Actually, Tyler's first response was correct.
How crazy has the testing environment gotten? Get a load of this:
Tyler Stoken was a well-behaved fourth grader who enjoyed school, earned A’s and B’s and performed well on standardized tests. In May 2005, he’d completed five of the six days of the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning exam, called WASL, part of the state’s No Child Left Behind test.
Then Tyler came upon this question: “While looking out the window one day at school, you notice the principal flying in the air. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens.”
The 9-year-old was afraid to answer the question about his principal, Olivia McCarthy. “I didn’t want to make fun of her,” he says, explaining he was taught to write the first thing that entered his mind on the state writing test. In this case, Tyler’s initial thoughts would have been embarrassing and mean. So even after repeated requests by school personnel, and ultimately the principal herself, Tyler left the answer space blank. “He didn’t want them to know what he was thinking, that she was a witch on a broomstick,” says Tyler’s mother, Amanda Wolfe, sitting next to her son in the family’s ranch home three blocks from Central Park Elementary School in Aberdeen, Washington.
Because Tyler didn’t answer the question, McCarthy suspended him for five days. He recalls the principal reprimanding him by saying his test score could bring down the entire school’s performance. “Good job, bud, you’ve ruined it for every- one in the school, the teachers and the school,” Tyler says McCarthy told him.
Aberdeen School District Superintendent Martin Kay ordered an investigation. “My suspension was for refusal to comply with a reasonable request, and to teach Tyler that that could harm him in the future,’’ McCarthy told an investigator. “I never, for a second, questioned my actions.’’
Tyler, who’s 4 feet (1.2 meters) tall and weighs 70 pounds (32 kilograms), hasn’t been the same since, his mother says. “He liked the principal before this,’’ she says. “He cried. He didn’t understand why she’d done this to him.’’ Now, Tyler blows up at the drop of a hat, his mother says. “They created a monster. He’ll never take that test again, even if I have to take him to another state,” she says.
Tyler’s attitude about school changed. He became shyer. He’s afraid of all tests and doesn’t do as well in classes anymore, his mother says.
McCarthy’s May 6, 2005, letter to Tyler’s mother detailed her son’s suspension. “The fact that Tyler chose to simply refuse to work on the WASL after many reasonable requests is none other than blatant defiance and insubordination,” McCarthy wrote. In the letter, she accused Tyler of bringing down the average score of the other 10 students in his class. “As we have worked so hard this year to improve our writing skills, this is a particularly egregious wound,” McCarthy wrote.
Her accusation was wrong, state regulations show. There is no averaging of the writing scores. Each student either meets or fails the state standard.
Well, it appears young Tyler was right on the money in his initial assessment of his principal. Do you think they actually have to reserve an entire parking space for the broomstick?
Personally we are expected NOT to look at kids' answers, which I think is a wise policy, given that one's response may betray a correct answer and end up getting your school in a huge pile of trouble. (And this article is actually a sidebar to a longer article detailing the problems with the grading errors testing companies have made in this high-stakes world.)
But a three day suspension for a nine-year-old who hadn't made anyone go to the hospital? Good grief!