10 Meaningless Points

Once you are labeled a failure, that’s a hard moniker to overcome. It’s not a question of whether others view you as such, but it’s that you view yourself that way. Today in Oklahoma, we labeled 7,970 third grade students as failures based on their performance on one test. It’s a true travesty that 7,970 eight- and nine-year-olds will forever remember “not being good enough” in the third grade. They should have third grade memories of playing on the playground, their friends and all the neat new things they learned this year, not memories of the year testing sucked the fun out of school.

If you don’t think they know or haven’t been paying attention, then you obviously haven’t heard the conversations on the playgrounds, in the classrooms and at home. They know exactly what is at stake. For eight- and nine-year-olds at this time of year, the big question is, “Will I get to go to fourth grade?” For nearly, 8,000 students the answer is no – because of what you did on one test, on one day.

Each of those 7,970 students has a face and name – and a broken heart. It will be their parents and teachers who will have to tell them face-to-face tonight that their best wasn’t good enough. I wish Superintendent Baressi and some of our state legislators were the ones who had to see the looks of total devastation, the tears and then have to figure out how to build them back up to repair damage done.

Yes, it’s personal for me. I have a third grade grandson who missed passing the test by 10 points – 10 meaningless points. Those 10 missing points fail to tell about how hard he’s worked this year or how far he’s come since last year. Those 10 points don’t tell about the hours of homework he’s done, the special tutoring his parents have paid for, the hours and hours of hard work his teachers have devoted to helping him. Those 10 points don’t tell about the anxiety he’s felt since he found out he couldn’t go to fourth grade unless he passed the test – anxiety that fed on itself until it outweighed the confidence he needed for those 10 meaningless points. The missing 10 points do label him as “not good enough” to go on to fourth grade, they can possibly destroy his self-confidence and increase the anxiety he already feels. No child deserves that when they tried their best.

Well, from me to my grandson: Those meaningless 10 points do not define who you or the other 7,969 students are. You all did not fail the system, the system - and the legislature - failed you. You are a bright, young boy with a lifetime of opportunities ahead of you. You have parents, family and teachers who think you are a super kid and love you exactly the way you are. You are good at so many things that aren’t on a test. You are responsible, honest, a fantastic friend, a hard worker and above all an A #1 person. You are so very much more than a test score.


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