If we’re going to think about testing, we need to start with a song. Music is the proverbial spoonful of sugar that makes the acrid taste of what we do to children … oh wait, Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is supposed to hold to the quote … medicine go down.
It begins in January with the WIDA, a no-stakes test that English Language Learner students undergo so that schools can monitor how well they are progressing in their ability to understand academic tasks and adequately perform them.
GOT will not say it ends in May, because this road never ends, but the most intense period comes at the end of the school year when children must undergo hours and days of testing.
In Florida, there are three seasons to the school year: August – December, instruction; January – March, test preparation; April & May, testing. Districts conduct testing in December to ascertain how well students will perform in May. For a teacher, that means their Winter Break is spent coming up with answers for administrators under heavy district pressure that explain how the lowest-performing standards will be remediated.
For GOT, that was a ridiculous and easy issue to deal with. The lowest-performing standards were the ones he hadn’t reached yet in the curriculum. His plan? “I will continue to teach the curriculum as the district laid it out.”
But this year, GOT is the test coordinator for the school. It’s a full-time job as he must plan, organize, and oversee every district, state, SAT, PSAT, and AP test that is given. For context, GOT works in an academic magnet in which students will take 8 to 10 AP tests over the course of four years unless they are in the International Baccalaureate program, which is a special kind of crazy when it comes to testing.
2,371 AP tests to order, track, and give. For the state, 650 reading and writing tests, 232 Geometry end-of-course exams, 150 Biology end-of-course exams, 128 US History end-of-course exams (could be more, but that’s a story GOT cannot tell), and many Algebra 1 retake exams because passing that test is a requirement for graduation and GOT’s school must give it even though students must have taken Algebra 1 in middle school to be admitted.
The Long and Winding Road. It’s been an intense three weeks and it’s not over yet. GOT will be writing many pieces over the next few weeks as he processes and shares what it has been like. But for starters, here’s what he has been sharing with his Facebook friends, direct quotes without commentary.
April 29: I have all the pieces in place for Monday (I think.) Let the wacky, wild, whirlwind of testing begin!
April 29: Also, mild wrist sprain heaving boxes around looking for the ones that have Monday’s exams. Put a brace on it. May the morning be better.
May 2: All in all, the first day of the wild, wacky, whirlwind of testing ran well. Nothing anyone can do about student laptops that suddenly kick a kid out of the state test (which must be completed that day) to do updates even though the kid pulled every update possible last week. You would think that district IT would suspend the updates once the state testing window opens, wouldn’t you? Think again. DUUUUUUUUUUUUVAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!
May 3: Very tired tonight. That’s what a 14 hour day (begun at 2:45 AM) will do to a person. I knew it was time to pack it in when I began panicking over needing 305 tests for tomorrow and only had 283. Checked my order–only 283. How could I be so stupid?! Oh wait, 305 is Friday’s number. I really only need 283. State testing went okay, we got them all finished–well, those who showed up. What is it about the class of 2025 that they only test one day for a two day test? There was more, but I’ll stop here.
May 4: Only clocked near 13 hours today keeping the mill churning. Counting the materials I prepped tonight for tomorrow, we’ve already gone through more than half the answer sheets. Not looking forward to tomorrow and the sub rodeo we’ll go through. The minor panic came wouldn’t I couldn’t find the labels for AP Stats afternoon exam. Looked all over the office and storage. Finally realized most of the kids are in the morning macro. When I cross-checked the lists, yep, that’s where the labels are. Finally, a huge thank-you to my fabulous colleague and friend, [redacted], who saw my post on Twitter and brought me lunch today. It was delicious! I only ate half, so I have lunch for tomorrow as well.
May 4: I’m taking this as a sign from the universe that tomorrow will run on schedule with no derailments. Wordle 319 2/6
May 5 comment on the preceding: The universe struck back. The main east-west CSX line was under repairs today (no trains). I know because they blocked the crossing at Ellis Road. Therefore, some <cough, cough> considerate Jacksonville driver decided to run into a large truck on the Edgewood crossing effectively blocking traffic just as if CSX had parked a train. No train problem, but a headache as parents were stuck and couldn’t get their kids to school in time. One of our buses didn’t show up till 10 AM. Now that we’re on Wordle 320, I can reveal that the word was ‘train.’
May 6: Got out at 8 PM. Custodians are like, ‘you’re still here? We didn’t realize.’ Yes, when there are 300 US History exams and almost 100 European History exams to pack on top of everything else, it’s a long day. Thanks, AP, for insisting that the first week ship immediately and then scheduling two of the largest exams on the Friday. Then implying that it all must go out today! Then grudgingly say Monday will do. But that might not happen, either. Big day Monday as we have to do FSA [Florida Standards Assessment] reading–650 kids testing at the same time. And did the district shut off the computer updates because the FSA window opened? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, why do you ask when you know the answer? DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUVAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!
May 7 (Saturday): Tired, exhausted, and spent. But I really need to open that backpack …
May 10: Just when I was thinking if I ever turned Moslem, I could handle Ramadan, another fabulous co-worker to the rescue, the incomparable [redacted]. She brought me a salad and carrot cake and said, “I know you’re not eating.” I had to admit she was right. The day is so busy, the hours slide along, and as long as I drink enough water, I must be running on adrenaline and coffee.
May 11: Coming down to the wire. One big AP test left–World History with 200+ students in the gym. Everyone tells me what a great job I’m doing. I think they’re afraid I’ll quit after all this. [Redacted] to the rescue again re: lunch. Lastly, it’s not over. We’re going into overtime. Athletic events, wrecks, etc. plus at least 10 have asked for late testing because of Covid (oh, yeah, that’s not over) … Lots of testing for next week. And then, exceptions testing after that.
May 12: The plan’s bones were tested today. But we didn’t break although working out sub coverage with the principal’s secretary, medical situations, needing to maintain the right number of proctors (we did) in the room, fixing a mistake I made … I work with great people. Everyone take a bow.
May 13: And we come to the end … NOT. Testing is endless as any teacher could tell you. AP late testing next week and lots of proctors are still needed. All it takes is one student for one test and someone has to give it. Finally finished packing week one. Hope to get it off Monday. Sprained my right hand. Being test coordinator is hazardous to my health.
May 13: You know it’s bad when I see [redacted] post about the play tonight and I think, “Oh, good. That means I can work until 9:30 or so tonight.” It’s hard to work too far ahead because things are fluid right up to the moment, which means I have lots of work to do this weekend. Also need to do grades and attendance for the TAs.
May 13: Things got a bit ragged by Thursday. I really felt bad about a few things. Paxon folks are very forgiving. Hopefully, I can keep the train on the track next week. But I’ll likely be shipping late. Wonder how forgiving AP will be?
May 14: Senior grades posted. Attendance up to date–sort of. Afraid to check email just yet.
May 14: As I reflect on the last two weeks, I realize 2/3 of the AP testing took place in the first week. That’s packed and ready to go. Monday, my priority is to pack the second week and get everything to the UPS store. Fortunately, there’s no AP testing Monday. I hope no one tries to get in my way. Further reflections, what I have had to do under the constraints that I work … it’s not sustainable. Yes, that’s the snake’s tail rattling that you hear.
May 15: Down two proctors for Tuesday, but I think I’ve found the way.
May 15: I see the big picture. This is going to work. But what about the kid who has three FSA two-day make-ups? Stop stressing [GOT], he’s not going to show up for whatever test you schedule him for.
May 15: Built the FSA test rosters for Monday. Now to print them and then begin the mass emails to students and parents to let them know.
May 16: AP is out the door and sitting at the UPS store to transit to wherever it goes. Now that I know the routine, I was able to get an entire week done in about 4 and a half hours. FSA make up was a bit raggedy getting kids to the right place. I simply did not have the time I needed. I have an idea how to organize tomorrow. Left work at 4:23 to come home, relax, and put the structure in place. But then I-10 was shut down and I found myself in a traffic nightmare.
May 17: Late testing underway. Very tired, up at 2 AM to prepare FSA for today. Afternoon AP cancelled because the athletes had a game to play. Coach wanted to know if they could take their Tuesday exams on Thursday. No, it doesn’t work that way. If you miss it, you miss it. And this is late testing. I said I would call AP and ask about exceptions testing, but their phone system is down.
May 17: Some countdown the days to the end. For a test coordinator, these last few weeks are the sands running through the glass. So many to get tested, so few days to do it in.
May 18: When I realized we had hit 95% participation on state tests, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. That pressure is off. The morning was a flurry of locating kids and pushing them into testing rooms. That’s how it goes as we near the end of a testing window. AP late testing working well; almost all kids are showing up because they asked for it. Everyone tells me I’m doing a great job. I respond that I think people say that only to keep me from quitting (it’s a joke.) Several are noting the time stamps on my daily emails.
May 18: But the day doesn’t end as I monitor an exceptions request. Memo for next year: the students don’t understand how the AP system works. If they miss an exam, no, it doesn’t go on a shelf for a day and time when it pleases them to show. An AP exam is for a particular day and time, if it isn’t used, it gets shipped back. For another day, a new exam must be ordered.
May 18: Last testing post for the night–my name is Sisyphus. Every time I push this testing ball to the top of the hill, it rolls down to the bottom. One more problem for Friday to solve tomorrow.
May 19: This week (I think) has been the worst, but I fixed my Friday problem. Tomorrow is the FSA free-for-all where we run a dragnet through the building looking for any student who still needs to do a test. Then, why oh why, AP, did you schedule the late history testing for Friday afternoon? Do you realize how hard it is to find proctors when everyone’s burning rubber out of the parking lot for the weekend? On the other hand, no more 4 AM emails that everyone remarks upon (what they don’t know is the two hours beforehand that prepped for that email with information for the day.)
May 19: Peanuts and Brussel Sprouts for dinner. Am I pregnant or a weary test coordinator looking through the freezer and cupboard?
May 19: Had an AP [Assistant Principal] ask about my sleep today. I assured her that I was getting my hours in because I arrive home so tired I’m in bed by 7 or thereabouts. (Don’t look at your watch, dammit!)
May 19: Forwarded a preliminary list of unused and late exam fees to the office for student debt lists. Oh, it’s started. But I’m only the reporter. I don’t have the power to forgive.
May 20: Late testing is over. Was in the building until after six tonight. Last test finished 5:37, and then I had to pack everything so I don’t have that chore Monday. FSA make-up list down to about 20 tests. Still more to do next week, but I’ll begin blogging about the ‘long and winding road’ of testing soon to reflect on the experience.
May 20 (posted about 7:30 PM): Time for lunch.
This is a long piece because it includes all the Facebook posts. GOT offers it in a stream-of-consciousness motif. If you made it this far, you might have an insight into the testing crazy inflicted on public schools.