Author: Miriam Cohen

Plot Summary: This story about a group of first graders, as they take what seems to be a sort of placement test, touches on how testing can be a frustrating process for learning, curious students. It also suggests that intelligence and qualities of a "good student" are not necessarily measured or measurable by a test. The book mentions three questions on the test and shows some students' uncertainty about how to answer those questions. For example, one boy gets stuck on the question, "What does a fireman do?-A, make bread; B, put out fires; C, sing" and the student recalls his own experience with a fireman who came to get his uncle's head out from being stuck in a pipe, but this was not an answer on the test. So, how could he answer this based on his direct experience? Maybe firemen do put out fires, but this student has never experienced that personally and that is certainly not all that firefighters do. Afterwards, one student gets switched to a special class and the rest of the students ponder what the test says about their intelligence. Some students feel that they are dumb or incompetent, but their teacher helps them realize their intelligence and ability by asking for their help in solving various tangible problems. This can be a great book to discuss students' shared and individual experiences after standardized testing

Posted In: Social and Political Philosophy

Discussion Questions:

Why were the students upset after taking the test?
Was the teacher a good teacher? What makes someone a good teacher?
Is a supportive teacher the same thing as a good teacher?
Where do affirmation and encouragement factor in to a teacher’s success?
Does a test measure the teaching ability of a teacher?
What are the qualities of a good student?
Why is standardized testing written? Does this advantage some students over others?
Should tests be free response or at least allow space for explanation of answers?
Is there such a thing as a perfect test? A perfect test for a single student?
What does testing do for self-esteem of students?
Do tests measure intelligence?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of advancing a student in a special class or higher grade-level early?
What are alternatives to testing?
Is taking a test a skill in itself?
If a student continually tries, but fails over and over, does this make them a bad student? Does hard work have more weight in the evaluation of a student than test scores?
What are examples of intelligence outside of high-test scores?
Are intelligent people admirable?
What would a philosophical test look like?
Why do we emphasize the importance of single, right answers?

Contributed by Gobe Hirata