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Did you finish school before 2002? John Oliver explains how tests got a lot worse since then.

"Tests are supposed to be an assessment of skills, not a rap battle on 8-Mile road."

Did you finish school before 2002? John Oliver explains how tests got a lot worse since then.
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John Oliver devoted an entire segment of "Last Week Tonight" to taking on the idea of standardized testing.

Nothing sets off anxiety in the heart of a grade-school child more than the worlds "standardized testing." It's the bane of any student's existence. And recently, students, parents, and teachers alike have begun pushing back on the ever-increasing number of tests kids are subjected to.

Around the country, you'll find stories like these (and hundreds more), and it's happening without regard for political affiliation:


Growing up, most of us probably remember taking a test or two each year. But that's not the case anymore ... not by a long shot.

It turns out that kids are basically in standardized test mode constantly. And when you're busy cramming for the material that's likely to pop up on a test, you're not able to really learn.

To which Oliver responded:

Where did all these tests come from? To answer that, we need to go all the way back in time to 2002 for No Child Left Behind.

No Child Left Behind is a 2002 act of Congress that pushed standards-based education reform and set guidelines for the distribution of federal money for schools based on performance.

Former President George W. Bush in 2001 on what must have been "take your commander-in-chief to school day."

While No Child Left Behind was supported by virtually every politician in office at the time, it's become something most try to hide from — even though it's still in effect.

Whether you're looking at people on the political left or right, a "yes" vote on No Child Left Behind has become a stain on their record.

It passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 384-45.

It passed the Senate by a vote of 91-8.

(I challenge you to find major legislation that Congress can agree to at that rate these days.)

And so that brings us back to today. How do we measure progress? Tests. Lots and lots of tests.

And this is where No Child Left Behind led us astray.

In Oliver's segment, he highlights that the number of federally mandated tests has nearly tripled as the result of No Child Left Behind. Tripled!

And this doesn't even take into account all the state-level tests that students have to take.

But what's wrong with tests? For one, it creates a high-pressure atmosphere for students where they might not actually learn much.

People have questioned whether "teaching to the test" is really the best use of students' time. Also, when students are constantly put in high-stress situations, it's simply not a healthy environment.

Did you know that some test administrators are instructed on what to do if students vomit on their test booklets?

This doesn't even take into account the otherwise great students who simply aren't good test-takers.

Oliver showed a clip of a girl who was kicked out of her advanced language arts class after getting a low score on one of her standardized tests. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

These test-based standards hurt teachers, too.

Teachers are often graded on how much students' test scores improve over the course of a school year.

If standardized tests aren't good for students or teachers, who are they good for? Simple: the companies that make them.

A handful of companies have a hold on the country's standardized test industry, and this extends far beyond just school-based tests.

Of course there's money to be made. Of course there is.

With more and more parents opting out of tests, John Oliver offered those companies a challenge: Fix it.

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."