The test

My 6th grade son has spent time in school every day for the past month “preparing for the EOG (end of grade)” NCLB tests rather than actually learning new things.   Fortunately, they at least did not waste time on an EOG pep rally as many schools do.  There is just way, way to much pressure put on these tests.  He said to me, “I wish we didn’t have to worry about it so much and when it was time, just take the test.”  Amen.  Not to mention, David will surely pass these tests easily.  How about concentrating the extra help on the kids who will actually need the extra help to learn the material in order to pass the tests.  But 45-60 minutes a day of extra “test preparation” for every damn student in the schools is such a complete waste.  David is now on day 2 of 3 of testing.  Fortunately he takes after his dad and rather than being at all stressed out, seems to be approaching the whole thing with a certain bemused detachment.  Nonetheless, this great anonymous essay by a DC public school teacher today totally resonated with me:

I’m not sure what’s worse, the testing itself or the preparation and anxiety built up beforehand. As I sat through a DC-CAS pep rally, the magnitude of this testing madness hit me like a freight train. This is what children are getting pumped up for? This is what teachers have been “working towards all year”? This is the “pinnacle” of our teaching? I felt like I was in some creepy twilight zone as I watched other teachers and administrators chant and watched the confused students cheer. To see the students get excited about their potential success on the test was not the point of contention for me. The fact that the students are subject to poorly-conceived, low-quality tests and used as pawns to determine educational funding, as well as the fate of their teachers, is not something worth cheering about…

I planned lessons throughout the [test administration] meetings and graded papers in the background, only contributing my thoughts in areas which I found to be egregiously unreasonable or unjust. For example, lined paper for scrap paper, smiling at students (this is what they say is “coaching”), and allowing students to stand and stretch during testing would absolutely not be tolerated. As I listened to these rules, I pictured my bubbly bunch of eight year olds’ faces. Then, the real bomb was dropped: Absolutely no bathroom breaks during testing unless the child was showing physical signs of distress. In addition, we also needed to prevent multiple bathroom trips by determining how badly each child had to use the restroom. Well, any teacher knows that once one student has “an emergency,” they all have emergencies. How am I to be the judge of the content of each child’s bladder? To this I was told it would be easier to deal with angry parents of a child who had wet themselves, than to have to explain the situation to the monitors from central offices.

Just wow.  David’s school was desperate for proctors and basically called all the parents in the school.  I left a message for the guidance counselor and said I could help as long as I did not have to just sit there with nothing staring at kids taking tests for four hours (e.g., thought I might work on some overdue manuscript reviews).   You’ll not be surprised to learn that my return call informed me that they could only use me as a proctor if I could state at kids taking a test for four hours.  Not happening.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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