Standardized Testing Poetry

Last week I had posted a brief collection of poetry that I thought was benign. Those poems, with references to the tests my students are tasked with mastering each spring, were removed at the encouragement from school administration. My poetry had jeopardized the validity of my students’ scores and asserted a dangerous point of view in terms of my professionalism and requirements of being a teacher in handling the sensitive test information.

I am mulling the decision to repost these poems and the consequences this act may have for my licensure. I believe the poems stand as a critique of our testing culture and the realities facing our students in this education paradigm. The fact these poems could be seen as a threat to my students’ scores or my professional integrity only reinforces the need for a look in the mirror with this testing climate we live in as educators and students. Can my poems, with direct correlation to the tests, really be so dangerous? Am I not allowed to critically think about my experiences as an educator and interpret them poetically? Do my words about tests and the frivolity of the tests outweigh my references to disillusioned youth, school massacres/murderers and the everyday grappling with apathy and boredom? I would think mentioning Klebold, Harris and Lanza would be more of an alarm than addressing testing issues.

As I try to personally come to a conclusion about these issues, I offer two more poems written form my experiences last week. In response to my poetry, I am no longer allowed to proctor tests at Vista Grande. That doesn’t mean I cannot critique and, more importantly, feel.

Grammar Teacher’s Doubt
Has the comma dislodged
from an isolated brain wrinkle
finding roots within the written response?

When I said run-on sentence
and they said huh?
did it matter how I responded?

If I were explaining poetry again
to a crowd of texters and tweeters
would they finally see themselves
as poets
creators of lines
affronters of language?

Do they remember what I have spoken
of their voice
that their song can move mountains
and today’s audience is aptitude?

Gaps Akin to Achievement
One exists with nutrition
the abyss between my students’ McDonald’s
and those students’ whole foods

There’s one with stability
the great equalizer is home
perhaps the heat, the divorce, the abuse

Purpose—the great unknown of growing old
and whether this test is any measure
of anything on which to rely moving forward

5 thoughts on “Standardized Testing Poetry

  1. Mary Green says:

    love hearing from you again…loved the last poems and today’s poems…

    and just want to let you know that someone on FB told me not to talk so much in a manner critical of the government, that I’d be put on a list…so I had to stand up and think about that for a bit…and you having to question yourself as to writing poetry and/or “obeying” some school administrator…seems to me to be of the same ilk, same question (hope you don’t mind my reference pt or feel that I’m interjecting my life onto your life). * It’s an awakening sort of question *in that it adds tension where there wasn’t any before. And that tension has lead me to again reaffirm that I want to live in a way of having no enemy. And, so I’m going down that road, took that turn in the face of the present cultural need of right/wrong and enemy/patriot…

    *Whatever you decide, it will be a strong thing…I know you and trust the strength of your essential being.*

    By now, I am liking the tension and the clarity that’s arising for me. * Perhaps, by and by you will also like the tension of this moment, and the decision that you make. * After all…nothing ever really gets a “good” soul down…it’s all just grist for the mill.

  2. Asia Golden says:

    Ned…YOU ROCK and are Rolling with the tide of times…Something similar happened to me teaching and I was “let” go of for a difference of opinion…that is when 3 first right amendment lawyers contacted me…just saying. Keep the WORD ALIVE!

  3. Ross Burns says:

    Ned, your school’s administration (and everyone else) should read this article from the Atlantic which ran about a year ago. In case they don’t read it, you can make these two points. One, Finland’s education system is consistently ranked best in the world by global surveys. Two, Finland has no standardized tests.

    Read it here.


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