Tomorrow, my wonderful, diligent, hard-working, and slightly panicky Advanced Placement English Language for Composition kids take their tests. They are ready. Some of them are “peaking”– just coming into their own as writers. When I get to assess those papers that finally pass the 6, or passing, threshold, I get joyous. I want them to do well.
Our testing goes pretty well considering how complicated and understaffed it is. A known high school AP teacher staffs every test and subs are called in for back-up. The guidance counselor in charge has all the clocks and kleenex and pencils. Every year I am impressed, knowing what a fine-oiled machine it is. AP Lang is large enough that it has to spread to two locations, encompassing the local event center and taking over a church, which works well unless there is an unplanned event. Like a funeral. Like the one happening tomorrow that displaces my kids and puts them into a classroom at the very end of the freshmen wing.
I admit to being frustrated that my students will need to concentrate despite the inevitable disruptions and noise. I have all this time spent talking to them about how they need to use every second they have (“Come on! Go back and check your concluding sentences. Add evidence. Watch your verbs”), because every point matters in the final scores of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, and now I know they each may lose a point or two or four due to disruptions. It makes me frustrated. I want them to do well.
Then I think, hmmm… what if my eval hinged on this? What if my salary or reputation hinged on this and my students are in the freshmen wing and the other teachers’ are in the event center? What then?
And it reminds me of one reason I dislike the national momentum toward increased standardized testing. I think of the crazy articles where school districts have changed erasers in order to increase test scores, and I think I read one where they changed pencils, too.
Testing includes too many variable to be reliable. The national momentum toward increased standardized testing must stop.