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Testing with a Side of *Not Much Else*

May 15, 2019

Standardized testing is claiming squatter’s rights on increasingly more of the school year, with the greatest intrusion occurring in the spring.

Our school has been in the height of spring testing asphyxia for a month now. This means that teaching and learning take the far-back seat to survivial as class schedules are severely disrupted by multiple hours of per-subject testing, multiple tests per student, multiple faculty, staff, and admin hours required, before, during, and after the school day to coddle the testing machine as those not testing at a given moment form a makeshift puzzle of who’s-in-whose-room-because-we-have-to-send-you-somewhere.

In short, it’s a prolonged mess. And I haven’t even touched on rescheduling absent students or finding proctors for absent teachers and staff.

Of course, all of this assumes that the computers are in working order, hardware and software both; that no computers have decided to perform untimely updates; that there are no unanticipated interferences to the school schedule, and that the state has its act together so that the testing portal is functioning during the entire state testing window.

That sure is a lot of assuming.

As it happens, today, the Louisiana Department of Education delivered a dose of at-the-helm incompetence as its testing server was down, the result being a series of major ripples in our already highly-disrupted school day: Students taken out of class, time wasted with server down, returned to class an hour later, server finally up another hour later, rush to reset computers, round up students, make arrangements for testing teachers to miss yet more of their school day proctoring, make arrangements to be sure students now testing later than usual do not miss lunch….

This is not a work of excellence. It is a numbers obsession high on cost and low on return.

What testing devours teaching and learning forfeits.

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8 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    This is an excellent account of the chaos in testing in your school and likely others as well. Can you tell us in which grades and subjects these standardized tests, delivered by computer, are required? Are they given in music? The visual arts? Every foreign language course offered? Is your school also requiring students to fill out online surveys of school climate?

    • Hi, Laura. The testing affects grades 9 – 11: To date, ELA, algebra, geometry, US history, biology. No tests in fine arts or foreign language. No school climate survey included.

      • Laura H. Chapman permalink

        Thanks for the reply. In the visual arts the pressure in high school is for AP tests in art history or portfolios of artwork that meet the College Board’s criteria…and those change to prevent too many students learning the kind of work that judges prefer. The portfolios also must be submitted online which means students may be judged on the quality of the photos they submit. Three dimensional works are really problematic. Not long ago I saw an ad for graders of high school tests, next to an ad for a worker to pick up trash and use a power mower. The latter paid more than the former which also required a college degree of any kind.

  2. Christine Langhoff permalink

    My school was subjected to a variation of AP for all called the MA Math and Science Initiative, a branch of NMSI, which was started by Tom Luce, Assistant Secretary of Ed to Bush I. The goal was to get more black and brown kids to take AP’s (not to do well on them), and since that was 86% of our population, we fit the bill.

    AP exams consumed the entire month of May, coming on the heels of state testing season that begins in March and continues through April. Of course we had senior class events such as the prom and graduation to plan for too. It was a nightmare, effectively ending instruction for the year after our April break. The College Board made bank on the testing, using our staff and facilities, for which they paid not a dime.

    • it has been truly shocking to watch school year instruction be increasingly attenuated over the past decade: the kids get so much LESS information, and are thus so much less ready to face the college instruction that their endless test prep and testing makes them eligible to receive.

    • Lisa Buchman permalink

      We have an AP for all program in my county. My daughter, who is a Jr., is basically done with content for the year and school goes until June 21. Mid April started PARCC testing and now they are into AP testing. The seniors won’t be back after Memorial Day. Because the AP classes are mixed, the kids are just sitting and doing busy work until the last week of school when admin has scheduled the final exams. It’s a waste of time and money to have these kids sitting around doing “busy work” because AP tests are over.

      • Christine Langhoff permalink

        Yes, and after the state testing and the AP testing, there are finals, as you’ve noted. Teachers can’t present new material when some portion of the class is missing, either. It’s utterly useless, and I’m old enough to remember when the school year didn’t conclude this way.

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