The Bizarre Situation
By: Ian Berger
The testing in my school has taken a turn for the absurd, with me smack-dab in the middle. The New York State mania for testing had allowed teachers of non-tested subjects (social studies, science, art, music, PE, etc.) to create their own evaluations (SLOs — Student Learning Objectives) for their annual review. My school is deciding to now drop the SLOs because they're too difficult to manage. The SLOs have doubled or tripled the amount of testing in my school.
Fair enough, but according to New York State, all these people *must* be tested. So what test would be the best to evaluate (almost) all of these teachers? The best answer: the New York State English Language Arts test. Specifically the grades 6–8 ELA because these are the ones who have been preparing for the test the most, right? They should do the best. Now here's where this situation becomes something out of The Onion. I teach in a small K-8 school. It’s tiny. We have only one teacher per subject in the middle school, and I am the only grade 6–8 English teacher.
If things go the way they are going, I will become responsible for the performance reviews of about half my school. That's right. Just me. The sole English teacher. The testing portion (40%) of ALL these teachers' evaluations is now in my hands. And mine alone.
The crazy thing is that I can’t find fault with the school’s logic. We need to reduce this ridiculous amount of testing. It even makes sense to focus on the ELA exam, because every teacher deals with literacy in one way or another. It’s the best solution for an insane situation. And it’s completely crazy.
Yes, my administration is supportive, and I do believe them. They tell me we’re all in this together, and we are. Everybody will be receiving the same grades. And yes, everybody in the school will be helping to teach ELA so, of course, it won't all be on my shoulders. But we all know how that's going to work out. I’m the only one in the school qualified to teach middle school ELA. Our scores are pretty high, but God forbid they slip, because we all know who’s going to get the blame.
So this is what our high-stakes testing has led to. It has created this bizarre situation, and it has to stop.