Cal Trout article

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Testing reflects loss of local school control

May 2, 2008:
 It’s all on the line today, or this week I should say. At least that’s what we’re told. So, they sit in rows using pre-sharpened pencils performing results of our pedagogical duty. Everything from the superintendent’s job to their diploma is ultimately riding on what they do in this overly cold room.

 We’ve done all we can for them. Spent all year producing and submitting paperwork to the administration in the event too few of them pass the newly upgraded tests. Weekly meetings, mentoring groups, a hell of acronyms: SATP, AYP, etc. Learned and utilized trendy educational terminology: “rigor,” “differentiated instruction,” “share,” “increased accountability” ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

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 We go over the top to make sure they have the necessary fuel to perform for an extended period of time. We give them grapes, grape juice, chocolate, peanut butter crackers, vitamin water. We allow them to bring in food and Gatorade — whatever they need to keep their sugar up in this, the most obese state in the union.

 We give them reassuring pats on the back. We offer spoken encouragement. Smiles. Throughout the year we expose and repeat, then change the approach and again, repeat. Yet, at the end of the day it is up to each individual student to keep it all afloat.

 And, for the last month the teachers of state-tested subject classes have walked the halls of the school looking more like scared ghosts than the intelligent, competent men and women they are — results of the trickle-down economics of the No Child Left Behind Act.

 For what? The answer is simpler than it may seem. We hear accountability as the justification. Yet is it not more just to allow localities the freedom to hold their own school systems and employees accountable? Of course it is. That’s why, according to the Constitution, education doesn’t fall under federal jurisdiction.

So, the answer is quite simple: money. The feds bribe states with federal dollars and the easy prostitutes turn the trick every time. More money can mean more programs, books, teacher pay; it also means more paperwork for the bosses than the students. But more importantly (and more dangerous) it means the loss of the freedom of local people to educate their young the way they best see fit. Worse still, it’s unclear if their minds, bodies and spirits are being made healthier by this federally-mandated standard.

 Today, it took some students from eight until almost three o’clock to complete the English State Test. Four of them threw up. One had a nosebleed. One, a seizure.

 The more I think about it, the more I believe we’ve done something, not just terribly wrong, but something simply terrible.

(Ed. note: Cal Trout is a highly regarded English teacher at South Panola High School. He resigned effective the end of this school year. Contact him at