If you've been one of the two readers of this blog you probably are well aware of the fact that I think this national obsession with testing kids is harmful and I am not a fan. At all. The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests have become the focus of education. Schools are judged on it, teachers are judged on it, and our kids are judged on it. Sure some testing is necessary, but in My District we seem to test all the freaking time.
Anyway, a few years ago, our State decided to do away with our old format of testing which we did in late April and early May and go with a two part test - a writing test in February and then a more traditional multiple choice sort of test in April and May. (So, you see what you have here? More testing.) The kicker was that this was all going to be online.
Really. The brilliant idea was to test all the kids in the State through the same website on the same day at the same time, more or less. Now I'm lucky in that my District actually doesn't do too bad when it comes to technology, but for some of our rural districts, this, obviously was an issue. So millions and millions and millions of tax dollars have been spent to upgrade school technology throughout the state so we could all be ready and able to take The Very Big Deal Government Mandated Tests online. Even my district, as ahead of the curve as we were, was going to have to do the testing in stages because we do not have a 1:1 ratio of computers to kids. My building opted for four days of testing for the sixth graders, then the following week would be seventh, and the week after that, eighth.
Yes, folks, that's three weeks of testing.
We have spent the past two years getting ready for this. Our tech people have busted their tails to make sure our technology is working. Our teachers have practiced and practiced and practiced with the kids so they are familiar with the program. Our kids, many of whom only see computers at school and who are much more familiar with phones and tablets as technology, have practiced and practiced. I put kids on the computer quite a bit out in my Happy Little Portable, simply to practice their typing skills...because...if they can't type well on this timed test, it will impact their scores (or, as my mother asked, "Is it a test of typing or a test of knowledge?") If we counted all the hours we put in to practicing for this online test, it would boggle the mind.
So yesterday was The Very First Day of the Very Big Deal Government Mandated Test.
Our sixth graders went to their testing locations (because we had to spread them around the building so they wouldn't all hit the same part of the network.) They opened their laptops. They signed in. They began their test.
And within thirty minutes the entire thing blew up.
The servers at the State level just couldn't handle it. The kids got error messages. Emails flew back and forth and finally the District got the word from the State level to just Stop The Testing.
Late last night word went out that we will no longer be doing on-line testing this year. The Commissioner of Education no longer has faith in the outside vendor hired to do the job (and you don't want to know what it cost, truly.) The finger pointing has begun. We will be receiving paper and pencil tests - exactly with the same content as the online, but instead of typing, the kids will be writing by hand - sometime this month. The State will let us know.
Two years ago this month I sat in a meeting at the Capitol with a number of legislators the week after a statewide online writing test was launched for the Eighth Grade Only and it blew up. That news didn't hit the media. When we mentioned it to the legislators They Had Not Heard a Thing. The whole thing seemed to have been hushed up. And we told them right then and there that the technology wasn't there to do this thing on a statewide scale. And they didn't listen.
So. I told you so.
And you know what makes me the angriest? That we have wasted so much time on this stupid online test and our kids are learning to absolutely hate school.
It's the kids I feel sorry for.