Standardized testing makes for a long day with no naps

Ding dong ISTEP is dead. At least for this year. On my way to school I pass by four different elementary schools, each toting a sign that reads something to the effect of “ISTEP 17-28, time for good sleeping and eating habits.” I have to laugh at this because on the eve of sophomore testing, I encouraged my students to have a breakfast high in protein (and had to explain that neither pancakes nor donuts fit this description) and to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Despite this I saw kids scarfing down Pop-Tarts on their way into testing rooms and overheard one tell a friend, “Yeah, I tried to call you last night at 1 am.” Good thing to know they take the tests so seriously.

I feel sympathy for the elementary schools who have nearly two weeks of testing. It’s their own fault, of course. They take the slow peel approach to standardized testing. They take just a small portion of the test each day hoping to spread out the pain. In high school we grab hold and rip that sucker right off. Who cares if it leaves a welt? At least it’s over. I say that now that testing is done, but for the past three days when we had 4 hours of straight testing*, I would have loved to take our time and pepper testing with actual class time.

My current school has a decent approach to testing. Since the entire 9th and 10th grade classes have to take the tests (as do about 90 juniors and seniors), we do all our testing first thing in the morning and allow upper classmen who have passed it to seek out “educational opportunities” outside of our building. These opportunities officially go down on paper as job shadowing, study tables at the library and club meetings, but in reality they would better be described as sleeping in, going out to breakfast and watching TV. All the teachers are divided and split up to proctor the tests to the remaining students. For the past two years I’ve gotten lucky and had someone absolutely useless paired with me so that I have to do all the testing work. Not that there is too much to do, I realize, but I have to read all the materials, monitor the kids, collect all the materials and tote that damn box to and from the office.

I’m not even going to get in to my gripes about the actual uselessness of the test. Instead I will say that proctoring a test is a bit like putting your brain to sleep for a few hours. If I hadn’t had been hopped up on cold pills I might have been more annoyed with the fact that even though they’d just finished a test and hadn’t moved an inch from their desks I still had to tell them to check to make sure they had the test booklet with their own name on it. I also got to remind them no less than 8 times that they could only use a #2 pencil to complete their answers, despite the fact that the test booklets are all hand graded and don’t got through any sort of scan-tron. Not that it matters as I had to give nearly all the kids pencils anyway. They came to a three full days of testing without anything to write with. I also had to sit and constantly watch for the clock to run down their time. Not a single kid cut it closer than 15 minutes before the test was scheduled to end. So, we did a lot of sitting and waiting. They did a lot of sleeping. Damn kids.

But it’s all over now. Tomorrow instead of 30 minute class periods where I can barely get attendance taken and introduce a subject before the bell rings, we’ll go back to 90 minutes of classes that will no doubt still fly by. That is, of course, if I go to school. I still feel sick and think an official sick day might be in order. Especially since my in-laws arrive tomorrow night.

*We only actually had one four hour testing day. The other two were closer to 2 1/2.

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Filed under bad days, life as a teacher, pet peeves, ramblings, what makes me me

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