Slice of Testing Life

Every Tuesday, Two Writing Teachers blog hosts a place to post a slice of life . Join in as a contributor or just read more slices  here. Thank you  TaraAnnaDanaStacey,  Betsy  and Beth for providing this space for our writing.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday was one of those days. I had so much I wanted to do, planned to do. But, the expected unexpected happened.

I got to class early.

Got vocabulary ready.

The iPads were charged for students to take pictures of their favorite spots on the playground (thank you Tara for this inspiration).

I started to work out the sequence of the day on the board, when an administrator walked in. Now I love this administrator. She is the sweetest person, but she is the bearer of testing news. I saw her and I knew. I gave her a dirty look. I’m sure my tone was surly. That was extremely wrong of me, and I think I apologized. I just couldn’t help it. When I saw her, I knew the day I had planned was doomed..

You might be thinking right now, Why was this a surprise?

Let me explain my seemingly out of touch behavior. We have 70 iPads to conduct testing among approximately 360 students. Because of this. we take turns and we sort of guess  at the timing based on where you are in line and how much time you think the classes before you might take. Crazy? Yes. So when I was planning the week, I decided to simply not worry because I couldn’t control it.

When this administrator walked in I knew my fate was sealed and there was no getting around it. The test was today, and my dismay showed on my face. My students were destined to a day behind the iPads, reading Smarter Balanced passages, and writing their performance assessment.

My students were tougher than me. They walked in and they did it. They worked hard. Took notes, planned, read and wrote. They made out loud comments, asked questions (that I couldn’t answer), and continued to work hard.

Student: This is hard.

Me: I think, I’m sorry, I know it is. I say, But you are working harder, you’re showing what it takes.

Student: I don’t understand this question.

Me: I think, I can’t help. I say, do your best.

Student:  I am writing an amazing essay.

Me: I say, Wow! I think, what an attitude.

By the end of the day they (we) were spent.

After school, kids said they nailed the writing.

I’ll never know how they did because we won’t see the results. It’s a dry run for all involved. Next year counts.

While it’s nice not to worry about scores, I’d like to see what they wrote.  I’m curious. The fact is I’ll never be able to see what they write on these standardized tests, even when it counts. All I’ll see is a number. Which makes me sad. I just would like to see what they have to say.

As I watched students tap their screens, enlarge the font, and type madly away, I thought: If it were me, I’d like the reading on paper; something I could mark up and easily flip back and forth. If I was doing this test, I’d like to respond on the computer, but to read, write notes on, and refer back to text on paper.

Reading and writing on the same screen seemed difficult. I wonder if the designers of  the Common Core intended this additional challenge.  I wonder if those who make testing decisions ever  really consider what students have to do. If they put themselves in the students’ seats and took this test on those devices, would they achieve proficiency?


13 thoughts on “Slice of Testing Life

  1. What a shame, Julieanne – real learning interrupted. I’d love to know how the photograph based writing goes, perhaps we could do some sharing between our kids?

  2. Oh my! This would have thrown me too!! And you are so right…kids are so much more resilient than we are. Your point about the testing using technology is spot on. We have been using laptops all year and I expect using a computer to test won’t be as big of a deal because we are using it during instruction. I think that should be a requirement. If students are going to use technology to take a test, they need to have access to technology all year long for instruction. Anyway…I can’t wait to hear about your playground writing! 🙂

  3. Like I said to Tara, I never realized all this testing is as hard on the teachers and the students. And for a writing teacher not to see the student’s writing is just plain wrong.

  4. I would repeat everyone above, testing on the IPads without benefit of quick notes on paper is not what writers (or students) do. The saddest thing is that you don’t get to see the writing, or this time even the score. How can they expect to have improvement if you don’t know what was scored low in the first place. Crazy! I hope you now, today, on Teacher Appreciation Day, get to go outside and have a marvelous day!

  5. I agree with everyone here, it is WRONG for students to write under these conditions. It is completely unhelpful that teachers won’t get to see their students’ writing and how it was scored. And the nature of the work they are doing, reading a lot of info on a small screen… going back and forth, taking notes on that same small screen–and then composing on that same small screen– well I would have a tough time. I need space. And since we never work that way in class… not enough tech around… and we like paper and desk space! Strange that we expect them to master this on the spot for the test. I want to check out Thanks Kevin! Thanks for the conversation Julieanne.

  6. Thank you for sharing this very real experience of smarter balance testing. I can’t imagine not being able to see their writing or scores. It’s like pouring your heart and soul into a new recipe that you worked on for months to perfect, and not being able to taste the food or hear any response from those you serve it to. When you say, “Can I just have a taste?”, the answer is, “Don’t worry. It’s no big deal. It doesn’t count this time. It only matters next time, when you serve it to your most precious family and friends.”

  7. Oh, my, I feel your pain. I can’t believe your day of picture taking was ruined. You took it well. I do not think most test designers know what they are doing to kids, much less to the enjoyment that should be a part of learning. How sad that you cannot read their writing and celebrate it (as Ruth Ayres says you should).

  8. One thing I will never understand is how the writing gets turned into a number, and the teacher in charge of the students never gets to see what actually happened. Well, I’m sorry for you and your day. Your students will be fine. Sounds like they did a great job! Keep smiling!

  9. I try so hard to find some good in these tests….but it is hard….I hope that one day soon – like TOMORROW – you and those students are manning those IPads for really powerful learning activities.

  10. If I had to take a test on an iPad I know I would fail. I don’t even like reading and commenting on a blog on mine! We can only hope that some day soon, testing will be a thing of the past and we will look back and laugh and say, “Remember when we all took those tests on iPads?” Ok…I can still dream can’t I?

  11. Thanks, Julieanne, for making me think about reading and writing on my iPad. I have wondered (A LOT) about how high school students can do all their reading and writing on an iPad without a keyboard. That screen is half the size of my laptop screen. I can’t imagine!

    I can’t picture you as surly! Too funny!

  12. What a shame it is that you won’t get to see the kids’ writing. This seems very unfair. (So do a lot of things about what happened on the day you wrote.)

    Your kids showed a lot of grit by doing what they did. Kudos to them!

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