"The Answer Sheet"
By Valerie Strauss
February 16, 2016
"I should not have to see a counselor because of all that I feel at school. Having to take so much (high-stakes test) prep time is a waste, to pound all of this stuff in our heads, when it doesn’t even measure what we know and how smart we really are."
Cadence Mulrooney is in third grade in Hernando County, Florida. His mother, Kimberly Mulrooney, said her son has always struggled with his speech and has an Individualized Education Program to help him in school.
Despite her son sometimes being the target of bullies, his mother said that when the family lived in Virginia he loved school because of teachers who worked with him to make academic strides. But, his mom said, things changed this year when the family moved to Hernando County, where he found “incessant test prep” in third grade.
The “prep” is for the Florida Standards Assessment, the heart of the controversial, state-mandated “accountability” system that is so flawed that it has sparked a revolt among school superintendents, teachers and parents who have called for it to be replaced.
The administration of the FSA for the first time in 2015 was marred by severe technological problems, but students will be taking it again this year, with the results factoring into school funding and teacher evaluation.
For Cadence Mulrooney, the emphasis on the test scores in his class is so intense that, his mom said, it has made him hate going to school, and he is seeing a counselor to help him with his distress. He asked his mother if she could arrange for him to speak to the county school board so he could express his feelings — and she did.
The following is the video of his recent speech to the board, and the transcript. I am running it because this third-grader represents many students who find test prep to be the center of their school day.
Here’s the transcript:
"My name is Cadence Mulrooney and I am a third-grader at Challenger [K-8 School of Science and Math].
I used to love school and all the learning that took place. My best subjects were math and science. Ever since these so-called standards have changed, I am struggling even with my best subjects. I am in the process of seeing a counselor because I feel so stressed out, overwhelmed and sad about the changes that I am having to deal with that have taken place.
I as a child should not have to see a counselor because all of this that I feel at school. I no longer love school and no longer want to go. I wish my mom and dad had the means to have me home schooled. I feel with all of the talk about the FSA and having to take so much prep time is a waste, to pound all of this stuff in our heads, when it doesn’t even measure what we know and how smart we the children really are.
That time could be used for better things, such as extra help on the stuff that I may not understand fully or some other great learning options. I really hope you take what I have said and our parents say to heart. I want to love school and learning again.
That will not happen unless you help us and our parents make our schools better. Please also remember we the children are your future. Thank you for your time."