Today we begin testing. It’s all we’ve heard about for the past month. Drilled into the kids, and us, constantly is how important these tests are. I do see it as much a weight on the teachers as the students. Sure we need to know their progress and these tests help determine where they are academically (to what extent testing like this helps) and where they should be placed in the next year. But each year feels like a giant referendum on the teachers and the strain is palpable.
There are better ways to do evaluate how schools are run. We all know them. They just cost more and are tougher to standardize. Why? Because we well know now that there are a multitude of ways in even more varied degrees that people are capable of learning.
So we’re left with trying to bridge the gap with technology. More and more testing is done via computer. Fine. There’s some good stuff out there, tests that actually adapt to what the student is able to answer and adjusts questions accordingly.
My end of the preparation for such testing can be a tiresome nuisance, certainly. And there’s something of an anti-productive feeling to it. I’m not building up a better computer system to aid in educating; it’s just loading up software to test on and not taking on large projects for the sake of being able to jump in at a moment’s notice to fix something.
That should show something of a red flag right there. A testing system should not be high-maintenance. Why implement something unstable when you are trying to gauge an accurate reading?
But there’s something bigger. If we’re testing academic prowess and intelligence, why do we treat these students as though they are idiots?
The new testing system we have here, thanks to the new computers we got for it all last year, is pretty good I will admit. Glitches are few and far between, and frankly the worst we’ve had to deal with is kids kicking out power cords underneath the computer table. (Yes I could fasten cabling to the underside of the tables, but we move things around enough to make that impractical.)
However the program itself, some committee has determined, is far too difficult to walk in and just take. Oh no no no. These kids who never knew a world without Google and Wikipedia and a cell phone in every pocket that had universal access to both couldn’t possibly take a basic Flash-based test on an 18-month-old computer.
So we have the program go through its own self-explanation. When you start the test, you put on headphones and listen to the program show and tell you how to manipulate a couple of its tools. Nifty. A couple of quick sample questions to make sure you’ve got it down? Alright, on with the test. See you in a couple of hours.
No, now wait a minute. That’s nowhere near enough. Before you even see the test, let’s get you primed with a PowerPoint presentation created by the testing committee’s PowerPoint sub-committee. You will have scratch paper. This is where your mouse moves. Don’t worry, if you miss something, it’ll be explained to you again as soon as you begin.
There. Done. Covered. Let’s get back to teachin’ and learnin’ so they can be well-rounded indivi woah there! I just realized, we can’t blind-side these kids with a test they’ve never seen before except annually during their previous five years of public schooling. We know full well they don’t remember anything from year to year.
So let’s take them out of class before the testing to show them how the testing software works. That’s the ticket! It’ll be a couple of days worth, for sure. We have some short sample tests that explain how the test works, what objects can be used, etc. Great, now they for sure know what to expect.
Now we’ve done all the preparation we can. There’s no way these kids will do poorly on these tests due to anything we’ve forgotten. What? You see topics on the test that we’ve never covered in class before? Just do what you can. I’m sure we’ll cover it later. Or next year.