The absurdity of standardized test administration

As a public school teacher, every year around this time I'm doomed to administer the dreaded standardized tests. For six whole days, we teachers make children sit silently, filling out bubbles.

This time of year always infuriates me. It makes me feel like this kind of teacher:


These test scores not only place students into four categories: advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic, but they also place our school into one of two categories: adequate yearly progress or failing to achieve adequate yearly progress.

I've been a public school teacher for six years and the pressure to "succeed" on these tests seems to be getting worse and worse.

It seems that teachers and principals around the country are feeling the pressure as well. In the wake of cheating incidents such as the teachers in Atlanta and the principals in Philly, the rules for standardized test administration have become more and more complex.

This year, I had to take an hour-long online training course in order to be certified to administer the standardized test. Yes, you read that correctly. I had to take a test in order to administer a test. The course managed to be mind-numbing and confusing at the same time.

Today when we met as a staff to discuss the ins and outs of testing for next week, we debated the rules. Of course we want our students to do well on these tests, and quite frequently, they skip questions by accident.

How do we make sure that our students answer all the questions? We certainly can't let them know if they missed a question. No, that would be cheating. We certainly can't ask them to show us their finished work. No, that would also be cheating. We certainly can't ask a child to go back and look at his or her book when they say they are finished. No, that would be cheating as well.

For me, the moment of today that made this day unlike any other was the moment when we just had to laugh and shake our heads at the sheer absurdity of it all. We know as educators that our job is to inspire and motivate children to reach their true potential, not to be reduced to test administrators debating these kind of details.

I'm not pretending to have the answer to solve the education problems in America, but I do know a thing or two. I know these tests lead to schools cheating to achieve high scores. I know I find it condescending to be trained in "active test monitoring." I know these tests don't show the creativity, imagination, and critical thinking skills of our students. I know these tests send students into a blind panic. Bottom line, I know these tests aren't educating our children.

Yet for the next week, my sole job is to be the best test administrator I can be.