“It’s go time!”

It’s the time of year that experienced teachers learn to loathe – state testing season. In my state, we’re about halfway done. A recent article by Nancy Bailey does a great job of reminding us just how ridiculous the whole thing is. At my last school, testing season was the Super Bowl for which we prepared relentlessly from the moment the kids came back from summer break. The weeks before the tests consisted of drills and practice tests for practice tests for practice tests for the real deal. The title of this post is from my principal who was trying to get us all super-pumped for the Main Event (My experiences with testing, along with life at a ruthless no-excuses charter school are documented here.)

My hope was that by moving from No-Excuses Land to public education, I would leave all of this mishegas behind. While the vibe is about 90% less intense, the elements of state test prep are evident – the Hail Marys of the final days before the test where teachers pump as much info into tiny brains as possible and pulling out the “bubble kids” with intensive instruction. The latter refers to the group of kids who are determined to be just shy of passing and worth the extra attention to get them over the hump. Those who are a safe bet are left alone as are those with no chance of passing. As Daniel Koretz notes in The Testing Charade, his must-read on the topic of standardized testing, the “bubble kids” are the only ones receiving a thorough education.

I’m lucky that my current job role allows me to steer clear of testing insanity. For those who are not as fortunate, here are my thoughts. First, the Hail Mary stuff rarely works and is hardly worth the effort put into it. Do your best to get kids ready without losing your mind as most of this is out of your control. Second, make sure to treat with compassion those kids who are unlikely to score Proficient. They’ve probably spent their whole lives being treated like they don’t matter. Finally, the test is ultimately meaningless for so many reasons that have been well-documented elsewhere. If your kids don’t get those coveted scores, it’s not your fault. The fact that you come in every single day with the desire to help your kids makes you an incredible individual.