Stop. Put Your Pencils Down. Close Your Test Book.

pencilsdown-200x200By Nick McDaniels – And that’s all folks. Another year of high stakes standardized testing has passed for us.

My students are exhausted after many of them had three consecutive days of three-hour test and were then expected to stay in school for the rest of the day. If you have followed my posts at all, you know that every third or fourth post, I wind up and take a big swing at testing regimes. Let’s get that out of the way now.

My students are over-tested and are exhausted. They are giving up generally and hating school because of these testing regimes and now we are expected to prepare these students for assessments by regularly assessing them and looking at data and then reassessing them and looking at data and then reassessing them and looking at data and then finally we wait for the state to assess them and wait months for the data so that when we finally get it, it is hardly relevant. My students know I feel this way about testing and they agree and are, some of them, even more enraged than I. They are even more dumbfounded by the fact that their performance is somehow tied to my paycheck.

But we came to an agreement, my students and I. They all want to boycott testing like I do, but they, like I, realize that we don’t yet have the organizing done to do so. So they say they will just guess or leave the test blank, but then they remember that it will hurt my salary and might stop them from graduating, so they decide not to do that. So we say, referring specifically to testing, “This world sucks, but, until we change it, we have to live in it.” From that, my students agreed to try on the Maryland English High School Assessment.

This might seem like a small feat, to get students to agree to try on a test that determines their graduation eligibility, but quite to the contrary. This is much easier said than done. I did not have the good fortune of being with all my students while they were testing as I was the test examiner for a certain alphabetical grouping, but I can tell you that more students than I have ever seen before appear to have tried. Other students of mine told me that they stayed awake through the whole test and finished it all. Countless times I have watched students finish a 50 minute test section in 7 minutes by bubbling in letter and taking a nap. This year, I did not witness that. I saw students trying.

On a test that is designed to be a marathon, that is designed to get students living in low income neighborhoods and student of color to quit by providing them with irrelevant or otherwise boring passages that might be meaningful to rich white kids, the students I saw hung in there, they finished the race. They took a test that is designed to further a corporatist, classist, racist agenda, and met it head on. I couldn’t be prouder. Now I won’t know how they did until mid-summer, but what I do know is that my students gave it a good run, and as a teacher, I can’t ask for more than that. For them, hopefully, they will pass all the tests, and never have to look at them again. For me, at least for this year, I can say it is time to stop. Put your pencil down. Close your test book. Open your mouth. And tell the decision makers that we want education, not testing.

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