Thursday, February 5, 2009

One Day. One Test. One Score...

...determines four years of a child's future.

Today, like all the other eighth graders in the city, my little friends were notified of the results of the specialized high school exam. Almost all of my darlings took it, so as you can imagine, I had many more disappointed children than happy ones.

I suppose I'll start with the good news. One of my students, F's good buddy J, got into Stuyvesant. Usually a pleasant-but-reserved child, he hugged me twice. He was clearly tickled pink.

Another one of my friends, M, got invited to Brooklyn Tech. But she's likely to take a pass because her older brother, a former student of mine, already goes there.

Yet another of my friends, Lala, is off to LaGuardia for vocal music. She cried, with happiness.

My very dear friend AA provided the day's only comic relief when she tore open her letter, read it, scoffed, and said, "Thank God. I didn't want to go to a specialized school anyway."

On to the bad news. Now, to be realistic, some of my darlings who took this test had no business taking it, like my old pal S. Seriously, this child took the test! Most of them were not too badly deluded and therefore were not terribly shocked when they did not pass. My friend Stretch, for example, basically shrugged and went back to drawing after he read his letter. But there were a few near-misses and a couple of seriously broken-up kids in Class A and Class B, too. To wit:

My friend N, whose older sibling is at Stuyvesant, was devastated because she did not make the cut. She was offered a slot at another specialized school, but apparently her family is obsessed with the Stuyvesant brand name. She cried. Profusely.

And G, who had been supremely confident that he would be headed to Stuy or similar, was offered nothing. He had an asthma attack from crying so hard.

Poor T. Someone probably should have prepared him for the fact that maybe, just maybe, he would not do so well on the test. He also cried.

Yaya was offered nothing, a mild surprise to me--she's a bright girl and a hard worker, but just didn't get a high enough score.

And in what was probably the biggest shock, my buddy F, probably the most intuitive, deep, creative, thoughtful kid in the whole grade (with an average well north of 90 to boot), was also offered nothing.

It was a rough afternoon. Our counselor waited, wisely, until the end of the day to distribute the letters. I had been out scoring the ELA exam and had scurried back to my school to powwow with my pals before I went home for the day. I said hi to my sub and one or two of my colleagues, and then distributed tissues and Band-Aids and reassured kids that lots of good news still comes out in the main round.

This next part is going to sound like I'm making it up, but I promise I'm not. When all the trauma had left for the day to be assuaged my friends and parents, a couple of kids were still hanging around outside school. One of them, Ali (not his real name), said hi to me.

"Hi, Ali," I said. "How did you do?"

He shrugged. "Ah, my score wasn't high enough," he said. "I'm waiting for the main round, I guess."

"Well," I said, for the millionth time, "lots of good schools select in the main round. I'm sure you'll get something that will make you happy."

"Yeah," he said. "I'm glad you came back."

In a weird way, I was too.

J hugged me again before he headed to the bus stop.

It was a strange, happy-sad day.


In my next post I will tell you how much fun it is to grade the ELA exam.