My Son Scores Below Average on the Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) Test

Golly, if I had to take a standardized test every year, I'd be toast! 

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My Son Scores Below Average on the Measurement of Student Progress (MSP) Test


The MSP scores come in the mail
several months after my kids take the test,
it is late summer and they have been children
for two months, lazy children, silly children,
free.
I open the envelopes
and in happy colors, like ads for prescription drugs,
their thought processes are classified
into categories of systems analysis,
inquiry, application, domains of knowledge.

Their results are rendered on a long bar,
reminiscent of a thermometer,
mercurial, as young ones often are,
they are ranked, between boiling and freezing.
On paper, some are roasts not quite done,
a little rare, uncooked in the center.
If we were making candy,
my youngest would be thread,
the sugars not quite coming together. 
hardly Advanced
nor Proficient
not even Basic
but Below.

This youngest son recently spent an hour drive
dissecting the dynamics of middle school dating,
he is the first to alert me when I make a wrong turn.
He carries in five bags of groceries at once
and knows the statistics of all the professional football teams.

Measurement of Student Protest
Massively Stupid Pressure
Misplaced Soul Purpose.
Malevolent Spirit Pulverizer.

When I was in eighth grade a boy
whose name came just after mine in the alphabet
sat directly behind me in most of my classes,
he spent most of that year swatting my ass.
More than Lincoln’s Gettysburg address
or how to diagram a sentence,
I recall immediately
the mixture of shame and pleasure at his attention.
Sometimes kids don’t get breakfast,
occasionally parents fight on school nights,
often students have a crush on a girl two rows over,
the one challenging the dress code wearing
jeans with holes cut right at her thigh.

In Candyland, the highest achievers would be hard crack.
Did you know many of the straight A students
are on Adderral?
my son informs me.
This child, whose scholastic rank is soft crack,
sneaks to watch science videos online,
told me as I filled the cat’s water bowl
there is a mouse in the desert that
never drinks.
I look over his shoulder
as he begins his history homework,
they are reading the Magna Carte.
Today he’s had a tennis match and marching band practice.
It is ten o’clock at night
and he must leave for school in 9 hours.

I think back to the disappointment
my biology teacher felt
when I scored a C on my final.
I lost my virginity the week before
to a boy who ignored me the next day
in the cafeteria, as he had a girlfriend.
I remember trying to study,
an impossibility to absorb the
functions of amino acids while I replayed
the scene in his 280 Z sports car.

My children tell me most don’t try on these tests,
some fall asleep, others guess,
kids bring blankets and pillows to school
to snooze comfortably after.
I threw my youngest son’s scores away.
When he asked after his results,
I lied they must have messed up.
They did indeed. They weren’t able to measure
last night he rearranged his room at ten at night,
moving the heavy wood bed frame himself.