Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No Child Left Behind Breakfast

Don't get me started on standardized testing. I really can't stand that our school has to spend the first two months each year on prepping or taking MEAP testing (Michigan Educational Assessment Program). Note to self: add MEAP to my "Thank you George Bush" list, along with the Iraq War, the decline of the auto industry, the depression we are now in, etc. Okay, I'll stop whining now.

Standardized testing has been around a long time - I can remember taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in the 1970s when I was a kid, but there was less riding on it than there is now. I wonder why the Iowa test is the one we took? Didn't Michigan have its own test? Why was Iowa's so good, anyway? I recall that it was mind numbingly boring. When you reached the end of the test section was a STOP SIGN, and we were warned not to go past it. When we reached it, we were to close our books and put our heads down.

I didn't know then that I was what we would now call "academically gifted". My mother kept my IQ score from me until I was an adult, because she was afraid of putting too much pressure on me. Having a kid that was smart worried her - she thought she'd mess it up somehow. One of the curses of being smart is that I would often reach the STOP SIGN way before everyone else in the class. I can distinctly remember having to put my head down for 45 minutes during one of the Iowa tests - I was done 45 minutes early. That's a long time for a 5th grader to sit still and be quiet. As a result, I'd try to take the test as slowly as possible. It was hard to drag my feet on the math parts, because math was especially dull to me in grade school.

I hated taking the Iowa Test, but it was really prep for a lifetime of standardized tests - later on would come the PSAT, the ACT, the GRE and the GMAT for me. I'm fortunate to be one of those people that do really well on standardized tests. My scores on these tests never matched my grades, which often made teachers and professors proclaim that I wasn't giving school my best effort. My problem with school isn't my intellect, it's that I'm am "OP" - an optimist procrastinator. I often think things will take a shorter time than they actually do, so I put it off until the last minute. I run out of time.

These days, the MEAP tests are treated with much more pomp and circumstance. Kids are supposed to bring in mint gum to chew to relieve stress. There are nutritious snacks served, and parents are supposed to prepare high protein breakfasts. This is difficult for an OP like me. I never have enough time to whip up a fabulous protein laden breakfast in the morning, even though I have the best intentions. So here's a great breakfast idea for the OP's out there.

Breakfast Casserole

Base recipe

12 slices bread
1 lb shredded cheese (for ours I used cheddar for the meat ones and Mexican for the vegetarian ones)
8 eggs
1 ½ c. milk
1 ¼ T. Worcestershire sauce
Filling of your choice (1 lb. pork breakfast sausage or bacon or ham, cooked) or vegetarian*
1 stick butter

Place 6 slices of bread in a 13X9 pan. Top with filling of your choice, cheese and another layer of bread. Mix eggs, milk and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk until blended and pour over top. Cut butter into 12 pats and dot the top with it. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake for 1 hour at 350F or until the eggs are cooked through in the center.

Vegetarian Filling
3 green peppers, chopped medium
3 onions, chopped medium
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable oil
3 small cans sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained

Saute peppers, onions in vegetable oil until they are soft, and then add the garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and stir.

When you are done prepping this casserole the night before, you've reached the STOP SIGN. Put your head down. As an adult, this feels really good. Come tomorrow, you can start again. But for now, put your head down and wait for the rest of the class to finish.


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That head down thing was unique to your teacher, I'm afraid to say. The STOP thing is real, closing your booklets is real, but I was allowed to read when I finished and I allowed my students to read when finished years later.

Anonymous said...

We also had the Iowa Basic Skills test and we also had to put our heads down. I always finished first, too. And yeah, why Iowa??? Dude.

You are right about how it prepares you for life (PSAT, ACT, LSAT, Bar Exam, GRE), but it still sucks. My kiddos were all totally stressed out and I told them over and over that the test can't hurt THEM. But they still stressed out.

I realize that some sort of standardized test, in and of itself, is not a bad's the reliance that we place upon the MEAP and its ilk that is problematic. Particularly when, say, you read Braille and have to read a chart in Braille on the math MEAP. How the hell do you pass that sort of stuff? (Hint: you don't).

Jane said...

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw in your post that you had taken all those stupid tests in the 70's--so did I, and my psyche is still scarred.
It's such a pleasure to read about familiar things like Zingerman's and other references to my home state. Thanks for promoting Michigan and please keep writing: I really enjoy your blog!

jess said...


Anonymous said...

I'm studying home economics and education for my dissertation, and find your blog very interesting and entertaining! No Child Left Behind has left home economics in many school districts behind, and it's quite a loss.

The Iowa tests probably add to the pretty solid argument that standardized tests test our youth on how well they know middle-class, white America. You don't see many urban black youth references. Plus, the story problems and stories involve lots of material things that many poor students from any place might not have access to. I took the Iowa tests too in Ohio and PA in the 70s. Hands-on organizations like 4-H and community organizations help to balance the blandness of exams.