How standardized testing screws up your priorities

no-bullshitThe really scary thing is that I’m pretty sure I ought to throw a “Part 2” up there after the title, but I don’t precisely remember what the other post was about, and Christ does the tag “standardized testing” give me a lot of entries to wade through.

(Ah, right: here.  Apparently this is becoming a theme.)

I already talked about how I had to waste a day last week giving all of my students the mandatory ISTEP practice test.  I left a bit of the story out– because, honestly, at the time I’d forgotten all about it, but it popped back into my head while I was taking a shower earlier today and I feel like I ought to pass it on.  My Honors kids, due to a smaller number of nonsense behavior/noise issues and a lack of technical problems, finished the test a good fifteen minutes before any of my other classes did, so they got a fair amount of time to screw around on the Internet before the end of class, since bringing them back to the room for half an hour of instruction seemed a) somewhat pointless and b) slightly punitive.

My main job, then, for the last half hour or so of my class, was basically just to wander around and make sure nobody was trying to look for porn.  Half of the kids were on Google Maps exploring foreign cities (I love that this is what they chose to do with their time, by the way) and the other half were playing Minecraft, so no problems on that end.  At one point I looked outside– one entire wall of the lab is windowed, so I can see anything going on in the hallway– and saw the teacher I’ve been mentoring all year out in the hallway outside the library with a couple of her kids.  Wanting an adult to talk to for a moment, and having a class of kids who I could safely monitor through a wall of glass, I wandered out into the hallway to say hello.

At this point I discovered that the conversation they were having was somewhat more… hmm… fraught than I’d suspected from inside the computer lab.  One of her girls had just told another student that she was planning on running away from home, and that student had, to her credit, immediately told the teacher about it.  There are certain protocols that we’re to follow under these circumstances, obviously, but generally talking to the kid for at least a few minutes before dumping the entire thing into the lap of the school social worker is a good idea, and the teacher was doing just that.  I stayed out there long enough to make sure she felt like she had a handle on everything and then went back into the lab, since I could tell the girl wasn’t terribly comfortable continuing the conversation with me standing there.

Later that day, once school had let out, I ran into the other teacher in the hallway again and asked her what had been going on with the girl.  Turns out she’d just been told, the night before, that she was adopted.  Sixth graders not being terribly reasonable creatures, she’d internalized this information not as “my adopted parents love me so much that they picked me to bring home,” which I think everyone would kind of have preferred, but as “no one loves me at all, and I should go away.”

My first thought, I swear to God, was Why the fuck did they do that to her the week before ISTEP?

Something’s gotta fucking change around here.

2 thoughts on “How standardized testing screws up your priorities

  1. Oh, amen! That was an awesome post. Standardized testing, ai yi yi. I truly believe we need to accept and embrace diversity much more than we do. Kids excel in different areas, they have different interests. I’m also a bit jaded because I know so many adults who were painstakingly taught algebra, who struggled for years, who passed test after test…who can’t even remember how to solve a simple equation. They don’t use it, it doesn’t interest them, so it just became a painful memory they filled away in the abyss. That’s human nature, it’s who we are. All this struggle to get every kid on the same page, the same standard, is such a waste of time.


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