If you are a parent with school aged children in the United States, you might want to proceed with caution. I swear that I am making none of this up. None of it. Not one word.
I’m not even exaggerating.
The following description of test days in an upper middle class suburban school district may make you panic and hyperventilate about your children and those who are in charge of their welfare during the school day.
On the other hand, the following description might make you decide that you absolutely MUST opt your children out of any further standardized testing in the future. In that case, I salute you, I thank you, and I promise you that you are doing the right thing.
Scene 1. Teachers have been trained in maintaining security during the standardized testing days. We have been told that once we receive our giant tupperware box of testing materials, and have signed our names on the papers, we must NOT leave the boxes unattended for any reason. This means that if we have to go to the bathroom before the testing starts, but after we have received our tupperware boxes, we have to take the boxes with us. Yep. We pee with the tupperware box full of high security tests at our feet.
Scene 2. All of the kids are seated and ready. Each has been given an official #2 pencil. They wait expectantly, and nervously, for the testing to begin. I hand out all of the test booklets, all of the answer sheets, all of the bright pink Math Reference Sheets, all of the rulers. Because this is the second day of the math tests, I expected every ruler to still be inside every test booklet. I had carefully placed them there the day before, and then I’d sealed up the giant Tupperware Box and returned it to the office. I forgot that when I got to the office, I had to recount every item, as did the school secretary, and we both signed a sheet with the numbers recorded. I forgot that we both had to do the same procedure again this morning.
I was short two approved rulers. Now, I have to explain to you that the state of Massachusetts, in a fit of fiscal psychosis, buys and distributes hundreds of thousands of these EXACT same rulers every year. My classroom is packed with them. However, the security rules of the test specify that we must use THIS year’s ruler.
I was faced with a dilemma. I picked up one of this year’s rulers in my right hand, and one of last year’s in my left. I frowned a bit. Exactly, exactly the same clear plastic little ruler. “I don’t think that inches have changed in a year”, quipped one of my boys. I handed out two rule-breaking-but-indistinguishable last year’s rulers, and we began the test.
Scene 3. The testing in the classroom is complete. We have collected every test booklet, every answer booklet, every approved math reference sheet, every approved ruler. We are supposed to pack up the giant tupperware box (can we just refer to it now as the GTB?) and carry it ourselves back to the school office, where it can be placed securely under lock and key. However, one student is taking the test in a special education classroom, as specified in his IEP. HIS official test administrator has his test booklet, his answer booklet, his approved reference sheet and his ruler. She has to bring it back to the classroom (along with the student, but no one seems too concerned with that part). Until we have this final test form, we can’t return the box to the office. We wait.
Scene 4. Given that the classroom full of antsy kids has now finished the testing, we’d like to go outside on this beautiful spring day. But we are not allowed to remove any of the testing materials from the building. We are not allowed to leave the GTB unattended in the classroom. We are not allowed to return it to the office without one of its tests. We try to learn some science instead of going out to play.
Scene 5. I have a meeting to attend about one of my students. They have all gone off to lunch, but my one student who is still testing with the special educator has not returned. I cannot leave the GTB. I hoist it up and haul it with me to my meeting, where it will sit on the floor for an extra hour.
In the meantime, of course, the special ed teacher has collected the finished test from her student, and is searching the building for me. She can’t leave the test on my desk, nor can she return it to the office. She MUST hand it to me. She goes to the office to find me, and has to interrupt my meeting in order to hand me the test, which I then insert into the TGB.
Scene 6. Like any teaching in the world, I have become an expert at bladder control. But the meeting finally ends, and I rush off to the ladies room. Where I am confronted with the hilarious sight of three clear tupperware boxes filled with testing materials. All in a row on the floor of the bathroom as their owners get some relief.
Please tell me, someone, anyone, how in hell this craziness is really going to “improve student outcomes”?
I feel like I spent a week in One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest.