Last week I was emailed that my APPR testing would be done this week -- cue descending 3 note flourish. I thought about it, shrugged, laughed and returned to deleting the hundreds of items backing up in my email box. After mulling over the notion that this test would be representative of my pedagogical chops for the year I could only hearken back to the words of New York State Supreme Court Judge McDonough who aptly dubbed the APPR mess "Arbitrary and Capricious."
Of the kids being counted in my 9th grade class (remember I only have 6 kids at a time due to the nature of my workplace) one kid suffers from severe depression and social anxiety and is working through the usual raft of issues any 16 year old transgender kid faces on a daily basis. His attendance is sub 50%. Another of my freshmen is prone to fits of moodiness, is prone to using his size to bully adults and often sleeps for an entire double class period. Yet he is also stunningly intelligent. His family inexplicably took him on a vacation to the islands for 10 days at the end of April when class was in session. My third ninth grader currently is in foster care and has been for a few years but is working out the anxieties of being reunited with her birth mother who still retains legal guardianship yet hasn't seen her in God knows how long. School work is somewhere on a back burner between moving back with Mom, working out the trauma that led to her foster care and boy bands on YouTube. In short, these kids are attending school in a psychiatric facility for very real reasons. The one size fits all mentality of Common Core, NYSED and APPR is an insult to their situation. To say the notion that a post test of any kind determining their abilities or mine is presumptuous would be an understatement of West Belfast proportions.
Suffice it to say my tenth graders aren't in much better shape. They are great kids and they try hard but the deck stacking and one size fits alling of the current scheme almost guarantees failure on some level. I have always observed that kids with basic needs being un-met are very unlikely to excel in any kind of higher order tasks. Likewise the old adage that parent's night answers a lot of questions is doubly true in a place that holds twice monthly family meetings. When the kid sitting between her birth mother and Grandma in the family meeting is the most mature member of the family it's hard to feel like education has scored any victories when she tanks on her post test the day after Mom's bf du jour gets dragged out of the house by BPD at 2:30 am. The idea that these kids get the same one size fits all treatment as kids from stable affluent 2 parent homes with smart zip codes and champion field hockey squads is simply bizarre. It's actually bullshit. No, better yet, it's arbitrary and capricious.
If and when the scores come dribbling back I can handle it. I have a union and some court rulings as precedents if I really need them. I can be put on the bad teacher remediation program, a credit recovery system for grown ups as it were. But what do these kids have? Some more failing grades? the disapproval of New York State? The chance to do all that shit all over again in the hope that next time it will somehow come out differently? Why would it? And when you're 16 or 17 and somehow your life just hasn't stabilized for long enough that you can get your act together and roll up a few credits what looks more doable: toughing it out and grinding til you're 21 to collect what you need for that diploma or simply saying Fuck it. I'm out?
We've known for a long time now that one size never fits all on anything. Why are the people running public education still trying to convince us that it does?