Saturday, March 15, 2014

Big Time Education Testing Sucks

I should have a better headline with more specific vocabulary, but sometimes short guttural verbs are necessary.

Big time education testing is not quite ready for prime time. Yesterday, South Dakota school administrators received an email with the following information:
This email is to let you know that the testing window for the Smarter Balanced field test has shifted one week. Testing will now begin on Tuesday, March 25. We learned of this development late yesterday and wanted to share with you as soon as possible.
Needless to say, we are very disappointed to have to make this adjustment. As you know, the field test requires unprecedented collaboration among the participating states, districts and testing contractors. However, this puts all of us in a difficult position, particularly those of you who were planning to start testing on March 18. In the final analysis, the consortium decided the change is needed to ensure that we have taken all steps necessary to ensure that teachers, students and administrators have a productive experience with the field test. [emphasis mine]
I've read enough bureaucratic language to know that Smarter Balanced has discovered a problem and is engaged in posterior covering activities. The bolded lines do need special translation, however.For those not familiar with educational jargon, taking "all steps necessary to ensure that teachers, students and administrators have a productive experience" actually means "removing your eyeballs without anesthesia will be less painful and produce fewer emotional scars than this activity."

More importantly, the tests, even if they are not ready for prime time, may not be the most painful "productive" experiences. Some folks with advanced degrees in education have doubled down and engaged in stupid and repugnant behaviors that have no business in education. Valerie Strauss reports on "sit and stare" policies:
“Sit and stare” policies are enforced on those students whose parents have opted them out of taking a high-stakes standardized test but who are still required to be in the school building when the exams are actually proctored. Under this practice, kids are forced to sit at their desks and stare while their classmates take the test. They can’t read. They can’t write. They can’t put in earplugs and listen to music. They can only sit and stare. Really.
“Sit and stare” policies are being considered or adopted in schools from New York to California as a reaction to the growing “opt out” movement in which parents have decided that they do not want their children to have to take high-stakes standardized tests. Each state has its own policy about opting out, but they don’t generally provide districts with guidance about how to enforce it, so administrators come up with their own policies.
So, if students or parents don't want to engage in "a productive experience," steps must be taken to ensure students are as unproductive as possible. I wonder who field tested that idea.

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