Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Testing Season

So, it's testing season. When the teachers and students feel like rabbits being chased into their various holes.

It's not a happy time at school.

Everyone (teachers, administrators, students, families) is under stress and pressure, just when they are also exhausted and least able to deal with extra stress and pressure.

My oldest daughter in eighth grade. So, her list of standardized tests this year includes: Math End of Course Exam (for high school credit), English End of Course Exam (for high school credit), Reading End of Grade Exam, Math End of Grade Exam, Science End of Grade Exam, Social Studies Final Exam. On top of this she had a placement test for Humanities in high school and a choral audition for placement in high school.

She also had a major research essay due today in English, a math project due late last week, and a couple of other smaller projects due in the next few days.

It could have been worse. She didn't take yearlong world language for high school credit, so she isn't taking that End of Course Exam. She chose not to do the portfolio for advanced placement in visual art, even though she could have performed at that level. She just felt too buried and it was something she *could* take off her plate. So, she did.

I hope you've never seen such a bright and vivacious young woman turn into a grey and listless zombie in such a short time.  It's harrowing, as a teacher, and as her mother.

All this is required by external organizations at the state and federal levels. Very little of the decision making about how and when to test our children is in the hands of the individual schools, school districts, or parents.

I have to fight my anger or I could drown in the tide of it.

My daughter has wonderful teachers. If you went to each of them and said, "Does Samantha's daughter know the class material?", they could tell you. They could even list her specific areas of weakness and strength and suggest materials to shore up her weaknesses. If you give them the time and resources to do so, they would address those weaknesses themselves, and shore them up before they send her on to the next level. They care about her and her learning. They are professionals with experience and expertise in assessment and instruction of their given subjects.

Even that one year, when she didn't have a wonderful teacher, she had an adequate teacher. She still learned. Not as much as she would have learned with someone more inspired, but she still learned. 

But for some reason, we've decided to spend millions of dollars in this country to get assessment information we could get by asking the teachers. Don't get me started on my theories about why. We don't want another diatribe about sexism and classism, do we?

I could write dissertations on what's wrong with this picture. But no one would read them.

Maybe it was always this way. I don't know. I've only been a teacher for eighteen years and a mom with a school age child for nine years. I do know there is more testing for higher stakes now then there was when I was a child. I feel that my daughter's education is not improved by it, that the education she receives is not more rigorous or challenging then the education I received. It's just full of more tests, written by companies that were created to write tests and take government dollars to torture our children with them.

Here's what I suggest. All politicians and policy writers must sit in public school classrooms during testing season and perform the same battery of tests the children do under the same constraints the children suffer in.  Then, they must go to another school, and administer all the tests to children under the same constraints that the teachers do. Do you think they can focus for four or more hours a day and perform well on these tests? Do you think they can go four or more hours a day without an opportunity to go to the bathroom or eat anything? I doubt it.

If they can defend this method of assessment after participating in it, then I'll listen. But, frankly, I'd be stunned if a one of them would have anything to say.

The youngest is only in first grade. There's two more years until we start torturing her. I wonder if I can get my entire government replaced by then.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent suggestions about those On High having to face down the monster they've created. I would pay good money to see it happen. Like they'd ever admit they'd made a mistake anyway.