I Am Not Alone
Reading further into Wilhelm’s text continues to frustrate me. He rails against standardized testing and I agree with his theology, but am also surrounded by the need for “Academic Data”. Our department came under fire last year because the new ‘it” word for the school year became “skill based testing”; we test for the proficiency of skill and a mind map doesn’t cut it for “raw data”. This year, in an effort to gather “raw data”, we proctor a pre-test for every unit, a mid-unit test, and the regular post-unit exam, but wait there’s more!
We’ve had Beginning of Year Tests (or BOYTs) and look forward to MOYTs (Middle of Year Tests) and EOYTs (End of Year Tests). I can’t forget about our beginning and end of year benchmark tests, too. Recently our principal also created and requested the outcome of a quick Formative Assessment quiz. We’ve already spent a day proctoring the PLAN test and will spend a day next Wednesday to proctor the PSAT. I recently finished working my way through the PSAT practice booklet with my students.
As you can imagine, Wilhelm’s horror stories of being on Standardized testing committees inspired me to rant. I don’t feel empowered or comfortable enough to rage against the machine as Wilhelm does; not until my tenure is in place. However, my gripes have started and it is harder to hold the complaints at bay. Senior teachers I’m most vocal to advocate the words of Baines and Farrell, “shifts in curricular models can give teachers a sense of déjà vu” (74). I’ve been told this standardized push is only the current trend and time will pass and the pendulum swings back to The Process Model (80) of teaching, a model I prefer – maybe because I’ve seen the highest amount of engagement through this or because it’s just personal preference.
Baines and Farrell are only too accurate by stating the “most neglected, influences on learning is a teacher’s ability to engage students” (75). It is a daily challenge to engage in such a mechanical teaching style as scantron answer sheets and multiple choice questions. I tried to engage their senses through the grading process after taking multiple choice formative and/or summative tests:
“Okay class, if you answered ‘A’ for question one, clap your hands. If you answered ‘B’, stand on one leg. If you answered ‘C’, meow like a cat! If you answered ‘D’, pat your neighbor on the back because ‘D’ is the correct answer! Now people standing on one leg, someone explain why you answered ‘B’ as the best answer.”
My final question, and maybe a decent question for a thesis paper, is if Dewey suggested decades ago that “many standardized tests still give little diagnostic help for students who fail to do well on them”, why do I still succumb to the tyranny of administration that hasn’t even set foot in my classroom to see what my students can really produce?