- A Reading Affair to Remember - September 19, 2014
- What Do the Green Shoe Laces Mean in Educational Reform? - January 31, 2014
- The Current State of Education in New York: "The Hunger Games" (Part 3) - May 17, 2013
- The State of Education in New York: "The Hunger Games" (Part 2) - May 16, 2013
- The State of Education in New York: "The Hunger Games" (Part 1) - May 15, 2013
In this first of a 3-part series, the education policies of the State of New York and the country take on whole new meaning in light of The Hunger Games...
In The Hunger Games, the Capitol rules. In education, “The State” rules. In The Hunger Games, the Capitol cuts off the food supply to the poor districts that are already starving, leaving characters like Katniss Everdeen and Gale Hawthorne to hunt for food illegally to feed their families, while those who live in the Capitol and District One want for nothing.
In the current state of American education, the plan is to rate and assess schools based on state exams, and the ones who fail will have the funding ripped away. Most of the schools that will fail tragically are schools in poverty stricken towns while charter schools continue to flourish.
- In The Hunger Games, two child-age tributes from each district are sacrificed by sending them into a public arena to fight to the death. This is done for the entertainment of the government and to show the people of Panem who truly holds the power and as punishment for an earlier rebellion referred to as the “Dark Days”.
In the state of education, we are sacrificing learning and instructional time for our children to endless testing. We have made children the pawns in a game for power and money, and we are sacrificing their love of reading and learning. This stress should not fall onto children. The tests have little to no bearing on the children themselves. If they fail, they might be placed into academic intervention classes, yet the results of the exams are never released until long after students’ schedules have been made for the next year. The tests do not count for the child’s grade that they earn in school. The tests are meant to evaluate schools, and now they are meant to evaluate individual teachers, and the resource of money is on the line. In The Hunger Games, the Capitol promises to hold back the resource of food if its citizens do not comply, while in the current state of education the resource of money is used to force districts to comply.
- In The Hunger Games, the tributes fight for survival in the arena, until only one victor is left. The citizens of Panem watch this spectacle from all over the country. In order to make this fight to the death in the arena as entertaining as possible, the Gamemakers shake things up for the characters. For example, when things are too boring they send a wall of fire to flush the tributes, including Katniss, out from their hiding places. The State might have been inspired by the series themselves.
In their own version of spitting out fire and releasing tracker-jackers, New York promised the public that most of the students will fail their new Common Core exams. In a memo from Ken Slentz, educators and parents are informed that “because the new tests are designed to determine whether students are meeting a higher performance standard, we expect that fewer students will perform at or above grade-level Common Core expectations (i.e., proficiency) than was the case with prior-year State tests.” This is unfortunate information to those teachers, principals, and schools who are being evaluated on the success rate of students on the exams.
The public is becoming more aware of this “Gamemaker” strategy that is being used by the state. As John Hildebrand noted in Newsday:
At a PTA meeting, some parents have gasped at the difficulty of sample test questions taken from a state website. For example, a third-grade reading passage, based on a tale by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, includes vocabulary and definitions for such words as ‘caftan’ (an ankle-length shirt with long sleeves), ‘hoarfrost’(frost) and ‘granary’ (a storehouse for grain). Such passages reflect a key principle of Common Core standards -- that literary readings be authentic, not watered-down or abridged versions of classic works. Applying that principle to testing requires use of more difficult passages, state officials said. . . Richard Iannuzzi, president of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers union, said in a phone interview that he takes Slentz's memo to mean that passage rates could drop by half. Any such result would be unfair to many teachers and students, the state union chief contended, because the state has not yet provided local districts with all the curriculum guides needed to prepare for tests, and because preparation levels vary widely from district to district.
Surely, education policy can do better than setting our students up to fail, and dragging our teachers along.