Saturday, October 30, 2021

Meaningless Tests, Suicide Prevention, and Election Day

Last year I wasn't absent much, but I called in sick for two all-day meeting Zoomfests, at least one of which devolved into gratuitous name-calling. Tuesday we have yet another, and I have really mixed feelings.

On a positive note, I recently stepped down as dean. Admin, having decided not to replace a few dean positions this year,  unilaterally declared we'd work more periods than called for in the postings we answered. Though we were able to fix it (and thank God we are union) I was disgusted on multiple levels. Since then, I've been teaching five classes and pretty happy about it. 

This notwithstanding, Tuesday will be a useless, wasteful slog discussing meaningless test scores, which we're evidently scheduled to do for three hours (!). For us, it will entail analyzing the results of the MAP test my hapless students were compelled to take a few weeks ago. There are many reasons why this will be a waste of time, the most obvious being the tests themselves were a waste of time.

My beginning-English students took them on laptops during class periods, which ensured multiple interruptions such as passing out, collecting, and sometimes trying to fix machines and dodgy software. That would not be so bad if it were not for all the time more directly lost by taking the test in the first place. I looked over the shoulders of a few kids to see tedious bits of text accompanied by multiple choice questions. There was no way this was a remotely productive use of my students' time. 

So Tuesday we will spend three days hours looking at the results of these tests. I was not clear on whether or not we'd have access to the original test questions, so I assume we will just take the company's word that these questions represent inference, while others represent comprehension, and others whatever. I did not hear anything about capacity for abuse, which I can only suppose is measured by how long the students tortured themselves grappling with language well beyond their capacity. To give one example of how ridiculous this test was, right now I have kids who will not respond to, "What's your name?"

Then, of course, there's the fact that, over the last two months, my classes that took this test have turned over completely. I have probably lost half the students I started with and gained as many. Not only that, but some of my students have interrupted formal education, and may have trouble reading or writing their first languages. A strong indicator of how well students will absorb a second written language is how well they do so in their first.

On Election Day, after we spend three hours going over these MAP results, we get one hour of suicide prevention. I think that reflects a lack of forethought on part of the administration. If they wanted to do this effectively, they'd offer suicide prevention before we spent hours slogging over a useless, tedious test. If it were me, I'd have devoted more time to suicide prevention than going over a meaningless test. After all, what's more important--your life and those of others, or a test that means less than nothing?

Maybe I will be sick by Tuesday AM. I can feel something coming on. Though really, I should push myself to be stronger. Even though my kids and I wasted three class days taking this cruel miserable test, it's far from over. We have to do this twice more this year to determine exactly how much progress my students have made in the process of sitting through meaningless idiotic tests. 

I wonder how much the geniuses who write this crap got paid. Surely we all chose the wrong business, but at least we provide a service.

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