Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

Star Testing

There’s this corner store by one of my schools that is called “2 Star Groceries.”* I smirk as I go by it every day, imagining the conversation that occurred when the owners were coming up with their business name.

Business Person #1: What should we call our corner store?

BP #2: How about 5 Star Groceries?

BP#1: No, I think that’s being optimistic. We’re not that great.

BP#2: You’re right, we’re really more of a 2 Star kind of place.

BP#1: “2 Star Groceries” it is!

My curiosity got the better of me today and I decided to see what a 2 Star Grocery would look like. So I popped in to get a snack. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not a place I’d go to again. There was wilted produce and dust on the tops of the cereal boxes, leading me to believe Captain Crunch was probably now Sir Stale. So the name 2 Star was true to form. But what if it had been called 5 Star Grocery? Would that have made a difference in their store pride? Would they have stepped up to the plate and made it a fancy store? Would I have had a different view of the store if my expectations were higher?

I once worked in a school that changed its name 4 times and it was still the same under-funded chaotic school year after year. Does it really make a difference to call a school “High Expectations Elementary” or “We Believe in You Middle School?”

The high expectations movement in education has gotten a bit out of control. We are now holding kids to sometimes developmentally inappropriate standards under the guise of “high expectations” and not providing resources equitably to help the students achieve these goals. I’m not advocating low standards for urban kids, I’m just saying that schools should be given resources to help children who have had unequal developmental conditions and are yet still expected to achieve at the same rate as advantaged peers. High expectations are necessary, but not sufficient to raise achievement. That’s like telling 2 Star Grocery to change their name to 5 Star Grocery, demand better products, but then not do one thing differently. Magically, will their produce turn fresher because we expect it to?

This all begs the question of what resources are needed for students to meet high academic expectations? I am biased toward providing mental health services so the students can focus on academics in the first place. But I don’t know the answers. All I know is that writing into an IEP (special education plan) that a borderline mentally retarded kid will be striving for an “adapted” 9th grade Algebra standard is ludicrous. I also know that it is that dreaded time of year where we do STAR testing (California Standardized Tests). Every year, I deal with the fallout of giving kids with learning disabilities a grade level test that they cannot do, because by definition, a kid with a learning disability is behind academically. As a result, I see the “Better to look bad than stupid” acting out. And I can’t blame them for wanting to save face.

I just hope our high standards don’t make them feel like 2 Star Students.

*Many of my school sites do not have any commerce near them other than corner stores or liquor stores. Luckily many of the liquor stores have deli sandwiches, burritos, and such in addition to their fine selection of alcohol and tobacco products. The only up-side is it makes me save money because I have to bring a lunch, or I get to say point-blank to the Principal, “Um, I am going to the liquor store for lunch, do you want me to get anything for you?”

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