Demon and Tests Terrorize Teens

By Lynn Olson — September 23, 2004 1 min read

Whittaker Magnet School boasts the highest standardized-test scores in the nation, but at what price?

When George and Kate transfer to the school, located in the basement of the town library in King’s County, Pa., they encounter a curriculum focused on beating standardized tests, students who are force-fed noxious protein shakes to improve their performance, and classes held in dreary, windowless rooms by teachers who are referred to only by subject and grade level. Classes consist mostly of completing the test-prep workbooks from every state.

Worse still, loose in the building is a demon on a murderous rampage.

That’s the plot for Edward Bloor’s new novel for teenagers, Story Time, published this fall by Harcourt Children’s Books.

As George and Kate set out to foil the demon—and transfer out of the school—Mr. Bloor pokes holes at the state of American education and its focus on test-based accountability.

Says the principal, Dr. Austin: “If information is not tested in any of the 50 United States, is there any reason for a United States student to learn it?”

Not surprisingly, Dr. Austin gets his comeuppance. But Mr. Bloor, a former high school teacher and the award-winning author of two other children’s books, Tangerine and Crusader, says Story Time is not really about “our hard-pressed public schools, which I support wholeheartedly.”

Rather, he says in an online interview with the publisher, “The Whittaker Magnet School is a gross anomaly in which callously ambitious pseudoeducators get what is coming to them.”

He hopes adolescent readers walk away with the message that “standardized testing is not really about them at all. It is about real estate and politics and money, but not about them. Therefore, they should not let such tests upset them.”

While the school’s test-based curriculum, in which students have a test every day in every class, may seem like a “ridiculous exaggeration,” he cautions, “it’s really not. If that approach got the first lady and the president’s blessing, every teacher in America would soon be implementing it.”