In case you are wondering, no I didn’t win the Powerball lottery yesterday. You know this because if I had won it, I probably would have already hung a sign on the front of my blog that says, “Bet you wish you had been nicer me to me now, huh?” So such as it is, life goes on for me and the RW Clan.
Specifically, this week is one of the High Holy Days for Education. This week is Testing Week. Teachers celebrate Testing Week by abstaining from food and drink for hours at a time and staring blankly into the middle distance while students cry, randomly smash keyboard buttons, and finally sink into a bitter despair with their heads firmly pressed into the desk.
Basically, Testing Week is a celebration of the futile stupidity of standards-based education. You see, no conscious person on this planet actually thinks that computerized multiple choice tests reveals much, if anything, about what students have learned in any particular setting. However, people want to see results, dammit, and relying on the measured evaluation of competent professionals who have been working closely with your students for a semester just seems like more hippie nonsense. I mean, can you imagine if we ran our medical or justice professions like that? It would be total chaos!
This year, the Great State of NC decided that we were spending too much time testing our students. So did they reduce the number of tests students have to take? Did they perhaps allow teachers more discretion over the where/when/what of the tests? Of course not. No, instead they mandated that all of the standardized tests will be administered via computer in a smaller window of 5 days. Did they purchase more computers so that schools would have enough for each student? Did they update servers or software to handle the increased bandwidth demands? Seriously, are you new?! They did none of those things. In fact, the only changes made to the software made it MORE difficult to use with outdated computers and caused even more connectivity issues.
Toss in a new Testing Coordinator for some seasoning and what does all this look like in practical terms? Well, this week I have personally administered 6 tests in the last 4 days. This means that six different times I spent the better part of half an hour cursing at computers while going through the 8-step security process for each student to get them logged in. Six different times I have paced (not too fast and don’t make noise) in a completely silent room for miles (one teacher logged 16 miles on their Fitbit), only pausing every ten minutes to log a student back into the server when our limited network dumped them out and every 40 minutes after that to announce a two minute silent break. Twelve times I’ve marched down to the office to take possession of or drop off scrap paper, calculators, and testing rosters. Had I ever let those materials out of my sight, I would have been reprimanded and possibly prosecuted for not maintaining test security.
For a person who’s expertise is communication, this is very nearly a definition of hell. Someone somewhere must have sat around and thought, “You know the terrible hours, mediocre pay, and public scorn is a pretty good punishment for choosing teaching as a profession, but I think we really need to make them FEEL IT.”