Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tired Yet?

Note:  I took a two month hiatus from the SOLC, but am back and ready to write. 
On the positive note, on the days that I proctoredexams my pedometer clocked between 4-5 miles walked
versus my normal 2-3 miles covered during my workday.

Last Tuesday, I finished my final day of proctoring tests. Like any educator currently in the field of K-12 public education, I am not alone this week succumbing to the proctoring fatigue and the giddy excitement of summer overtaking me.  As the reading coach at a high school, I spent 7 of the last 10 weeks proctoring tests.  Proctoring translates into a minimum of 3-6 hours per day or ½ or all of a teacher’s work day.  If a teacher wanted to use a computer lab or the media center during the fourth nine weeks, their students were out of luck as were all the students in any classes that were computer-based.  Most 21st century technologies were displaced as our high school became a testing center. 

What does testing mania look like at a high school?  With End-of Course (EOC) exams in Biology, US History, Algebra I, and Geometry , Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB)  exams and the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Tests (FCAT 2.0) in reading and math, it looks different from testing at an elementary or middle school.  With a student population of 3200, it looks different from many high schools across America. With over 7,319 tests administered over the last 7 weeks at our school, not including IB tests, it looks like most public high schools in Florida. 

Fortunately we have a testing coordinator to handle the demands of testing season formerly known as “ the 4th nine weeks” and all of the other tests during the rest of the year that make this position full-time.  To our principal’s credit, we have an amazing testing coordinator, who came to school every day around 5 am to make sure the computers were up and ready to go.  She walked the eerily silent halls making sure that computers in the media center, throughout our 6 business education classrooms and in our computer lab were working.  She along with our tech coordinator handled any computer issues that literally popped up overnight.  She made sure that they were fans in rooms when AC wasn’t working.  (Did you know there is an optimal learning temperature according to some research?) She made administering the 4,152 FCAT tests for all ninth and tenth graders as well as the juniors and seniors retaking the exam, the 2,287 EOC exams, and 880 AP tests over the course of 7 weeks look easy.

It also took a team to administer these tests.  With over 180 instructional staff at our school, 140 teachers administered these tests and our team of guidance counselors helped every morning. No group was immune from making sure testing ran smoothly. Support staff including the media clerks and ESOL paraprofessionals as well as custodial staff were also involved.  Teachers provided the main support by proctoring tests, but they also made sure the right students made it to the right spot and modified their curriculum when half of their class was missing due to testing.  Also 133 substitutes were also used to cover classes while certified teachers were proctoring tests.  Does instruction stop when testing season begins? No, but it agonizingly slows down. 

As I think about the countless hours spent proctoring tests this year and know that I have neglected to include numbers about the instructional time that was lost during the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd nine weeks due to mandatory progress-monitoring tests and teaching students how to navigate the computer-based testing system, I continue to think about the actual cost of high-stakes testing. I am reminded of my mentor's favorite quote attributed to Albert Einstein, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.