The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Adventures in Annual State Testing

Comprehensive summative assessment. End of year testing. High stakes testing. Annual state testing. ITBS. ISAT. ACT. SAT. PSAE. PARCC. The combination of alphabet soup names and education policy jargon all point to the same thing: it is that time of year when I put several things on hold so that my students can sit through hours of assessments meant to show, theoretically, how well I am teaching and how well they are learning.

Of course, the reality is that one test could not possibly demonstrate that. One test is not enough to tell anyone anything meaningful about a single individual or even a single class. However, that one test can give a picture of trends over time when looking at large data pools, such as every 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade student in over a dozen states.

All that being said, I actually find annual assessment of students valuable for what it does, but I definitely agree with many researchers that there are better ways to do it. This post, however, is not about the value or merits of annual high-stakes testing. At present, it is a part of my job as a fourth grade teacher and it is something I will do my best to help my students do their best by teaching them all I can to help them be successful.

Once we get in the testing environment, though, I am not allowed to do much more than say, “Just do your best!” That doesn’t mean that they don’t try getting help. Which is why the following scenarios have taken place over the past couple of days:

Teacher (in classroom): Remember, you will have 60 minutes to complete the unit, so take your time, check your work, and do your best! Once we go into the computer lab, I’ll have a script to read and then you will get started.
*class goes into computer lab*
Teacher (before test starts): You will have 60 minutes. I will tell you when you have 10 minutes remaining. You may begin.
*ten minutes later*
Student: Done!
Teacher: …

Student: I don’t know how to do this.
Teacher: I can’t help you; just do your best!
Student: But I need help!
Teacher: I can’t help you; just do your best!
Student: But I really don’t know what to do!
Teacher: I can’t help you; just do your best!
Student: Okay.
*five seconds later*
Student: I need help!
Teacher: …

Teacher: Do not hit “Exit Test” until I tell you to do so.
*three seconds later*
Student: Oops…
Teacher: …

Student: It won’t let me write my answer here!
Teacher: Read the directions again.
Student: Oh. I didn’t do that.
Teacher: …

What adventures await us tomorrow? Only time will tell!


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