School officially started for me here in Eastern North Carolina just two weeks ago and already in the span of our eight days I’ve administered two pre-assessments to my students and we as a school have had a standardized Measures of Student Learning (MSL) exam for the Computer Technology Education classes.
Why all this testing? Well it has very little to do with student achievement and growth as the policy makers and powers that be claim and has everything to do with those same policy makers creating yet another means of assessing whether or not they think we as teachers are doing our job right.
All teachers are aware of the national teaching evaluation standards, especially standard six which will use the data collected over three year’s worth of standardized assessments to rate teachers and assign them a grade based on he growth of their students. Forget that data will compare the growth of a different populations of students each year, and that no teacher will even teach the same group two years in a row much less three. Teachers who show good growth among that three year period will be graded highly, those who do not will be gradely poorly.
Seems easy enough to understand which is exactly why politicians and policy makers agreed to it in the first place. They don’t think, they don’t care so why devote the time to try and come up with a system that makes sense and is fair when all you have to do is look at a number, or letter in this case, to try and determine a teachers worth?
They thus can use that grade to justify continuing to not pay teachers a decent wage, or even give them a modest pay increase, take away their pay for attaining higher degrees, and forcing more work on them to justify keeping their positions. The only problem is those standardized tests being used didn’t include non-core content areas like PE, Art, Band, Computer Skills etc.
So, what did they do to rectify this inequity? They have started to create tests for them as well and let me tell you as someone who just administered one of those tests; if the people who wrote them are the same policy makers and organizations determining our fate, we are all screwed.
The test was poorly constructed and written. Our training as test administrators was haphazardly put together, however, that was not necessarily the fault of our individual school, just a small piece of the colossal disorganization of the power structure that governs public education. And believe me when I say that no teacher with an inkling of a language arts or writing background was consulted on these tests. That or they saved a ton of money on editors as the test was chock full of spelling mistakes and numerous other grammatical snafus.
To make it even worse this was a test given as a pre-exam, on day eight of school. Sure it was used as a baseline, but the part that gets me is that the exact same test, in the exact same format will be given at the end of the year, quarter or semester depending on the length of the course. So much for them not wanting teachers to teach to the test.
If you are told this test determines your worth as a teacher and your potential to earn more money and you are then given a pre-test that will be the same as the final test, wouldn’t you make sure the kids know what’s on that test?
Granted this is a luxury that isn’t afforded to core content area teachers. No, our tests are far more secretive and even sneaky (ask any middle school social studies or science teacher about last year’s MSLs). It is pretty much a gotcha mentality and the accountability no longer falls on the students, it falls on the teachers.
Don’t get me wrong, we teachers don’t mind accountability but when students fail the ire almost immediately falls on the teachers not the students, and that is simply as backwards as it gets.
So, eight days in and testing has already begun. And guess what? The next month at my school will be devoted to more testing. At some point I may even be able to teach the curriculum, maybe.