Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Angry Birds:" A Metaphor for Standardized Testing

As sure as the tulips begin to sprout; the trees begin to bud; and teens plan senior sneak, prom, and graduation, state-mandated testing assumes its federally-mandated intrusion into American classrooms.

 "Gr-r-r-there go, my heart's abhorrence!" With apologies to Robert Browning and his "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister." 

We have three computer labs in my school. All are booked for six weeks to accommodate the state-mandated test. We have a media center with room for one class--almost. It only has twenty-eight computers. It, too, doubles as a testing center but for the AP tests. 

Still, the tests reign. So while I played "Angry Birds" last night, a metaphor formed in my mind. Here I offer two options:

1. The birds = teachers and/or students. The pigs=the tests and/or their proponents.

2. The birds=the tests and/or their proponents. The pigs= the teachers and/or students. 

Both metaphors speak to the feeling I have of being hurled into a fortress of federal mandates and of having said mandates thrown at me. 

Those who have discovered the addictive pull of "Angry Birds" know what I'm talking about. For others, I offer a brief tutorial. 

I'm required to teach research skills in both my speech and English classes. The all-important tests prohibit me from offering students sufficient media center or lab time. 

Today I shared the media center with a colleague; another colleague has graciously sacrificed two of her media center days for one of my speech classes; a third colleague has agreed to share computers with yet another class.  

I'm certain many teachers around the country have tales to tell of a much more horrific nature. I hope you'll share. 

"Angry Birds" is free. There's nothing remotely free about standardized tests of any flavor. Like the federal deficit, we don't yet know the real cost to education; we just keep piling it on. 


  1. I feel your pain. As I tried to teach poetry today, I realized an unintended consequence of the testing culture. My students today do not like nor do they understand free verse poetry.

    They don't like the lack of structure. They don't like having to think deeply. They want a right answer, and they want to pick it and move on.

    Made me so sad.

  2. The tests have reduced poetry to multiple choice questions. Tragic.
    My angst is nominal compared to so many other teachers' struggle. I'm just thinking about the collateral damage, the debris that remains.

  3. The testing does what exactly for our students? I read recently that Finland has the best education system in the world; that is, they score highest compared with all other civilized countries. US is #25 (according to the movie Waiting for Superman). Finland has no, NO, standardized testing. There are many other differences between them and us, but I find it interesting that their students can beat out all other countries, yet there is no focus end-all, be-all testing.