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Jan 11 / Jonathan

No child’s behind left: the test

Greg Palast:

New York — Today and tomorrow every 8-year-old in the state of New York will take a test. It’s part of George Bush’s No Child Left Behind program. The losers will be left behind to repeat the third grade. Try it yourself. This is from the state’s actual practice test. Ready, class?

“The year 1999 was a big one for the Williams sisters. In February, Serena won her first pro singles championship. In March, the sisters met for the first time in a tournament final. Venus won. And at doubles tennis, the Williams girls could not seem to lose that year.”

And here’s one of the four questions:

“The story says that in 1999, the sisters could not seem to lose at doubles tennis. This probably means when they played

A) two matches in one day
B) against each other
C) with two balls at once
D) as partners”

OK, class, do you know the answer? (By the way, I didn’t cheat: there’s nothing else about “doubles” in the text.)

My kids go to a New York City school in which more than half the students live below the poverty line. There is no tennis court.

There are no tennis courts in the elementary schools of Bed-Stuy or East Harlem. But out in the Hamptons, every school has a tennis court. In Forest Hills, Westchester and Long Island’s North Shore, the schools have nearly as many tennis courts as the school kids have live-in maids.

Now, you tell me, class, which kids are best prepared to answer the question about “doubles tennis”? The 8-year-olds in Harlem who’ve never played a set of doubles or the kids whose mommies disappear for two hours every Wednesday with Enrique the tennis pro?

Is this test a measure of “reading comprehension” — or a measure of wealth accumulation?

If you have any doubts about what the test is measuring, look at the next question, based on another part of the text, which reads (and I could not make this up):

“Most young tennis stars learn the game from coaches at private clubs. In this sentence, a club is probably a

F) baseball bat
G) tennis racquet
H) tennis court
J) country club”

Helpfully, for the kids in our ‘hood, it explains that a “country club” is a, “place where people meet.” Yes, but which people?

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