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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.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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