Posted in Ramblings

Standardized Testing Nightmares

Test season strikes every year. This is the second year where it’s happening in the spring instead of the fall in Michigan. I should make it clear that I’m not against standardized testing. Last year was a bit much, but the Department of Education took our feedback into account—and probably railed at the cost of grading all those writing pieces–and they said they fixed the worst of the problems. After watching my students struggle through a 3-hour marathon test (some kids spent 5-6 hours on the test) for the FIRST day of testing, I don’t think that’s true. I was exhausted watching them be tested on pretty much everything we learned this year, and there were three extended writing questions. Yeah, they learned all that stuff, and yeah, I tested them over it in my class–over 7 months, not 3-6 hours. Those kids had jelly brains after that experience.

Anyway, spring is M-Step time. M-Step is a catchier term than MEAP, but it’s much the same test. As much as I’m not against standardized testing, I’m not in favor of it either. Besides the usual reasons (we don’t get meaningful results; it’s not an accurate measure of what they know.) Here are my reasons: 1) It sucks up class time, and 2) It takes away all the technology in the building.

The second one peeves me the most. Because the lovely State of Michigan decreed that we must give the tests on a computer, every lab is commandeered. We have 2 computer labs, 3 Chromebook carts, and 3 classrooms equipped with labs. We also have 8 sections of every grade level. Someone did the math, and now nobody can use technology from March through May to accommodate state and district testing. That works well with the district-required multimedia presentation that has to be accomplished in April or May. Not. (Consider that over the 5 weeks of testing, those teachers get kicked out of their classrooms so that other kids can test.)

Lately I’ve been having nightmares about testing. Last night I dreamed that I argued with my principal about his love of standardized test. Another night I dreamed the Chromebooks wouldn’t work. Another night I dreamed that my car wouldn’t start on a testing day. (We were warned not to be absent on a day we had to monitor a test, as the state requires contracts and forms for all monitors.)

The saddest part? My nightmare about not being given useful feedback from the M-Step turned out not to be a nightmare. We literally got a list that said whether a student was proficient, below, or above grade level. Thanks, State of Michigan. After spending a year with a kid, I could have told you that. But I can also tell you how far they’ve come this year and whether they have problems at home. Your test can’t do that.

Okay, so maybe I’m not in favor of standardized testing.