When Perfectly Normal People Go … Batty

Apr 18, 2011 by

There is a well over-used cliché about the tension being so thick you can cut it with a knife. That’s unfortunate, I mean that the cliché has become, well, a cliché, because it’s a pretty good phrase.

But this week, across the state, you can pretty well cut the tension with a knife. Everyone is all smiles. But the smiles are tight. The kind you get when you’re about to go through a procedure that includes the words “root” and “canal.” And you hear something in the background along the lines of “what do you mean we’re out of anesthesia?”

Routines are no longer that. There are lots of discussions among the Sons of Thunder about the exact rules. Said discussions turn into debates, with deft phrases punctuating the air – words like “uh huh” and “uh uh” – in ever-increasing volume. More on that later.

Welcome to the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, affectionately known as the CRCTs. Also referred to as, borrowing yet another cliché, Hell Week.

There is a quite informative website run by the state to help parents understand why their kids are freaking out and teachers are screaming in the halls. Said site is, quoting verbatim, “producing well-designed assessments aligned to the state curriculum with timely dissemination of results.” In English, this means “we’re testing to see if your kid has learned anything and we’ll let you know as soon as we can.”

The friendly web site even lets us know what the CRCT is, as only a state can do: “The CRCT is designed to measure how well students acquire the skills and knowledge described in the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS). The assessments yield information on academic achievement at the student, class, school, system and state levels. This information is used to diagnose individual strengths and weaknesses as related to the instruction of the GPS, and to gauge the quality of education throughout Georgia.”

Again, in English this means “determining whether your kid is smart or dumb, and whether you’d kill to get into this school district or give it up, your school sucks.”

Apparently, we can blame all of this on some kid named Johnny. Who, again, apparently, got through school without knowing how to read. The nice people up in Washington were shocked, shocked I tell you. They immediately stopped sharpening their No. 2 pencils and decided everyone should take a test.

This has resulted in what down here is referred to as “teaching to the test.” And it’s also a time of knowing looks among parents, double-checking of ammo clips, hiding of silver and references to something about “The War of Northern Aggression” and “Damn Yankees.”

Our home is not immune.

The Little Black Dress lets it be known, more than once I might add, that she “suffered through test anxiety” when she was in school. And so she feels the Sons’ pain. For the record, I never said she freaked out and threw up every time the word “test” was mentioned.

To help the Sons get over any “test anxiety,” The Dress made sure they were prepared. This preparation involved the necessity of buying the Sons new sneakers. No, I do not understand the correlation.

Said preparation also involved buying pencils. This I understood. However, instead of getting a box of pencils, available just about anywhere, the LBD goes to the Big Bulk Store. Meaning she returns with not 10, but rather 1,000 No. 2 pencils. When she returned, I was about to ask what I thought was a rather obvious question; namely, do we need this many pencils?

Before I was able to utter anything, I got The Look. And she made the comment that the Sons would take extra pencils in case someone forgot to bring his/hers. So the entire school is now well-stocked. And the Sons’ backpacks look like some cactus plant.

So anyway. Last night I’m asking the Sons about the tests and before I get two words out …




Wait, what was that last one?


There are other rules as well, which apparently vary depending on whether one is in elementary or middle school. Or, the rumors on said rules have taken a life of their own.

For the elementary school, one must sit quietly after finishing. No reading of library books allowed. However, one may play thumb wars – by oneself.  And now we know where the phrase “twiddling your thumbs” came about.

For the middle school, you apparently are required to read after finishing. Quoting the eldest Son, “they want to make sure our brains keep thinking.””

The biggest debate is reserved for whether one may lay one’s head down on the desk. This will result in immediate removal and a meeting with The Man From The State, or is allowed provided you don’t fall asleep.

This Man From The State has taken on a life of its own. Either it’s a total fabrication or involves walking down a long dark hallway into a room with a single light bulb and coming face to face with a leather trench coat and monocle.

We’ll be able to lay this one to rest when the Sons come home this afternoon.

Or rather, if.

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  1. Angie

    I love, love, LOVE the way you write! You are so witty! And you have a knack for making people feel like they are in a converation with you. Lucky for you that the Sons and the LBD give you lots of material to work with 🙂 And Roxy Love…and CRCT’s…and annoying neighbors (yours truly) 😀