"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, October 5, 2006

The Testing Trap

The tests are over for another year. The fall tests in our state take up most of the months of August and September. The actual tests only take place during one or two weeks, but the amount of time spent on them is much more than that.

In each building in our district there is a Test-Coordinator. This is most often a guidance counselor, but in some elementary buildings the job belongs to the Resource teacher. [In our system the title Resource teacher is not reserved for the special services teacher who works with LD or MIMH students. The Resource teacher is more correctly defined as the "teacher of at-risk students." The job of the Resource teacher includes working with small groups of students, making or collecting materials for teachers to use in their classrooms, monitoring at-risk students, and too much more to list here.]

It is up to these people to coordinate the testing program in their buildings. Here's how it works in our elementary building.

In August, the test-coordinators go to meetings conducted by their local school system and meetings conducted by the state. These meetings are held to inform schools of new testing rules and regulations (and there are ALWAYS new rules and regulations) so that the school won't be in violation. There are usually 3 - 5 meetings for the test-coordinators to go to before the testing actually begins. Meanwhile, in classes throughout the building, "test prep" has begun. "Test-prep" is defined (by me) as the time in which children are drilled with techniques for answering tests and for drilling as much more information into the kids' heads as possible.

The tests arrive about a week before they are actually scheduled to begin. The test-coordinator has to count the books, sort them for each class, and make sure that all the "extras" are counted as well. The extras include pencils, manipulative punch out cards, and envelopes to hold the manipulatives.

The tests need to be kept in a locked room so no one can see any of them. The test-coordinator can distribute the examiner's manuals so teachers can make their schedules, but nothing else. Once the schedules are made the test-coordinator needs to round up people to test students with accommodations such as calculators, extended time, etc. These additional testers must be certified teachers...and are not always easy to find and schedule.

On testing day, the tests are signed out to the teachers administering them, and the fun begins. Students sit through anywhere from 1 to 4 testing sessions a day, lasting for 1 to 3 hours. At the end of the day the test books must be returned to the locked room.

Once the testing is finished make-ups must be scheduled and administered, usually by the test-coordinator and then the books must be made ready for shipping to the central office.

There are bar code stickers for the tests in our state. These bar codes have all the information previously bubbled on the front of the tests and include information about the student, his or her socio-economic status, accommodations, IEPs, ethnicity, etc.

The bar codes must be checked to make sure that they are accurate and that all the information is up to date. Any changes must be bubbled on the test. The bar codes are then placed on the tests...this process can take a long time depending on how many students are in the building and how many tests each of them received.

Then the packing begins...and it must be done a specific way. The tests from each classroom are labeled and put into bundles. The bundles of tests must also be labeled and put in boxes which are, you guess it, labeled. Every item must be accounted for...all tests, practice tests, and manual must be returned.

Everyone knows that the time it takes for the tests to be administered is time that no instruction takes place and is therefore time lost from learning. However, the hours and hours of preparation for the tests, organizing, and finally packing up the tests are also lost. The Resource teachers and Guidance Counselors cannot spend that time with students or parents. The effort to make sure that everything is done correctly is draining and the test-coordinators are not given any margin for error.

All tests and packaging are checked again at the central office and finally they are shipped out for scoring. By mid year the scores will be returned...not for diagnostic purposes for which the tests were originally intended, but for ranking, for pitting one school against another - one class against another, and for politicians to use as a tool in their election campaigns.

The testing companies themselves have indicated that the tests are more often than not, misused. This however, does not stop them from selling the tests to states and making enormous profits.

The hours wasted on these tests are gone for another year. The actual instructional value of the tests and their resulting scores are negligible. The cost in salaries for building and district test-coordinators, for printing, shipping and scoring is enormous and the results are most often misused to rank schools not to help students learn.

It makes no sense.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

But the kids [i]love[/i] the test! Especially after nine days of constant bubbling, drilling during times not taken up by testing, and the principal coming over the loudspeaker making grand proclamations of the importance of the tests. When you pull out that test book, the cheers from the children lift the roof off the school! Let's hear it for the tests!

Yours truly,
GW

p.s.- No, just kidding. The "cheers" are actually groans, screams and cries of anguish, and sometimes even the sound of vomit hitting the floor.

p.p.s.- This is Sam, by the way.

RogerMc said...

The ultimate - No Child Left Behind

I suggest you read:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_child_left_behind

Look at the list of pros vs. cons.

Hi Sam.

Stu said...

The Wikipedia accurately debunks the so-called "pros" in the list. I'll add to that by responding to each "pro" in the next post.