No Child Left Behind

Le Marquis has alluded to the fact that I have spent the last three and a half weeks working with our school district’s Assessment Coordinator, primarily on high school level testing.  It was interesting work, but I am finding it hard to summarize.  Should I talk about the process, the students and teachers, my reaction to this years experience compared with others, or the politics of the No Child Left Behind Act?  Dear readers, what has your or your children’s experience been with mandated testing? (I know your out there, I can hear someone breathing.)

I’ll try not to launch into a full political rant, fun as that might be, because my experience in the trenches did not really change my opinions, and my rant would not change your opinions, but might annoy you.  (Like teaching a pig to sing…) 

We administered nine different tests at the high school this spring, four of which Missouri requires to be completed by graduation.  To clarify, the students can graduate without having taken them, but the school district loses rating points if more than 5% of the students escape without taking the tests.  In a small district like ours, that means three students untested is too many.  We thought we were done on Friday, but on Monday, we found three seniors who hadn’t taken all four tests.  We pulled them in and tested them, even though they might not have been in that class for a year or more.  Two students were transfer students, and one was absent last year for the Bio test.  Check that off our list.  Our District Testing Coordinator (DTC) is known as the “Queen of Spreadsheets” for good reason.  There is a lot of organization going on behind the scenes.  As we wrapped up this year’s testing, and checked all the seniors off our list, we were putting the tests taken and raw scores received into our spreadsheet for the juniors, the Class of 2012.  This spreadsheet will be used before school starts next year to make sure all our ducks (I mean students) are in a row.

The EOC (End of Course) tests are now administered on-line instead of paper and pencil.  This is a good thing, and in general works well.  Our IT staff has discovered that it works better if we hook up each students laptop to an Ethernet line, rather than using wi-fi.  Each classroom has an Ethernet hub set up for testing, and the classroom is configured so that all desks can be reached.  In some cases this resulted in two concentric circles, sort of like the Stonehenge program Le Marquis is now watching.  I don’t think the IT staff aligns the circles with the sun, but I could be wrong.  The students all load the EOC browser, which automatically shuts down all other programs on the student’s laptop until they have finished the test.  We did have a technical glitch or two, but they were all resolved, and the tests are not timed, so the students were not penalized for computer issues.  In one case, a student complained of double vision, just as the test was starting.  Our quick-thinking DTC brought the nurse with her, to make sure it wasn’t a true medical emergency, then set the student up to use a desktop computer with a large screen, setting the monitor so the words were extra-large.  After confirming that the student could read the screen without blurring, she left me to proctor the student one-on-one.

I will close this screed with one last thought.  Much of the time I was working in a conference room in the basement.  There are high windows looking up into some bushes and a tree.  A male cardinal kept banging his head into the window, apparently seeing his reflection in the glass as a rival to be attacked.  Somehow, I feel that is a metaphor to the No Child Left Untested process, but I did say I wouldn’t get into politics, so I guess I should quit while I’m ahead.

4 thoughts on “No Child Left Behind

  1. The experience re standardized testing that stands out in my mind is when one of Haisley’s 4th grade teachers [a veteran teacher] panicked about the MEAP tests and started cheating. It began the year one of my kids aced the test. Intelligent enough kid but I was a little surprised that she did quiiiite that well on the math portion. “Oh, well she checked the answers,” said the kid. That raised a bit of a red flag but I didn’t act on it. What did I know? For all I knew, the teacher could’ve just been letting the kids know how they did. Maybe they’ve changed the rules since I was a kid? What the heck *were* the rules?

    The *next* year, the teacher apparently escalated into taking the tests home overnight and putting post-it notes next to the wrong answers. She was caught and placed on “medical” leave and we all know more or less what that means.

  2. Ditto on the error. Couldn’t believe it. But then, lately, I have been mixing my there, their, they’re up alot.

    My recollection of the testing in high school for the kids was that they had different schedules on those days. Trying to keep track of who had to leave when was interesting.
    I don’t recall the kids complaining too much, but maybe I have just erased that memory.

    If they need to have tests, I think that instead of just putting in more academic style tests, they should retain a few – but augment them with some other tests that measure other aptitudes. This might at least give the kids and parents an idea of where natural talents are – spatial, written, math, small motor, large motor …….

  3. YOU’RE right, I did goof. Thank you for YOUR kind corrections. I was too busy trying to decide whether it should be “children’S experience” which Microsoft liked, or “childrenS’ experience”. Seems like the readers I know have multiple children or they have none. Wouldn’t it be “child’s experience” for an only child, and “childrens’ ” for siblings?
    I usually don’t trust Microsoft for spelling or grammar, but I was very tired last night.

    Maybe I should take the practice English EOC and see how I do. 😉

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