Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Drawing Out the Absurdities in Standardized Testing

You can literally sense the boredom in the air as another six-day grind of standardized testing begins at my beleaguered middle school. Yeah, that middle school. The one, apparently the only one, where the kids don't write good.

As my school and the inability of its students to express themselves in a written form has become the local news equivalent of Britney Spears not wearing panties or Michael Jackson dangling a baby off a balcony, there is little need to further address that issue here.

Besides, it's "Opening Day" for standardized testing. Time to shake off the bad press, get that old confidence back and mind-numbingly bubble some answers, hour after hour, a half-day at a time for two weeks.

Oh, sorry..I just went into a little coma.

Just as with everything else pertaining to education, standardized testing has controversies. Many don't like the idea of testing at all. Some oppose aspects of how the tests are administered. Plenty of folks don't like the emphasis ("high stakes") on these bubbling fests.

Others complain about the nature of the actual test questions, that the tests aren't really "normed", that the little stories questions in the tests are laughably inane and so on, and so on.

"All of the above" is true, but there is one stupid testing requirement that shines above all others. It is the one testing criteria that absolutely no one likes or can even comprehend.

It is this: When students finish a section of the test and must wait for the next section they are not allowed to draw. They must not doodle, cross-hatch, shadow, etc. Stick-figures, 3-D portraiture and landscapes are forbidden. Action scenes involving "ligers", dragons and bloody swords...can't do it.

For years now we teachers have been told this, and not a single one of us can figure out why this rule exists. It has achieved something of a questionable "urban myth" status, yet every year the question comes up, the answer is the same, the staff derisively laughs and, being the little law-abiding sheep teachers are, we dutifully write down "no drawing".

I reckon finding Orwellian elements in standardized testing is like spotting bad grammar in a 6th grader's essay. Pretty damn easy. But this "no drawing" thing just has an Animal Farm meets "Brazil" bureaucratic mindlessness to it that's hard to beat.

With that happy confluence of images, we in Team Jefferson MS are ready for another soul-crushing "Opening Day". Play Ball! And stop dangling that baby participle!


Anonymous said...


Friday, March 7: The PUBLIC will have an opportunity to meet the candidates in the John Milne Board Room at APS City Centre, 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 3:30-5 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.

history said...

Reasons why you should not draw or write between tests:
1. carpel tunnel syndrome may set in
2. you might actually be tempted to rush through the test quickly so that you can get back to your doodling
3. no one really gets enough reading during a reading test.
4. My principal said so--and she told the students that it was a direct order from President Bush (NO LIE)
I strongly recommend the book, "Dishwasher; One man's quest to wash dishes in all 50 states", by Pete Jordan for your between- test reading. Nothing like cross-country dishwashing to put the whole SBA thing into perspective.

michelle meaders said...

The candidates for what? There are a lot of elections this year. Oh, APS superintendant! Do you mean the local ones or the secret not-local ones too? How much have they been narrowed down from the original applicants?

According to the Albuq. Trib's website on Feb. 18: "The committee will submit its list of finalists to the board on March 1, at which time a list of all the applicants will be released to the public, Maes said."
"March 7: Finalists meet with community groups: 6:45 a.m. student leaders, noon business and government, 5 p.m. district employees, 7 p.m. parents.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure we'll only be meeting the locals - but I might be wrong. This is on APS web site 2/20

Albuquerque Public Schools News Release
Subject : APS Receives 49 Applications for Superintendent
Author : John Miller
Posted Date : 2008/02/20


A dozen applicants in New Mexico, 37 from across country

[Albuquerque, N.M.] � The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education announced in its Wednesday meeting that the firm representing it in its search for a new superintendent received 49 applications during its open search process, which ended Tuesday night. A dozen of the applicants are from New Mexico, while the remaining 37 were submitted from educators representing 20 other states.

�We�re pleased with the number of applications and by the fact that we received them from every region of the country,� Board President Paula Maes said. �We look forward to continuing the process and finding a superintendent who will lead APS to great success in the future.�

Maes said Ray and Associates, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, may collect a few more applications that were still in the mail. Applications were required to be postmarked by Tuesday. The search firm made 177 contacts to potential applicants.

The rest of the search process will be as follows:

6-8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 29: Superintendent Search Committee Orientation with Ray and Associates

8 a.m., Saturday, March 1: Search Committee reconvenes to discuss applicants and to recommend their top picks for superintendent candidates

Friday, March 7: The public will have an opportunity to meet the candidates in the John Milne Board Room at APS City Centre, 6400 Uptown Blvd. NE from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 3:30-5 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.

The search committee, made up of 27 educators, parents and community members, as well as three board members, will recommend a list of finalists to the board. The board will make the final selection, possibly by March 9, for a permanent successor to Elizabeth Everitt, who stepped down in December. Linda Sink has served as interim superintendent since Jan. 2.

Every child has a right to a quality public education and APS is committed to providing that education. For more information about Albuquerque Public Schools, visit www.aps.edu.

michelle meaders said...

Thanks for the updated info. More people should take an interest in the public schools, even though they don't have kids in them. They will be teaching most of our future fellow citizens. Don't we want competent people to do the work, vote for public policy, and pay into our Social Security? Also, they employ lots of people and use a huge chunk of tax money, which we should want spent well.

Maybe the writing or drawing prohibition was about making stray marks on the test booklet, since they are machine read. I'm 60, and those circles have been around since I was in school. Sometimes we weren't allowed other paper, in fear of bringing in "crib sheets". Or for math, we turned in our scratch paper to show our work. Maybe the graders didn't want to have to decipher notations that weren't related to test questions. And there was discrimination against kids who drew better than they wrote or looked like they weren't paying attention.