Only a Test Question

A teacher wreaks havoc upon her students’ college-and-career readiness by denying them the test prep they’ve come to expect…

amplifystudentsBy Sarah Lahm
In a shocking display of misplaced priorities and poor judgment, a teacher in [INSERT NAME OF CITY OR TOWN HERE] made an irreparable error this week. Instead of *teaching to the test,* as she had been subtly, yet repeatedly, instructed to do, this teacher committed the unforgivable sin of teaching her students about the test. This shocking breach occurred in the middle of what used to be known as April but will hence forth and forever be known as National High Stakes Testing Month.

The scene of the crime
Yes, it is true. As soon as we heard about this horrible mishap, we rushed over to College or Bust Middle School, to interview as many of the affected children as we could. First up? One Michael Lawrence, who described the situation this way:

“A couple of weeks ago, we stopped reading about the Spanish Inquisition and started getting ready for testing, which is what we always do. Our teacher’s name is Ms. Lucid, and she’s pretty new at our school. So she must have gotten the wrong instructions or something, because she didn’t give us a bunch of practice tests and talk to us about how to get lots of rest the night before the big tests, and stuff like that.

question-marksInstead, she put some sample test questions up on the white board and started asking us what we thought of the test questions. It was weird at first, but then it kind of started to make a lot of sense. She asked what we thought about the reading passage up on the screen, which was a long poem about some guy’s socks. Ms. Lucid pointed out that whoever wrote the test wanted us to be able to guess what they thought the meaning of the poem was, because one of the questions says: ‘Which of the following sentences best describes the meaning of the poem?’

This kid next to me, my friend Luis, said, ‘What if we don’t think any of the sentences describe the meaning of the poem? Is there, like, a place for us to write what we think about the poem? Because I don’t think it’s really about this guy’s socks at all. I think it’s more about, like, how he wants to have somebody make something just for him, like his grandma used to. My grandma used to make stuff for me, too.’”

Silly kids! How will they know what to think if we don’t make them try to guess what the right thing is for them to think?

Confusion 101
Next up was Grace Norris, who said she was very confused by the way Ms. Lucid was talking about the tests they had to take:

badnews2“Ms. Lucid said that the tests weren’t really trying to find out what we knew or thought, but were more about, like, if we could guess what the people who wrote the test wanted us to say. She showed us this other passage, that was about how calories were good for us and gave our bodies energy, but how we shouldn’t eat too much or then we wouldn’t be healthy. And I was, like, thinking about some of the kids I knew in my old neighborhood who sometimes didn’t have enough food and so this guy on our block would give them fruit and other stuff from his refrigerator. Then I started thinking about where I used to live, and I forgot about what the test was about anyway. Now I can’t remember at all. I’m pretty sure I’m going to fail.”

And Ms. Lucid still wasn’t done wreaking havoc upon these students’ college and career readiness, folks. After encouraging her students to ask questions about the tests being given to them—the very tests which will help determine her excellence as a teacher, not to mention whether or not these kids are headed to college debt or [I WOULD INSERT ANOTHER OPTION HERE BUT THERE ISN’T ONE]—Ms. Lucid went on to let these students know that they didn’t really have to take the tests. She even handed them a piece of paper that their parents could sign, which would mean they would no longer have any data next to their name in the school district’s vast new systemized data efficiency rubric tool. This is alarming.

Zero tolerance
college_bannerIn a swift show zero tolerance for this kind of non-teaching to the test and failure to instill college and career readiness, the school district responded by immediately outlawing paper of any sort. According to an email sent from the district’s Office of Achievement Enhancement and Monitoring: “Paper will no longer be used in any of our schools, in the event that another teacher might try to convince his or her students’ families to refuse the tests by signing a piece of paper. It is our job to protect our students’ hope for a money-filled future by having them spend hours trying to think like test company employees. We will not back down from our duties one bit.”

Ms. Lucid is said to be busy dodging angry mobs at this moment. She stands accused of failure—to believe in the potentially excellent test-taking skills of all of her students, and to administer the test prep the students thought they had coming.

Sarah Lahm once worked as an English teacher and is now busy building a career as a corporate education reform crime fighter. She also has a bunch of kids who attend public schools in Minneapolis. She can be reached at or @sarahrlahm.

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  1. Ms. Lucid must not teach in Minneapolis. Otherwise she would know that the Kramer family desperately needs this data!! How else will they justify their predatory school reforms for their “beat the odds” charters??? Eli and Matt need to continue to be able to justify their outrageous salaries.

  2. This is awesome. Thank you Ms. Lahm. I’d be so embarrassed to be a reformer, they seriously need to get a grip on reality.

  3. Ooh! Ooh! This game looks fun. Can I play? Here, let me try!

    At [COLLEGE PREP OR BUST] high where I taught, some really bizarre things were happening.

    First, when I arrived, they showed me to my classroom and told me I was teaching Creative Writing. I nearly dropped my [COLLEGE PREP OR BUST] mug of Kool-Aid on the floor. Art?! How was this going to help them thrive in college en route to the economic golden ticket degrees and hefty salaries?

    Then, the Corporate Overlords didn’t deign to show up once all year. This was more than a little unnerving to me; I felt like a forgotten sandwich artist at a forlorn Subway in a lonely strip mall that got deleted from the corporate spreadsheet. How was I to measure my excellence? Who was going to bump my merit paycheck up next year?!

    Then, a couple months into the school year, at parent night, FOUR of my students’ parents and/or guardians showed up to conference with me. I felt mislead. I felt lied to. Where were my engaged parents? Was I supposed to support my students all by my onesies? I decided to call Corporate Headquarters that very night, but got too bogged down with my teaching to the test lesson planning, and it slipped off my plate.

    Then, in April, a week before the [HIGH STAKES TESTING] on which my students were about to demonstrate their deep knowledge of Test Maker Psychology, the principal called a meeting to remind us that [HIGH STAKES TESTING] was taking place, and that we should encourage our students to try hard. I was taken aback. “That’s IT?!” I protested. “Where are our gaming the system manuals? Where is the PD that trains us to help students eliminate close confuser multiple choice answers?” My principal stared blankly at me, and then moved the agenda on to planning for the talent show. Needless to say, I was shocked (just SHOCKED). To soothe myself and banish the images of my students walking into the test so woefully unprepared, I went home and built a few straw men. Arts and crafts is a wonderful self-soothing mechanism, I find.

  4. Sadly, the teachers in my state have been told that if they “encourage or facilitate” opting out, we may lose our license. Just like in the story, only real. It’s sick.

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