True Confession: this week I reserved a testing space, grabbed my list of kids to test, went to their classrooms, called out their names. They dutifully lined up, we filed down the hall. I put the We’re Testing sign on the door as a warning, opened the instructions, began reading the script, passed out the blank answer sheets, gave directions on how to fill in their name, grade, school, made sure they had 2 number 2 pencils. Then passed out the test booklets. Continued to read the script reminding students to match the number on the answer sheet to the question number from the test book. Set the timer. Asked if there were any questions before we began and saw hands raised.
“Ms. B? We’ve already taken this test,” said the nine-year-old girl with confusion on her face. “No you haven’t,” I said. “You took the X version of the test. This is the Y version.” Other hands raised. “No, we took the Y version already,” she said. Heads were nodding. “No,” I said patiently. “This is the Y version. I gave you the X test last time.”
“But this is orange. We took this one already.” Other voices were chiming in. I looked at my list again. Checked that these were the kids on the list. Looked at the test again. Version Y. The kids become more vocal and were leaving their seats to come up and convince me. I was losing control. What if the principal came in?
Visions of total chaos floated in my head. Mis-admin-is-tration. A horrendous crime of which the repercussions would be mounds of paperwork with my name all over it. Oh the shame.
Well, the students were right. I had given them Version Y and most frightening, had absolutely no memory of doing so. One test among the dozens I have given since January (it’s now May). After apologizing for my mix-up (in which one particularly precocious boy suggested I think about retirement), and sending the kids back to the relative freedom of their classroom, I found their Version Y answer sheets in my file drawer, waiting for me to hand-score them.
Like all teachers I know, I test students all year. Actually, the pc way to say this is assess. I assess their reading levels, math abilities and writing skills. I do paper and pencil testing and I give computer-based tests. I am trained in test administration and I have read the test manuals thoroughly, including the Testing Code of Ethics. I score, enter scores, analyze scores. As a gifted ed. teacher, not only do I assist with the “regular” testing in classrooms, I give tests for the gifted program as well. These tests are high stakes for anxious parents who want their children in this program. I give end-of-grade tests that are high stakes for the teachers, principals, superintendents, and politicians. (Did I mention students?)
Test and retest and test. I look for percentiles. I use my college Statistics class to find the standard deviation. I norm and average and calculate and report. I test until I can no longer remember which test I’ve given and this week I got caught by nine-year-olds as I grabbed the wrong list and suffer from the blur in my brain from over testing.
I was lucky. This near-testing scenario was not for the end-of-grade tests in which case the consequences would have been bad for me. But even so, the complete lack of remembering already giving this 2-day, five hour test drives me to consider Alzheimers or a brain tumor or a reminder that we over test our children today.
If I am testing, I am not teaching. If kids are testing, they are not learning.