“When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again.” — John Lennon
Our daughter has a tendency to repeat herself over and over again. Goodness knows where she got that from. When she was little we used to tell her she was caught in a loop. The only problem was she couldn’t pronounce all of her words correctly, so it quickly became coughing aloof.
It was the first thing I thought of when I thought of today’s activities. These screeds usually come out in the morning, but I couldn’t do it this morning. I was administering a STAAR test. For those out of state, that is the acronym for our state testing. We take five of those tests throughout high school and students are expected to pass them all in order to graduate.
Except they don’t have to pass them all. Special education students can be excused from taking them after making several attempts. Other students can have an alternative packet they fill out in order to get the same credit. Still others can simply graduate with a different diploma as long as they pass three of them. Are you sufficiently confused? That’s how the state of Texas wants it.
The students are smart enough to see through our bluff. They have friends that have managed to walk without passing it. These tests are normally done in the spring, but retesters have to take it in December as well. I always administer the English test. Students are given five hours (or more) to answer around 50 multiple choice questions asking to comprehend reading passages, edit reading passages, and revise reading passages. Then, they have to write either an expository or persuasive essay.
The students taking these tests again run the gamut. Some of them are great kids that just don’t have the skills necessary to make it. Unlike all of the other STAAR tests, the English tests are skills based. You can’t study for them. You either know how to read and correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation or you don’t. You either know how to write or you don’t.
The rest fall under two categories. Either they know they don’t have to pass and don’t care or they cannot keep themselves awake through the five hours. At some point you start to wonder what exactly we’re measuring. You have the poor girl (we will call her Maria) asking questions every few minutes and I can’t answer any of them. You have the little turd (we will call him Billy) who announces loudly that he is done with the test after 13 minutes. Yeah, sure he will pass.
Then you have the three or four boys that somehow take apart their chair and throw the pieces at each other. They wait to do this when I am waking up the same three or four girls for the 20th time. Citizens of the state are paying billions of dollars to large corporations so they can write these tests and we can torture children.
That’s the whole point. When you fail the test in the spring, you take it again in the summer and then again in December if you don’t pass. Then you go back to the top of the slide and do it again in the spring if you don’t pass it that time. Some students take the same test up to seven times before they are seniors in high school. No wonder they sleep. No wonder they act like 12 year olds. No wonder they just fill it out in 15 minutes. They know the process will start over no matter what.
Again, what are we measuring? If we were really measuring reading comprehension and writing ability that would be one thing. We have enough local experts that could draft a much shorter and more manageable test for free. When we give them five hours we are measuring endurance. We certainly aren’t measuring anything meaningful. Asking a child to take a test seven or eight times is child abuse. It’s sadism wrapped up in fake accountability.