What to do about too much testing — Fight, Flee, or Fake It?

20150412-Rine-What-to-doBy Julie Rine, Minerva Local Education Association

For almost twenty years, I have prepared students in my classes for the Proficiency Test, the OGT, the ACT, and now the PARCC and my own SLOs. Never before this year have I felt that the testing took over my classroom.

Add up the amount of time spent taking the tests, throw in the time spent taking practice tests, and the amount is already eleven class periods, and we haven’t taken the EOY PARCC yet. Toss in the periods we trekked down to the computer lab and the time we spent trying to log in to practice tests and get the technology to work right, and that adds another three wasted days.

And let’s not forget that while I was administering the PARCC to my freshmen, my other classes of juniors had a sub. But the juniors got the joy of taking two pre-assessment and two post-assessment SLOs, which took a total of four periods, so they got to bask in the excitement of testing, too.

And sometimes, just for old times’ sake, I will give my students a test to assess their understanding of a unit over say, Romeo and Juliet or transcendentalism.

The testing is ridiculous. Every teacher knows it, and now with the many issues with the PARCC and AIR tests, parents, too, are realizing that required testing has gotten out of control.

As a teacher, it seems to me we have a few options about how to approach these tests. Some teachers have taken a stand and left the profession, choosing to “flee”, protesting the craziness that education in America has become and refusing to work in a system that subjects our children to the whims of politicians, most of whom have no teaching experience of their own.

Part of me wishes I could do this, but I, like many others in the profession, have invested too much time and money to leave now. And truly, I do still like the kids and the content, but if that ever changed, I would have to seriously consider a Plan B.

Some teachers have chosen to “fight” back, by writing letters to legislators, participating in Lobby Days, and talking to anyone who will listen about how the “game” has changed with the requirement of all the tests, and of course, education should never be considered any kind of a game.

And, some choose to “fake” it, to tell their students that these tests are good for them, that they will help us know what to teach better, that we will get all kinds of really meaningful data that will help improve our teaching. They choose to smile and make the best of the situation and try to hide the fact that this is not what they signed up for when they decided to go into teaching.

I can’t fault anyone for taking any of these approaches. We all deal with adversity in life in different ways. Frankly, at this point we all have to choose whatever path works to keep our sanity. Teaching high school students, and being a generally outspoken and passionate advocate for issues I believe strongly in, I am choosing to fight.

I’m also choosing not to fake it with my kids. I have been brutally honest with my students, telling them exactly how I feel about the barrage of tests now required, and why I think they are unnecessary and take too much time away from actually engaging with each other in discussions about literature and writing and current events … you know, from actually LEARNING.

But, I have also told them that we must jump through this hoop. And we must do our best on the tests, on my part preparing them for the tests, and on their part taking them seriously and persevering even when they seem too hard or too frustrating or too pointless. Because in life and certainly in any job, there are times when you have to do things you don’t want to do.

If you’re lucky, when you encounter those unpleasant tasks, you might find yourself with a little bit of power to advocate for a change. And when the requirements come from politicians, we do have the right to voice our opinions. Part of being an educated person is knowing how to fight back in responsible and respectful ways, such as writing letters to or calling legislators, educating others on Facebook about the issues, and lobbying at the capitol.

Frankly, I don’t care what my students get on the PARCC if they leave my class understanding these much more important life skills. So I don’t fake it with my students and disguise my dissatisfaction with my happy teacher face, and I don’t flee the profession. Instead, I am trying to turn even this, perhaps the greatest obstacle to true teaching I have encountered in nearly twenty years, into a lesson.

That’s the kind of education that cannot be measured by a standardized test.



General Testing

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