A Student’s Response to PISA Score Release

Yesterday I had my freshmen read the article “American 15-Year-Olds  Lag, Mainly in Math, on International Standardized Tests” in The New York Times. I gave them an intentionally vague prompt to elicit their response about the article (see prompt below).

Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 8.19.10 AM

I have to say, I was impressed by their responses. Many students addressed the issues with reliability of the scores. They even did the math and found that 6,100 15-year-olds represent less than 1% of the entire population of 15-year-olds in the United States. They argued that this is too small a sample size, and they even noted that the US is so diverse that there is no way that such a small sample can possibly be representative of all students in America.

I may be biased, but I am quite proud of the ways in which my students stopped and thought critically about the validity of a test that so many adults seem to take at face value.

But that’s a whole other post.

The real reason I’m writing is to share one student’s response to the article. In just 43 lines, this 13-year-old freshman offers real insight on some pretty big ideas. She asks, “How can my end / be defined by a moment?” I wish I could have said it so well. Without further ado, here is Sim T’s poem!

Numbers and Symbols,
Mixing together in my head.
A chaotic scramble,
Unclear with no end.

The teacher stands up front,
Tests in hand.
The crisp clean white paper,
Deceivingly bland.

Beats of sweat appear,
Shivers down my back.
My vision blurs,
And my foot begins to tap.

Deep Breaths.
Breathe in,
Breathe out.
Clear your mind,
Focus on this,
For this… is your future.

But how can my end,
Be defined by a moment?
Aren’t I more then just that?

Why should I be,
Just a number on a screen?
I AM more than that.

Shouldn’t I be judged on my
Character
Patience
Knowledge
Creativity
Personality
Everything that makes me me?

But alas, however
Society is unadvanced.
I am required,
To fill out this paper.
This form of doom,
They call a “test”.

Innocent little bubbles and lines of text,
Stare at me from the pages.
I take one last breath,
Pick up my pencil,
And am lost in a sea
Of numbers.

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