Monday, May 12, 2014

On Testing

So I have finally emerged from that buried alive feeling known as standardized assessments. My fellow public school teachers know this sorrowful reality all too well. Honest to God and Eckhart Tolle, there is nothing quite like pacing a barren classroom for 4-5 hours to test your "power of now". Because after eight unbroken months of doing everything but an interpretive dance in an attempt to accommodate our state's desire for 100% student engagement --our district's newest buzz phrase--all at once it becomes clear that even the laziest student has suddenly decided to give two craps about passing and my stuffy classroom--walls stripped of all educational wording or simply covered with soulless swaths of white butcher paper-- slowly fills with the unsettling aroma of heated hormones and flop sweat. My role--that of a constantly moving sentry-- is to make sure that students are correctly following test protocol without actually reading any of the test or their answers myself.

In an attempt to provide a testing environment with no distractions, teachers are encouraged to place strips of tape over the door bolts, so that no one is jarred by the comings and goings of administrators or students headed to the bathroom and face all desks away from the doorway itself.  I, on the other hand, must wait for another qualified and trained educator to give me a restroom break, a rare phenomenon that did not happen at all on the last exam and I waited three and a half hours for someone who never showed up. A phenomenon that I'm pretty sure violated some tenet of the Geneva Convention. It's like "The Nun's Story" where nobody is allowed to break the Grand Silence and we glide quietly on gum-soled shoes so as not to startle the testers into selecting a wrong answer.

Our communications with other adults are limited to soundless hand gestures: waves or finger Audrey Hepburn motioning for more salt from one of her wimpled convent sisters.  Computers off. Phones locked away. One may not read a magazine or make a grocery list while pacing. One may not speak off script to any student and if the school catches fire during the assessment? Find a way to secure the test. Not while risking student lives (to hell with mine, of course), but it's good to try. It's a grim academic semaphore that gets very old very quickly and I now have the IQ of a cold McDonald's french fry for my troubles.

I'd rather be slapped with a sock filled with anthrax than go through another testing season again, but you know I'm going to have to.  And the saddest thing of all is that the state would be more willing to take away my teaching license because I failed to take up a kid's phone before the test than for being a crappy teacher whose students can't learn.

This fish rots from the head down.


  1. Ugh. I'm so sorry that you have to do this, and that the kids have to be put through it. As a fellow teacher, I'm so offended at the crap that is imposed on educators these days.

  2. Oh, God, that just gave me a horrible flashback to the last test I proctored before we left Texas. Sitting and doing absolutely.nothing. for hour after hour was excruciating. I remember counting the number of steps it took me to walk around the room - over and over and over. There are lots of times when I get a little tired of living overseas, but at least we don't have to deal with state testing in International schools.

  3. It sounds awful. Virginia is in the midst of their standardized testing right now, so I'm getting a lot of stern, yet hysterical emails from the school system.
    Has our children's ability to concentrate become so fragile that it is necessary to put tape over the door bolts? There has been standardized testing in New York for a long time, and I grew up taking the Regents exams and I don't recall that any special effort was made to protect us from distraction.


Be nice. It's not as hard as it sounds.