Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Oh the agony...of Testing

I am really beginning to think that these standardized are a form of child abuse. If anybody were to see what my students and myself had to endure the last two days, they would beg for an end to these ridiculous tests. I wish I had video tape of what occurred as I worry my descriptions will not do justice to what transpired.

I am the main special education teacher for the first grade in my building; therefore, it is my responsibility to be examiner and deliver the test with the allowed modifications for all of the classified children in the grade level. This year, there were five such classified students.  Their IEP's say I tested two students with OHI (other health impaired or ADD/ADHD) and two who are SLD (Specific learning disabled/dyslexic) In reality I had one child who is autistic, one who is cognitively impaired with the functionality of a four-year-old, a student who is BD (behaviorally disturbed) with ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), 1 that is SLD and 1 that is OHI. (The reason for the discrepancy is a factor of our school psychologist being so desperate to get kids in need on the IEP track that they will put any classification on the IEP just to pacify the parents so the child can begin receiving services that would be denied otherwise. Too many parents are in denial and won't sign an IEP that says "Cognitively impaired", "Autistic" or "Behaviorally Disturbed", nor will they seek independent evaluations)

So here we are, closed in a vacant classroom with large round tables together with the help of a teacher assistant, very experienced with special needs children and who has the patience of a saint, as proctor.

Keep in mind that this is a norm-referenced, standardized test complete with little bubbles. Luckily the bubbles are under or next to the answers instead of on an old-fashioned scan-tron answer sheet. These tests are being completed by students with fine-motor problems (Any answer outside the bubble will be marked wrong.)

Accommodation/Modifications allowed by law: Student tested in small group in a separate room with a known examiner and given preferential seating. Students will be given extra time, and can have directions read aloud, repeated and paraphrased. Questions may be read aloud. NOT READING PASSAGES OR ANSWER SELECTIONS MAY BE READ ALOUD. NO EXTRA HELP MAY BE GIVEN. NO MANIPULATIVES, OR VISUAL AIDES CAN BE USED.

Day 1: One child is out today because he was suspended after telling another student he would shoot them. Two students are able to work mostly independently. The other two are significantly below grade level and are accustomed to having a higher degree of accommodation/modification. Child #1 came into school screaming and crying, and refused to enter the classroom. Then he refused to enter the testing room. It took three adults, without getting physical, to coax him into the room. After bribing him with pretzels, he sat and willingly took the first half of the test, mostly standing because he doesn't have the wherewithal to sit for extended periods of time.

Child #2 needs to be constantly re-focused. "Please select an answer for #1." Look at #2. Not at me. Look at #2. Listen to the question. Fill in your bubble. Fill in your bubble please. Did you fill in your bubble yet? Are you listening? Look at #3. Look here. Eyes here on #3. Listen to the question. Fill in your answer." This went on for every question of the test. For some questions it would take him five-seven minutes to select an answer. The other students, especially those who have trouble sitting for too long, started getting jittery.  They began turning around in their chairs, standing up,  and talking to each other. They now need to be redirected and re-focused. "Everyone, eyes on your own papers. Please sit nicely. Stop playing with that. Sit nice. OK we're moving on now. Show me you're ready. Everyone, put your finger on the next question."

Oh no, now I have to read a story out loud, I really hope they are listening. (They weren't listening. I really wish I was allowed to read it twice.) Now the student who can't sit is up, running around the room, and playing hide-and-seek. (I did say he had the approximate mental age of four.) It's a game now. He runs over, selects an answer, runs back to hide. We just just go with it. Anything to get this test over with. Now we go into cheerleader mode to keep the others engaged. We're almost at the finish line. OH NO! Roadblock. They have to answer a question in writing. Child #1 and child #2 have VERY weak fine-motor skills. In fact child #1 can't write his own name properly (recently classified). Child #2 takes 20 minutes to write his one sentence answer.

Loosing children #3 and #4 again. I go into high energy mode. "OK guys, let's do this. Are you ready? I said Are you READY!!" After every question I run around the room and give each student a high five and read the questions in my best game-show host voice. Even Child #2 who was taking 5 minutes per question gets into it and starts going faster and staying focused. It's the last section. Here we go, and.... done. Thank you God it's over. Children escorted back to their rooms, and test booklets handed in to test coordinator.

Day #2: Child #5 returns from his suspension. He's a ball of emotions. He enters the classroom quietly and goes to hide in the corner behind my desk. I great him enthusiastically. "Hey buddy. How are you? We missed you yesterday." He takes off his coat, sits at his desk, hides behind his book bag, and starts to cry. I do my best to encourage and console him, but this does not bode well for what is already a difficult testing situation. I tell him that he will be with me all day and away from anybody who has bothered him. He willingly goes with us to the testing room, is allowed to choose his own seat, but refused to take off his heavy coat. Fine, I go get the test booklets from testing coordinator. When I re-enter the room I get three complaints that he was calling people names. Oh, boy. He gets angry and tries to leave the room. Everybody else gets settled and is ready for the test. We get him settled too. He starts by himself and tries to do the parts he missed yesterday. Illegal and the questions are in the teacher manual, so he can't go back. He gets angrier when reprimanded and told to stop. We do the first half of the test no problems. Everyone is doing well, even children #1 and #2. Child #5 gets to a question he doesn't understand. He throws his pencil and yells, "I'm not taking this stupid test. I want to go back to my room. I don't want to be here with them." and he tries to leave the room. Can't allow that to happen. If he leaves we have to fill out an irregularity report, void his test, and it could have ramifications for the other students. Hall monitor is asked to get a security guard and the testing coordinator while we block the door, never touching the child, just preventing him from leaving. We are able to calm him down, and he sits. He enjoys a pretzel. He does three more questions, and starts another tantrum trying to run out of the room again. We tell him we will call his mother. He starts screaming, crying, knocking his chair over. Test is halted, booklets are collected until he can be calmed by school guidance counselor. He puts his head down crying quietly for 15 minutes. Then testing resumes.

Everyone is doing well. Proctor stays with Child #1 and keeps him by his seat doing his best. I keep by Child #2 in the center of the room  where I can see everyone, keeping him on task and focused. Child #5 is even on task, and #3 and #4 aren't giving me any problems. They just need the occasional encouragement or high five. Oh NO, it's the writing section. Child #1 writes some letters on the lines, but child #2 takes 25 minutes to answer his question. I'm really proud of him because he used the words from the story and wrote a wonderful sentence. (The other students are reading quietly or building with math linking cubes after their booklets are collected waiting for him to finish.)

One more section to go. Very difficult to get everyone back on task after a nearly half hour break. High energy time. Running around giving high fives after every question, and... we're done. (Can I go home now?)

In the end, this test will tell me very little about these students. It will tell me that they are below grade level and have reading weaknesses. Now tell me something I don't already know. Why must these students and their teacher be tortured for incomplete, often inaccurate, data that I can get from other assessments performed in the classroom in a relaxed environment giving me results I can actually use and which can help inform future instruction? Oh that's right. Teachers need to be accountable. I can't be trusted to do my job effectively as the trained professional that I am, so we all must suffer.

Tomorrow is math, child #5's weakest subject. I wonder how that will go.

1 comment:

  1. And yet, you are responsible if the child doesn't do well on the test, right?!? As a parent of a Special Needs student, I think it is appalling that 1. Parents don't get more involved and stand up for what is best for their child and 2. Our wonderful government has determined that all students, regardless of ability must pass grade level exams based on chronological age, NCLB is such a FAIL in the application of it!

    I hope Math went better, mine didn't.