How the sausage is made, part 1

carrie-interview-desk.jpgA few weeks ago, I interviewed three smart, charming third-graders—Shaniya, Jaleeia, and Daniel—for a brochure on the Urban Education Institute. I was hoping to hear the student perspective on STEP, a reading-assessment tool developed by UEI. It’s used at North Kenwood-Oakland Elementary, where my interviewees attend school, and as well as schools in New York, New Jersey, and Louisiana.

Shaniya, Jaleeia, and Daniel talked about how they felt when they achieved a new reading level (exhausted), what kind of books they liked to read (The Night of the Vampire Kitty and Bunnicula, among others), and what they wanted to be when they grew up (Shaniya and Jalieea wanted to work with animals; Daniel wanted to be a paleontologist).

My standard interview-ending question is, “Is there anything I forgot to ask you?” or “Is there anything else you would like to say?” With adults, it usually works pretty well. Here’s what happens when you put that question to third-graders.

QandA_QDrop.jpgAll right, anybody have anything else they want to say about the STEP assessment?


QandA_QDrop.jpgShaniya, what were you going to say? One last thing to say.

QandA_ADrop.jpgSHANIYA: Compared to Daniel wanting to find out more about dinosaurs, just to let you know, whales back then had four legs. Can you find dolphin parts, if you end up being one of those [a paleontologist]?

DANIEL: Dolphin parts?


DANIEL: Dolphins weren’t around back then.

SHANIYA: Yes they were. They were walking.

DANIEL: They had flippers. They were sea creatures. They were just swimming around, and eating fish. And there was this big one that would walk on land, and it was bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex, and it would eat flesh.

QandA_QDrop.jpgJalieea, last thing?

QandA_ADrop.jpgJALIEEA: About that, did you know that whales used to have four fingers and walked like alligators? But something happened and they grew flippers all of a sudden. And even though they could breathe on land, they still need water to make their bodies moist because they could die without water. That’s why we need lotion––the humans.

QandA_QDrop.jpgOkay guys, I think we’re done, thank you so much for your time.

QandA_ADrop.jpgSHANIYA: This was great!

QandA_QDrop.jpgWas that fun? All right, I’m going to turn it off. What button do you think I need to press to turn it off?

QandA_ADrop.jpgSHANIYA: Stop?

QandA_QDrop.jpgAll right!

[End of interview.]

Carrie Golus, AB'91, AM'93

January 14, 2010