An Ode To The Big Tests

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Here’s to you.

Here’s to the students who will be pelted with Scantron sheets and test booklets emblazoned with the shape of New York State, a place they’ve explored so little.

Here’s to the students who, after 140 days of mixed concentration for varied reasons, will be asked to focus all their energies on answering 50+ multiple choice and 9+ extended response questions they’ll have to take over the course of three days for English … and 3 days for math.

Here’s to the students who have different accommodations, whose friends only get 90 minutes of torture a day when they have to sit there for 120 or 180 minutes, wasting their lives away slowly by this excruciating process.

Here’s to the students who get labels like ELL (English Language Learner) and also have the misfortune of making it to eight grade, where a kid has to take an ELA, Math, Science, ESL, Field Test, and city-administered interim diagnostic test. It’s bad enough the ELA and Math tests take 3 “full” days to administer. The Science test is a two-part test, one for practicum and another with more Scantrons and booklets. The worst of all is the ESL test, where they test the four modalities of language: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Here’s to the humble observer who thinks that, if they pass the ELA test, they should automatically qualify for a golden ticket out of the ESL test, because you’re wrong. Dead wrong. The same observer might have noticed that it takes someone 3-5 years to acquire a language in full, but they’d be wrong to think kids get that amount of time to acquire the language. Try a year and a day for qualification. No more, no less.

Here’s to the teachers who forewent teaching passionately in favor of teaching students how to answer test questions, scared that their publicly accessible data reports will load the gun for administrators to shoot their careers down. A teacher has every right to dead hair follicles, wrinkled cheeks, and mysterious itch outbreaks from the stress inducing season of testing.

Here’s to the teachers that raise a beer to the next one and says, “It’s alright. It’s alright. It’s not your fault.” Specifically when it’s not.

Here’s to the administrators straddling the role of teacher of teachers and soothsayer to outsiders holding all the wrong people accountable for all the wrong things, who fights alongside their teachers to supplant the testing industry, and who confidently say “No.”

Here’s to the students who may have in fact learned how to answer the questions on the test, but still can’t find the length of the hypotenuse or making a meaningful argument about their passions without prompt.

Here’s to Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Michelle Rhee, and the whole gang of people who tailor their philosophies around the idea that a holographic Sal Khan projected against the mostly dead SmartBoards / Promethean Boards would more readily save education before student and teacher voice will.

Here’s to the teacher who invested all those days angry that he or she invested all those days in preparing kids for a test that they don’t like. They join the millions (and millions) of teachers who wish the parents and students had enough voice to join ours against the testing hysteria. All well and good for well-resourced kids, educational malpractice for our least-resourced.

Here’s to the students who, rather than get nervous about the tests for the next 6-8 weeks, prefer to just let it all pass. Indeed, this too shall pass. Maybe they will, too.

Mr. Vilson.