teaching 5th graders, on a 3rd grade reading level, from an 8th grade history book because there were no texts for the new requirements at that level.

This was before NCLB (1998) and even then I knew my children weren't moving along. It was amazing to me that I could look at my fifth graders and guess which ones would make it to college, which would make it through high school, and which would make it to jail. However, I could look at my second graders and see a bright future in all of them. Where do "we" go wrong?