Challenge the Exam

(Excerpt from Keeping Score, the precursor story to Capturing Captain America)

Ronan knew this argument. So rehearsed and adolescent just as Kaja’s choice of attire. Her bohemian printed skirt and dyed wool sweater rounded out by colorful sandals and black pearls was so Berkeley looking. Sometimes he wondered why she was a math teacher and not a textile instructor at the local fashion design college. Kaja treated him the he was the establishment personified so they never really talked. She just ranted at him.

“Kaja, we are here to teach not be psychologists. We don’t have the mandate, authority, or resources to be social workers,” Ronan replied.

“That is not what I am asking for Ronan. I am simply saying that we need to have access to those who are able to deal with the emotional issues impacting proper learning. These kids are all anxious most of the time. While the 16 year olds in Pacific Heights worry about what Mercedes they will get on their birthday my students are wondering about how to pay the mortgage. I’m sure you know about the hierarchy of needs,” she snapped.

“Ok we are not here to discuss the current state of class and status in America Kaja. Ronan is here to solve a problem not implement a new social policy. It’s simple. We want higher test scores on the next state exam,” interrupted Principal Morrison.

“Let me add to that,” said Ward. “The state has accepted our petition to be included in a cluster of test re-takers in six months. Ronan has provided an outline on how we are going to prepare the kids. It’s a change in classroom teaching techniques, an increase in the practice exams like the last time, and we’re adding ESL to the program. Ronan suspects the language barrier caused the students to fail the logic games portion of the state test. We agree with him”

“Will there be a linguist involved,” Kaja asked cynically. “Since my students speak another language at home and are prone to street slang perhaps some interpreters will be on site?”

Principal Morrison looked annoyed but used to dealing with Kaja’s natural feisty liners. This morning wasn’t the time to discipline his rogue instructor in front of the Superintendent. Morrison knew Ward liked Kaja’s style. Morrison suspected Ward was more on her side than his but would never admit to it. Kaja was a natural teacher and her credentials were excellent. She always had new ideas to make Padua an inviting environment for the kids. If anything she was the math version of the Glee character Mr. Schuester. Kaja ran the math club and put in time for a lab to help kids struggling with numbers. She brought in video games designed to help kids learn math equations while playing on a gameboy. Kaja wasn’t a quitter but she wasn’t much of a team player which often hurt her chances for promotion.

“Kaja. I love your passion and sense of humor but we’re moving forward. This was not a meeting but an initial overview with Ronan on how we are implementing his scorekeeping plan. From now on you’re reporting to him but staying the chair of the math department.”

Kaja knew this was happening. She just didn’t like being reminded that Ronan was now her unofficial supervisor. This was a similar event to what happened in college when he got to be O’Hare’s TA in sophomore year over her. So the Malibu silver spoon got the cushy job on campus while she bartended in Hollywood and tutored for TutorCorps. It wasn’t all that bad she thought. Ronan was fair when he graded her tests. How could he not be when the answer is either right or wrong when it comes to math. Sure the numbers don’t lie but from statistics class she knew they could be manipulated and skewed by qualitative outliers. The bell curve is either in favor of a student or not. Life came down to your number, when its called, and when its up.


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