ONE HOT MORNING in May, Kiana Hernandez came to class early. She stood still outside the door, intensely scanning each face in the morning rush of shoulders, hats, and backpacks. She felt anxious. For more than eight months she had been thinking about what she was about to do, but she didn't want it to be a big scene.
As her English teacher approached the door, she blocked him with her petite, slender frame. Then, in a soft voice, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm not going to take the test today." The multiple-choice test that morning was one of 15 that year alone, and she'd found out it would be used primarily as part of her teacher's job evaluation. She'd come into class, she said, but would spend the hour quietly studying.
The teacher stared at her dark-brown eyes in silence while students shuffled past. "That's a mistake," he said with a deep sigh.
By her own estimate, Kiana had spent about three months during each of her four years at University High in Orlando preparing for and taking standardized tests that determined everything from her GPA to her school's fate. "These tests were cutting out class time," she says. "We would stop whatever we were learning to prepare." The spring of her senior year, she says, there were three whole months when she couldn't get access to computers at school (she didn't have one at home) to do homework or fill out college applications. They were always being used for testing.
Kiana had a 2.99 GPA and is heading to Otterbein University in Ohio this fall. She says she did well in regular classroom assignments and quizzes, but struggled with the standardized tests the district and state demanded. "Once you throw out the word 'test,' I freeze," she tells me. "I get anxiety knowing that the tests count more than classwork or schoolwork. It's a make or break kind of thing."
READ THE ENTIRE STORY AT THE MOTHER JONES WEBSITE.