We stopped education in Texas high schools yesterday to test students’ proficiency with the English language. English is a difficult enough subject that it merits its own testing day, so as not to discombobulate students for the other Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests.
All controversy aside, it’s a grind.
Yours truly won the straw that got to make sure students made it to the restroom from their testing rooms, and back, without discussing the contents of the exam or sneaking off a cell-phone conversation or text message. (Yes, testing rules require that students check in phones and other devices during the test.) Classes in bathroom monitoring and cell-phone jamming cannot be far away at America’s great institutions of learning about teaching.
And you think teachers are overpaid? In Belgium the restroom attendants get tips. Same at the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Not in Texas schools.
The worst part: None of us on bathroom duty knows what we did that we’re being punished for. (NB: This is a joke. Somebody had to do it, and English teachers did a lot of it, in order to keep them out of administering the tests, where they might be accused of doing something to aid cheating to raise scores — teachers who do their job well may get bathroom monitoring duty as a result . . .)
Dallas ISD and the Texas Education Agency had monitors to make sure our testing was secure enough, though I’m not certain such pains are taken to make sure the tests work. Our school is targeted for “reconstitution” if there are not dramatic improvements in TAKS scores in math and science, so the monitors hunt for errors. One wishes that wearing orange would keep the guns from being aimed at one, but one suspects it would only improve one’s targetability.
So we take it all seriously. One would hate to have been the cause of the demise of a community school for having committed some grand error in monitoring bathrooms.
It was one day of testing, but it cost us more than that. Schedules were rearranged Monday so that instead of our usual block scheduling, each student got a briefer session with her or his English teacher for last minute review and pep talk. Faculty meetings were for test administration instructions (required by regulation or law).
On test days, students are asked to leave their books and book bags at home (security for the test, mainly). What sort of education system discourages kids from carrying books <i>any day?</i>
Math, science and social studies tests come at the end of April and early May. Other tests dot the weeks until then. One teacher noted in a meeting last year that testing season marks the end of the education year, since little can be done once testing starts eating up the calendar in such huge chunks.
“Time on task,” Checker Finn used to note. When students spend time on a task, they learn it. Measure what students spend their time doing, you’ll figure out what they’re good at.
In Texas, it appears, we teach testing.
Dave at DaveAwayFromHome may have put it best, quoting from Tyson’s recent appearance at the University of Texas-Arlington (image from Dave’s site, too):
“When a newspaper headline proclaims half of the children at a school are below average on a test, no one stops to think that’s what average means.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson, speaking about math illiteracy.
(Actually, I think that should be “innumeracy.” Is that jargon? Do we have to know that? Does it show up on the test?)