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."

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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.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture