Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Standardized Testing Funnies: Looking for Laughs Amid a Geography of Pain


For many public school teachers out there, the photo above needs no explanation. For others in the "real world", it's a tiny view into the mysterious world of standardized test reporting. To be honest it's too tiny...click on it to see a larger, more visible version.

For those of you gloriously unaware, the above is a snippet of the individual student SBA report we teachers get. If I remember correctly, this one is for the current 8th Graders at my school. Those unfamiliar with terms like "proficient" and "nearing proficiency" should probably just thank (insert deity or probability here) they don't know what these terms mean. As for the three-digit numbers listed, don't worry about not knowing much about them, we teachers don't know anything about them either.

Okay, time for the punchline. The sole reason to flash this "secret of the temple" document before Babble-readers eyes today is the column headers: "Reading", "Writing"....etc. Notice how there are scores listed for Reading, Math and Science? Notice how the column titled "Writing" says "Will be reported at a later date"? Finally, notice that the final column has nothing but "This column intentionally left blank"?

Now why is this funny? Yes, perhaps it's not funny, especially if one is a Social Studies teacher, but non-teachers out there...think back to your own K-12 education. Remember those classes not called "Language Arts/Literature/English", "Math" and "Science"? You know, like Social Studies? Well, at least in the SBA reports we get in the Albuquerque Public School those classes should really be called "This column intentionally left blank".

Which means that the "intention" is to never test kids in Social Studies or associated subjects like Geography. Or at least to "intentionally" never count the scores of such testing, if such subject testing were to ever occur again.

I guess there are two ways to look at this situation. The Social Studies glass vis-a-vis standardized testing can be seen as horribly empty or amazingly full. Empty glass types might see it as a great example of how Social Studies isn't appreciated as an integral part of a school's curriculum. Other, glass brimming to the point of spillage folks, might take advantage of this testing hole and figure "who cares what the Hell I teach? I can teach U.S. History any way I damn well please, focusing on whatever the Hell I want!"

Me, I now teach something called "Humanities", which has something to do with "Writing". "My" subject "will be reported at a later date". As in when Hell freezes over or the Cubs win the World Series, whichever comes later. I take this as a sign to curricularly run as fast as I can, trying not to spill too much from my over-brimming glass. Your spillage may vary.

P.S.: I'm now officially behind on post regarding bad teachers, bad principals and the like. There's a comment in particular I want to address, and I want to flesh out my stupid ideas on reallocating job duties for school administrator folks. I promise to get to that tonight as I have no grading to do, for a change. Those SBA meaningless writing assignments take forever to wade through. Why do I bother? Oh, right...testing isn't everything.

4 comments:

Kelsey Atherton said...

But without Social Studies, how will my populist rallying cry ("Just like Glorietta, Boys!) have a meaningful affect when my rag-tag band of burquenos is holding the trenches against an invading Texas? All sarcasm aside, I am genuinely upset by this.

I mean, with the stock market collapsing, we're about a decade away from world war. That's how this works, right? And I can't imagine a world war in a collapsing US where Texas wouldn't get imperialistic. /end insanity from a poli-sci & history major

Anonymous said...

As long as we keep the populace stupid,they are much easier to control. Let's hear it for NCLB!

Gerald said...

But This Column is Intentionally Left Blank was my favorite subject, wherein I had the most interest and the most gains of understanding of the world around me.

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