Recently, an 11th grader at a Pennsylvania high school shot himself. He was despondent over low grades and worried his parents were going to curtail his activities.
Was this tragic event an aberration? Probably. But without a doubt there will be more depressed and upset students in the years to come. Due to No Child Left Behind, the stakes for higher test scores increase every year. On a daily basis our children, from second grade onward, are labeled. While some receive the label of advanced or proficient, the vast majority of children are deemed basic, below basic or far below basic.
These labels are derived from children's performance on the "bunch o' facts" standardized tests that permeate our schools. English learners and students in poverty receive these negative labels the most frequently.
To make matters worse, unscrupulous teachers and administrators worried about their job or school's reputation remind our children on a daily basis of their "proficiency level." Candy or privileges await those who mark the correct bubbles and move up a level. Those who stay the same or go backward get nothing. Such a negative message is strong and damning, and we need to treat our children better than this.