At my school we've been doing state testing for a week and a half now, Monday through Wednesday of last week, and Monday through Wednesday and also Friday of this week. Long-time readers of this blog will know I'm a fan of standardized testing--outside, objective eyes are a good thing--but implementation, from the state on down to my school, is just idiotic. I'll only mention a few things just to give you a flavor.
Let's start with the state. Why do we have stringent standards, standards that certainly require a full school year to teach, but test on these standards in mid-late April? Can anyone come up with a good, academic reason to do this?
Add to this, some of the instructions are silly. For example, for the math tests the students are to write on their answer documents the two-digit version number that's on their testing booklet. Then they are to bubble in the number that number that they wrote--but the bubbles contain only one digit. Yes, the version numbers all begin with zero (e.g., 01, 02, etc.) and there are only bubbles for numbers 1-7, but why the inconsistency? The rules are so rigid that I have to read all instructions to the students verbatim, yet it's impossible to follow that particular instruction about bubbling in the number. Are other instructions so requiring of interpretation?
Additionally, all tests are untimed--students can have as much time as they want or need. However, each of the math tests contain 2 parts. Why, I don't know--there are problems in the first part, and similar problems in the second part. We allot 2 hr 40 min to do the whole math test; if students need more time, they can go to a special room once "regular" classes start and finish the test. However, if a student finishes Part 1 and moves on to Part 2, the instructions forbid the student to go back and check work in Part 1. But remember, the student can take as much time as he/she wants in Part 1! I can come up with no explanation for this seeming inconsistency.
Go down a level to the school districts. Some will want to game the system, to gain an advantage over other districts when Academic Performance Index scores are calculated and released. Those districts will try to cover all the standards before the testing in April; they'll cram 181 days of instruction into 140 days, meaning those districts spend 22% less time on each standard just to "expose" students to the material so they stand a better chance of getting the right answers on the test. I assume they go back and reinforce some of this material after the tests, but I don't know.
And now, my school. We're given a window in which to conduct the tests, and at my school we spread the tests out over 2 weeks. We tested 1st period students on Monday of last week, 2nd period on Tuesday, and 3rd period on Wednesday. After the 2:40 testing period, we held ordinary classes (either odd- or even-numbered periods, so the classes can be 70 minutes long instead of only 30). On Thursday and Friday we held our regular schedule.
This week we did 4th period on Monday, 5th on Tuesday, and 6th today, and sophomores will take an "NCLB Science" test this Friday. Non-sophomores signed up for "study hall", presumably with their favorite teacher, for Friday.
After kids spend over 2-1/2 hrs testing, you might imagine that they're "all tested out". So for two weeks it's difficult to schedule ordinary tests or quizzes--remember, ordinary classes are supposed to go on as usual, and we're supposed to be teaching. Our schedule makes that a bit difficult, though.
It's possible to write valid, reliable tests, and to create a testing regime to administer those tests in a logical manner. Sadly, I don't think we have such a testing regime here in California. Remember, I'm a proponent of standardized testing. If I can complain this much about our testing, imagine what opponents must be saying.