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    A Lesson in Teaching to the Test, From E.B. White

    From SchoolBook by Anne Stone and Jeff Nichols:
    In a recent quixotic attempt to broaden our kids’ horizons beyond Hogwarts during evening story hour, we turned to E.B. White, whose crystal-clear style, arrow-straight moral compass and trenchant sense of the ironic, coupled with great storytelling gifts, make him a superb choice for both children and adults.

    New Yorkers in particular have found again and again that his writings have anticipated the talk of the day, so we should have predicted that his perspective would illuminate current debates over the importance of quantifying student progress and teacher performance. White’s wonderful book about a mute swan given voice by a trumpet stolen for him by his father, “The Trumpet of the Swan,” contains the following passage that in a few paragraphs beautifully evokes the elementary-school classroom of yesteryear – and, we should all hope, of tomorrow. (The episode is at the close of the chapter entitled “School Days.”)
    The fifth-graders were having a lesson in arithmetic, and their teacher, Miss Annie Snug, greeted Sam with a question.

    “Sam, if a man can walk three miles in one hour, how many miles can he walk in four hours?”

    “It would depend on how tired he got after the first hour,” replied Sam.

    The other pupils roared. Miss Snug rapped for order.

    “Sam is quite right,” she said. “I never looked at the problem that way before. I always supposed that man could walk twelve miles in four hours, but Sam may be right: the man may not feel quite so spunky after the first hour. He may drag his feet. He may slow up.”
    In light of current controversies around testing and teacher evaluation, let’s do a little thought experiment. How would Miss Snug have handled this lesson if it were occurring just before a round of standardized testing? Would she not have had to interrupt the children’s speculations and instructed them that actual circumstances in word problems must be completely disregarded, because the point is to arrive at the answer the test designers have in mind? After all, how could test designers anticipate the lines of thought that spontaneously erupted in her classroom? Real life, and real thought, are too complicated to be foreseen – and so need to be put aside at testing time.

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  2. #2
    I got a good kick out of one of the comments:

    LOL. This article reminds me of a test in school in which the student was given a -0- but maybe he should have gotten 100. here is the test:

    Q1. In which battle did Napoleon die?
    * his last battle

    Q2. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?
    * at the bottom of the page

    Q3. River Ravi flows in which state?
    * liquid

    Q4. What is the main reason for divorce?
    * marriage

    Q5. What is the main reason for failure?
    * exams

    Q6. What can you never eat for breakfast?
    * Lunch & dinner

    Q7. What looks like half an apple?
    * The other half

    Q8. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what will it become?
    * It will simply become wet

    Q9. How can a man go eight days without sleeping ?
    * No problem, he sleeps at night.

    Q10. How can you lift an elephant with one hand?
    * You will never find an elephant that has only one hand..

    Q11. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in other hand, what would you have ?
    * Very large hands

    Q12. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it?
    * No time at all, the wall is already built.

    Q13. How can u drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it?
    *Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack.

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