Sure, this’ll work

This was day two of our yearly standardized testing, which we’re still being forced to administer for some reason. And, honestly, this year, my approach to the damned things is whatever, just get it done. I’m making a cursory effort to encourage the kids to do their best but the simple fact of the matter is that the entire exercise is bullshit and absolutely everyone involved knows it. These tests aren’t going to tell us one single thing about our students that we don’t already know. Not one single fucking thing.

Had a situation with a kid today that really drove it home (as if I need any more evidence) just what a poor job these tests do in measuring what they’re calling learning. My strong suspicion is that they do actually measure something related to knowledge for the kids who do well. There’s probably a real difference between a kid in the 70th percentile and a kid in the 90th. But the kids in the bottom half of that distribution?

Those kids aren’t having learning measured. For those kids, the tests are measuring two things: compliance and motivation. And that’s really it.

I’ve got this kid this year; let’s call him Che. Che is smart as fuck. But he has this pathological fear of success that is holding him back in a major way. he spent most of last year on half days and/or expelled or on long suspensions. This year, we’ve been able to mostly keep him in class, and he’s got several teachers (me included) who he knows are going to ride his ass until it falls off to keep him as close to the straight and narrow as we can, and so far he’s had a much more successful year than last year.

He’s in my room for testing. Tuesday he basically disrupted the room until I felt like I had no choice but to throw him out. And that was basically the move he chose; he was going to keep escalating until he got what he wanted, and in a situation where I’ve got other kids in the room trying to test, my tools for dealing with that type of bullshit are limited. I put him out of class and sat down with him and the principal later that day and did a combination of reading him the riot act and giving him a pep talk, and got a promise out of him that he’d behave in class today. And he did! He tossed out a couple of jokes and/or smartass comments while I was reading the (utterly unnecessary at this point and overly wordy under any circumstances) instructions, but the rest of the kids didn’t really react to him and once a couple of interruptions fell like a lead balloon he cut it out.

And … well, in the strictest sense of the term he completed the test, but this one was the written essay part, which has some number of short prompts that they want maybe a paragraph of material for and then another where they want a longer essay.

His entire essay was “I don’t know,” and he told me flat-out he didn’t read any of it.

Which tells me exactly nothing about whether he can read any of it. Che’s going to get the exact same 0 on that section as a kid who doesn’t have the slightest idea how to read in the first place would get, but Che can read. He’s not half-bad at math either when he wants to show off. And I’d say easily 60-70% of the kids in our building fall into a similar place as him, where their score on a standardized test on any given day is less a measure of their abilities than how interested they were in participating in the test on the day it was administered.

Why are we wasting all this money on these things again?

Published by

Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.