Archive for April, 2012

The Achievement Games

April 22, 2012

Last Sunday, I went to see “The Hunger Games.”  I haven’t read any of the books, but I went with @paulawhite who has read them all.  Since seeing the movie, I have viewed life through the lens of “The Hunger Games.”  I am sure I will be able to shake this at some point, but for now…

I began thinking about our state testing program in terms of tributes and victors.  Let’s talk about the perils of government-driven, norm-referenced testing that separates our tributes and is designed to result in a limited number of victors.  High stakes testing nearly always punishes kids who come in with fewer life experiences and resources. Then, I began to imagine Arne Duncan and Seneca Crane as one and the same.


As I think about the parallels between The Hunger Games and The Achievement Games, I keep looking for a place that it breaks down and I can’t shake these images from my head.

What about the reaping?  The anxiety over what will happen to me, how will I represent my district (school), how long will I live, will I have to kill anyone, etc. represents the test-prep arena.

Escorts are like principals, performing the PR and cheerleading services while making sure the whole team has all of the resources they need.  The mentors are the teachers, warning the tributes about stamina and providing them with test-taking strategies like how to avoid being slaughtered in the bloodbath at the Cornucopia.

The balloons with helpful hints and additional resources that were sent to tributes by sponsors just might represent the available funds and resources of the school district to ensure the first pass at learning is highly successful and to provide additional tutoring if it is not.

Gamemakers are like lawmakers.  Just when it looks like a tribute is going to be successful at something, additional challenges (like a forest fire or vicious animals) are conjured up to issue new challenges.  This is kind of like playing with cut scores or introducing Technology Enhanced Items.

I can keep going with this, but it troubles me more and more the longer I stay in this mode.  I surely hope the American government’s many checks and balances would prevent anything as blatantly horrible as The Hunger Games from happening here, but we have allowed The Achievement Games to continue for years.  Why?