The SOLs

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 26, 2005

Somebody asked me the other day if teachers had to take the SOL tests they give to students. Gee, I didn’t know; but if they are expected to keep their job you’d expect so. I thought about asking Dr. Liverman but then I remembered he has never answered any question or made any comment about things I’ve written about the school system. He figures if he ignores me I’ll go away.

Apparently there is an SOL test for every subject category: history, math, etc. So you would expect teachers teaching math, assuming their degrees were in line with that subject, would volunteer to take annual relevant tests. And if their degree is not relevant to what they teach they should not be teaching it and should be forced to take proper tests if they are to continue. And I’ll bet there is a person in the administration whose assignment is to keep track of such things; and what kind of SOL tests do they take?

No, I would not expect Dr. Liverman to take the SOL tests…he is too busy and his job is more like herding cats, for which there is no test. Administration employees more than likely were at one time teachers who found how to claw their way out of the insane asylum of working with listless students. Not the handful of good students, the armloads of space-taker-uppers who are there in body only. Schools across the nation are jammed with those louts slowly turning the educational system into morass. So what kind of SOL tests would you put before an administrator or an administrator’s administrative assistant?

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Bus drivers take tests. Not only driving skill tests, those yellow busses are 40-feet-long and contain children of every conceivable temperament, color, size, and desire…it reminds me of my military days with the back of my jeep filled with boxes of dynamite. The driver of the school bus has no way of knowing when somebody’s fuse will be lit and cause a ruckus at 45 miles an hour. So the driver tests are special…tests of self-control.

A driver’s apprenticeship should be five years driving for animal control with the van loaded with freshly picked up stray mutts and without the usual protective divider wall.

I won’t ask if there is an SOL test following sex-education classes. According to the news some teachers have perfected a system called up &uot;close and personal.&uot; In my day that method could not have taken place because of the fear implanted and ingrained in both boys and girls. A place called hell was preferable to pregnancy and the only pill available to prevent anything was an aspirin. My sex education was the corset section of the Sears catalog and only when I was sure no one besides my kid brother was at home and he wouldn’t even peek at it. There was some kind of a full color anatomy chart in high school, one that rolled up like a window shade. Kids would pull it down just before the teacher came in and he’d get red faced and without a word simply roll it back up. We didn’t learn much and the size of the chart pictures made us boys feel inferior.

Nor will I ask if the school board members take SOL tests. They were probably teachers at one time. And it’s kind of a natural to have been a principal and later in life run for the school board. Some folks run so they can keep an eye on curriculum and the expenses. I doubt if they have much to say about who gets hired as a teacher, or member of the administration. But surely they should pick the top man, the Superintendent. Some run because their offspring had pleasant or unpleasant experiences while in school. Some run for the prestige and the pay. It’s not bad but one heck of a responsibility.

But I would suggest some sort of simple SOL test for parents before they are allowed to insert their gifts of life into the system. It might indicate if they had any idea, it’s been a few years since they were in school, I hope, any idea of what is expected of their child and themselves. The administration should know in advance if they are buying a baby- sitting chore or about to receive a gifted child from a gifted parent. If the parent can fill in the blanks indicating who they are it would be good. If the parent does not know that Ohio is one of the 50 states a flag goes up. Part of the parent SOL test should be an essay, no less than a hundred words, stating why they believe it is necessary their child be educated and what they will contribute to the experience.

Too negative you say? A friend of mine has a son who works in a fast-food emporium. On one of my infrequent visits I ordered a sandwich with minimum lettuce. He apologized and said the only kind they had was iceberg. He’s the same kid who plugged his power strip back into itself and couldn’t figure why his stereo wouldn’t come on. Well shucks, that wasn’t covered in the science SOL test.

By the end of the school year every teacher of every major subject in every school will be highly &uot;qualified.&uot; That’s the government’s promise, anyway. The reality will be far less rosy, say experts who analyzed how states are responding to President Bush’s education law and its unprecedented review of teacher quality. The definition of highly qualified varies widely and may not ensure quality at all; many states are declaring their teachers are qualified without making sure those teachers even know their subjects. It’s time for at least SOL testing.

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at