For the most part, I have been trying to keep this blog honest, but positive.
Today is honest, but it's angry, and it's real.
During my fall conferences, several parents asked me, "Why did my child get a zero on the writing portion of the state standardized testing last year?"
Now, before I go any further. Let me give you a quick picture of two of these students. One tests at the 13th grade level for reading and math. The other will be a New York Times bestselling author by the time she is in college. There were plenty of other students' parents that asked the same question. These examples just illustrate that these are stellar students receiving zeros.
"I don't know," I said. "But I do know the administrators are looking into it because our school as a whole did really poorly in writing."
By spring conferences, we had the answer.
Are you sitting down?
Any student who did not indent when writing their responses, received a zero.
Never mind if they thought deeply about the question.
Never mind if they cited evidence to back up their reasoning.
Never mind if they explained their thinking.
No indent equaled the grader could type in a big, fat goose egg and move on.
That meant the state saved money. I mean just think how many zeros they gave to third graders who didn't know how to indent on the computer! Talk about a smaller hourly bill.
Score for the state's wallet.
So, I told my parents and my students the truth.
The state is nasty and cheap.
I challenged my students yesterday.
"They're making you take this test," I said. "Do you think it's fair that you can work really hard, organize your thoughts, write an awesome essay, and then get a zero because you didn't indent?"
"No!" they shouted.
I agreed. "So don't let them do that. Make sure you indent."
Make 'em pay.