Shhh – testing! What is standardized testing doing to your school?

Since I work in more than one school I am referred to in my district as an ‘itinerant teacher.’   The result is that I have an unusually wide lens through which to view school culture and events.

What I have observed lately is that the happening thing this spring in every school I visit – or hear about – is testing. (The sign-making industry must be making a fortune – schools are peppered with cute signs of smiley faces that read: ‘Shhh – testing!’ or ‘Quiet – testing!’)

The life of the schools seems to be suddenly controlled by the eight hours of testing needed for students for the new SBAC test – the one approved by the state of Maine. Some people may think that eight hours of testing is not so much. After all, it’s just a bit longer than one school day.

In practice, however, eight hours of testing in public K – 12 schools is very long indeed. Young people can’t sit and focus on testing for very long – the nature of childhood is movement. Therefore the eight hours need to be spread throughout multiple days, and those hours then trump instructional time – and an active learning atmosphere –  school-wide.

The ripple effect of classes being tested means of course that those classes are  directly impacted, but so are neighboring classes, whose teachers must then shift curriculum. How can you have twenty-five children excitedly working on group projects when the door of the room next door is marked ‘Shhh – testing!’

If you multiply the disruption to each school by the grade levels that need to be tested in that school (you can’t do all grades in the school together because technology is required and both technological devices and broadband supply is inadequate for this) you get a product of weeks on end where the central happening in the school is testing. And that’s just the eight hours of the newest test, the SBAC – next to follow is the NWEA.

I’m interested to hear from adults working in schools. Is my experience in my district anomalous? What is testing doing to your schools? It would be great to hear from you.

Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.