Testing my patience

Reading the e-mail Tuesday night, I got scared. My principal had been informed by local and state testing officials that one of our students had been able to take a picture of the exam booklet and post the picture on Twitter. We are in a lot of hot water!

Immediately, I thought, “Oh my God! Was it me? Did one of my students do this?” The two other teachers and I tried so hard to be vigilant. We thought our students had behaved so well.

For hours I was struggling with the fear. What if it was me? What if this was my fault? What will happen to our school? My job? My career? My reputation?


Two days later, as I write this, I can’t help but wonder, why on Earth do I let myself get so worked up over this? I mean, I know how serious the folks in Sacramento take these exams, and, I appreciate their sincere desire to know how well my kids are learning. However, my all-too-rational fear that I might lose my job for failing to keep the test questions secret… My God! Is this what my profession, my calling, has devolved to?

I think about all of the effort I put into my craft and my kids each day. I think about all the time I spent over the weekend to translate history assignments into Vietnamese for my new student, Ngoc. I think about James, who just published about his experiences being a teacher for the day on ED Week Teacher. I think about all of the work that I do to give James, and my other students, the opportunity to sample my chosen career.

I forced to think that all of this, if weighed against the security of the state’s exam, comes up short. It seems to be that in the eyes of the educational officials in Sacramento, and DC, the entirety of what I do for my kids can be summed up by the number of correct answers on this test. That thought makes me sad.

Later this month, I take some time to dream big and share with you what I would love to see our nation’s educational officials do to satisfy their reasonable desire to see how well my students are learning.  It’s going to be just a fantasy, I know, because the next generation of exams are already here.  My school will be piloting some of them in May.

For now, I just hope and pray that the powers-that-be keep a cool head about the testing scandal at my school.  I would hate to see this lapse of security cause hundreds of students to lose their otherwise wonderful teachers and principal.

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  • Rachel Losch

    Double locked

    At my school, we are hyper-paranoid about the security of the test as well. The testing booklets are locked inside a locked room, inside of another locked room.  I also understand the safety measures that are inplace for testing, but it seems to add another layer of anxiety to our jobs. 


    I often think, how did it come to this?  

  • TriciaEbner


    I would be like you . . . and yes, I would wonder, why does it all boil down to this? Sometimes I am truly baffled at how we got where we are in education.  We even have strict protocols for what happens if a student throws up on the test booklets. Yeah, we seal them in ziplock bags and send them back to Columbus with the other tests. I get that we can’t exactly just throw it in the trash, but one of the first questions that came to me when that protocol was announced in my building was, “Do they really think the kids are THAT curious that they’d go dumpster diving after dark to find a test someone threw up on?” 

    It’s a crazy, crazy world . . .

  • JessicaCuthbertson

    You can’t keep student brains under lock and key….

    Thanks for this powerful reminder, Dave. I recently wrote about how badly this year’s state test in CO wasted my students’ time — especially since we’re in between the old and the new assessments. I crave an assessment that is worthy of instructional emulation, worthy of my students’ time, worthy of being kept under lock and key. But I don’t think a standardized assessment can meet that criteria — portfolios, discussion and daily formative data…now that’s the sweet stuff of learning.