Testing is not the answer

11th November 2005 at 00:00
It has been a testing week in more ways than one. Along with every other third grade teacher in Georgia, I have administered state standardised tests in language arts, reading, maths and social studies - and it only seems like five minutes since we started back at school.

Somehow, I cannot quite see the point of assessing eight-year-olds on stuff they have not learned yet, but then that is why God invented multiple choice. And anyway, who am I to question such wisdom? Apparently, it is a tried and tested (sorry) method. So there.

If it is Friday, it must be science. Having delivered the same instructions word for word (no paraphrasing allowed) four days on the trot, I now know the entire script off by heart, and so do my kids.

"Today you will be taking the science test," I recite verbatim. "On your answer sheet, put your finger where it says 'science'."

Darlene is busy admiring her new acrylic nails and Billy-Bob's finger is up his nose.

The really scary bit is when we do the sample question together, yet again.

"Remember to choose the answer that you think is the best answer."

Oh yeah? Half my class completely ignore the one that is already shaded in for them, and select a different answer instead.

My precocious over-achiever insists that the best answer is not there at all. This is not a good sign. I swiftly abandon the other examples, start the timer and utter those all too familiar words: "You may begin."

Once more, I peer over shoulders and try not to feel suicidal. Travis finishes in three minutes flat having hedged his bets on several answers for each question, and in some cases, all four answers. Smart kid.

Meanwhile, Darlene is only shading the circles which make a pretty pattern on her paper. She may be too cute to care, but with random selection and average luck, she should still score 25 per cent - pretty good for Darlene.

Half-way through and one of my more conscientious students is on the verge of a panic attack.

"Ma'am, if I fail this test, will I have to stay back and repeat third grade?"

"No, of course not!" I smile reassuringly, "That test comes at the end of the year."

Finally, my favourite part of the script: "Put down your pencils. The test is over."

As I collect in the papers, I notice that Cooter has drawn SpongeBob SquarePants all over his answer sheet. I can't wait to see what the computerised scoring software makes of that.

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