I am working with a conservative policy organization right now. A little “side thing,” that turned out to be a very big thing by the nature of how far the issue around which I base my work, stretches. It stretches (to date) 45 states wide. My work for them involves addressing education, and in particular, Common Core State Standards – that nightmare of a federal land-grab brought to us by the same administration that proffered healthcare.gov. It is a nightmare about which I can give you 10,000 words worth of dialogue – which represents about how much research-based writing I’ve done on it thus far. In the course of four weeks. Without even really trying. Because everyone from union bosses to tea party activists realizes it’s the worst educational debacle since “No Child Left Behind,” and the work is just pouring in.
I endeavor to reserve further discussion because this isn’t a political blog, but one designed specifically to help families dealing with hidden disabilities in their lives. I will simply say that today, for my son with Asperger’s, my non-neurotypical, out-of-the box, un-common son, Common Core came home.
Today was Maryland state testing day – the first of two. And, as the state has bought into the idea of Common Core – their obedience purchased by the government with “No Child Left Behind” testing waivers and a cut of $4.3 billion in federal funding – the curriculum in our state is new this year, and pulled from materials that are deemed “core approved.” I held my breath as I sent Noah out the door today, yelling after him,
“Don’t worry honey – you’re not being graded on this! I love you so much! Just try your best!”
This, because I’ve heard horror stories of children in other states bursting into tears, vomiting, and even getting nosebleeds from their experiences with Common Core assessments. This, because I feared very much that my son’s panic button would be pressed and he would utterly lose it after three hours of testing in an environment where not even questions of clarification could be answered.
Thanks be to God, the opposite happened.
“So, how did it go?”
Like Mr. Rogers. This is the top-line, every day, for every question, unless-you-dig-answer. And dig I did.
“Okay buddy, tell me all about it. I want to hear.”
“Well, there were some questions that I didn’t know the answers to, so I just put down anything. And then some questions where there were two right answers. And then the last question on page seven was about how many points the basketball team had scored in the fourth quarter, and I KNOW the answer was zero, but there wasn’t an option for zero. So I just put whatever. Then, I just put my head down on the desk and slept, because the questions were ridiculous, and I fell asleep, and the kids told me I was snoring. When the timer went off, it was a cow noise [his teacher likes cows], and I jumped out of my chair, and the kids started laughing. I laughed a little, too.
Then at the breaks, we got to run down the ramp in the school near the music room, since no one was playing their instruments, and we could run down as quick as we could to get energized.
Finally, we did the third section, and this time, I didn’t fall asleep or snore…The worst part of the tests was no talking – not even to the teacher – and the final page in the third section, because it was really hard and I didn’t know the answer. Actually, a ton of times I didn’t know the answer, even though I used my tools for most of it.”
So he’d hit the wall, and instead of imploding, he’d simply decided to take a nap. I whispered a silent prayer of gratitude.
Here’s the kicker:
The tests today weren’t Common Core assessments. They were the old MSA standards.
He’d hit the wall on the standardized tests of the old curriculum, and we haven’t even gotten to the new PARCC (core-aligned) assessments yet. Dear Lord, give a mother strength.
My son is not common. He does not bend to a standard or a platform; he cannot be shoehorned into an agenda, and I guarantee you that when he is assessed according to Common Core tests next school year, he will throw the county numbers out of whack because no one – nowhere – among the Common Core proponents has attended to the needs of developmentally delayed children – children who may not (likely won’t) shine on a standardized test, nor within a “standardized,” abstract, theoretical, explain your-answer-to-show-your-critical-thinking-process-and-don’t-bother-memorizing-things curriculum. In fact, Noah was asked to explain his answer on one particular Common Core math question this year. His answer,
“I just thought, and thought, and BAM! It was in my head!”
How do you explain critical thinking to someone who interprets everything literally and suffers from mind blindness?
I say this to those mothers and fathers, those brothers and sisters, those precious educators whose classroom creativity will be sacrificed at the expense of making our children little “global workers,” who will be forced into the reading of scripts because the curriculum is guided by standards that are soon-to-be-identical in every state, that I HEAR YOU. My heart goes out to you. I applaud your fighting for the “little guy,” for the kid who doesn’t get what’s going on around him because he literally believes his animals are talking to him – let alone that among four addition sentences and a picture of some blocks, there is actually a related “subtraction sentence.” Oh yes. This is an actual PARCC question.
I pray for Noah next year – that the tests and curriculum don’t get the better of him. And I trust that no matter the outcome, the Lord will use us to prove to Noah that he is worthy, that he is smart, that his way of thinking is perfectly fine because it is the way God made him.
And that – no matter his score – he is forever loved.