Friday, March 04, 2011

I spent the first part of this week giving the ACT/MME to some of our juniors. The group I was with were 4 students who were allowed time and half as an accomodation for the tests. As the room supervisor for these tests, I had to monitor to make sure students were on the correct test, record the actual times each student took and each particular part of the test, and make sure nothing disrupted their testing environment.
Sounds like a pretty sweet gig, doesn't it? Sit back, relax... 3 days of pretty much nothing to do in the morning except watch the clock.
Let me tell you this! That clock ticked slower and slower and slower, with every passing second. Not allowed to read, use a computer, or do anything other than sit and watch those kids was about as boring as it can get. But it did give me time to think an awful lot about those tests, their implications for students and teachers, their cost, and their actual worth.
My 4 students were all great kids, kids I remember from middle school fondly. Maybe 1 of the 4 will go to college. For the others, for a variety of reasons, college is not a realistic goal. Would I give any of them a letter of recommendation to an employer? Hands down, a resounding YES. Any of them would make a terrific employee, dedicated, responsible, and model of what an employee should be.
So we spent 3 days testing these kids, using a test that is supposed to indicate whether or not their teachers have taught them the Michigan Merit Curriculum ( a 4 year plan, of which they've had 2 1/2 years worth so far) and give colleges a predictor of their potential success at their institute.
Day one, most of them gave their tests an honest effort. They read the questions, pondered their responses, and did their best. Day two, I could see their interest waning. They said the tests were more difficult, but I don't know. By Day three, they were just filling in bubbles. They were tired of sitting in those same hard, uncomfortable chairs for hours on end. They were tired of trying to read and understand question after question. They were tired, mentally and physically. Any initial motivation they had was gone, and they were simply going through the motions.
I don't blame the kids. I don't blame their parents. I blame Mr. Congressman and Mrs. Researcher. I challenge ANY elected official, any person who thinks these high stakes tests are accurate, reliable, an efficient use of time and money... to come take the tests. YOU, yes YOU, come sit in those miserable desks for 3 mornings in a row. You bubble in those little ovals. You sit there, waiting for the last person to be done, another hour after you've finished YOUR test. You sit there, take that test, all those different 10 tests that make up this particular battery, and let's see how much honest effort YOU want to put in. Then, try and think back to when you were 16, 17 years old... and reflect on how you might have done on those tests if you were one of these kids, not college bound, not one of the top, brightest students in the class, one of those who works hard, tries to be successful, but all that hard works garners you a C at best. And think..... how would you feel about that test?

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