Thursday, December 5, 2013

North Carolina: First in Flight, Now First in Testing? If It Moves We Test It!

One sad fact about public education in North Carolina is that the Holiday season comes on the eve of our state's massive semester testing push, at least in high schools. In North Carolina this year, we're testing students with state tests more than has ever been done in history. It is pretty clear that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's new philosophy of education is: "If it moves, and breathes, then test it."

While we in North Carolina are state-testing students more than ever, there are also all those state mandates that come with all those tests, that districts scramble to try to fulfill. These are those types of mandates that policymakers and accountability at state and federal levels come up with, but never really see the effects. They never see the pain and struggles people go through to implement these near impossible mandates. Take for example the simple idea that every test administration must have a proctor. Though our state education leadership has created this new creature of accountability and testing called a "Roving Proctor" to ease the almost impossible task of finding proctors, they still don't understand that schools only have so many sources of breathing human beings to put into classrooms. There's not exactly a line of community volunteers out there who are willing to spend three or four hours of their lives staring at kids as they fill in bubble sheets or stare at computer screens. Perhaps the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction think "Proctors grow on trees!" Sadly, they don't, so many districts are having to shut down almost everything to move bodies around to cover all of the proctoring. That alone is a sign of how absurd all this state testing has become. Perhaps everyone in Raleigh, from our state superintendent down to the janitors in the education building in Raleigh should fan out to schools across the state and serve as proctors.

No matter, how you stack it, many of us in high schools see Christmas vacation as the eve of semester testing, and season of testing is like a black cloud moving into position over our schools. In addition, no matter what rhetoric comes from Raleigh, we are subjecting students to more state tests than we ever have in history. Somehow our state leaders believe that changing the name of some of these tests from Measures of Student Learning to Common Exams to what they now call North Carolina Final Exams somehow means they aren't state tests. They are, and testing  has grown into a monster that drives almost everything we do at the local school level. No wonder there are places in other states where parents are saying enough is enough!

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