Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Super Secret Top Test Security

As we approach testing season here in Pennsylvania, it's time for each of us to take our "training" regarding test security. I present a quick overview here not to make the point that testing is ridiculous, but to underline just how useless the testing is to actual classroom teachers.

The "training" format is an on-line power-point presentation, followed by questions that anyone with a scintilla of common sense could answer without having watched the slide show (True or false: During the test procedure, it is okay to bubble in answers for the students). This is the sort of "training" that is not so much about training as it is about plausible deniability ("We made them all get training on the not-cheating thing, so it's not our fault.")

The "training" gives the impression that the state is really, really concerned that students, in their deep and extreme desire to get good test results, will indulge in all manner of creative cheating. They will pass notes, use super-secret eyelid semaphore signals, and take chemical additives rumored to promote psychic powers. Most especially they will use their smart phones. Phones are greatly to be feared when it comes to test security. These are perhaps problems in other corners of the Commonwealth, but here in this corner, the problem with the Big Standardized Test is that students see it as an irrelevant pointless exercise that is basically pass-fail.

There are ethical issues, apparently, and we've looked at that document before. But the biggest threat to test security is the Test Administrators (sometimes known as teachers).

We are not allowed to engage in "unauthorized viewing." UA is a violation of test security, and can include (but is not limited to)

* looking at test content to determine its meaning or essence
* looking to see if a student marked content
* viewing test content to see how a student answered test questions
* memorizing test questions

And we are serious about this stuff:

Be aware any time you interact with students during the test period there is the potential for a testing irregularity or a perceived testing irregularity. Therefore it is very important that as a Test Administrator you thoughtfully consider where and how you interact with students and choose your words and actions carefully. The key is to maintain the integrity of the test environment and the validity of student results. Your actions should support this goal at all times.

Because the validity of the test is a fragile and delicate thing (so fragile and delicate that apparently nobody has ever actually tested the validity at all). But in the post-slide-show quiz, we get back to the really important point in a true or false question--

It is unacceptable for the Test Administrator to read or view the contents of an exam at any time-- True!

So the next time somebody is claiming that the Big Standardized Test helps teachers and schools by showing them where student weaknesses lie, ask exactly how teachers are supposed to get information from a test that they are forbidden to even look at. It's a new version of the emperor's new clothes-- you can't study them or even look at them, but you must just take the grand vizier's word for what you need to contribute as accessories.

Imagine if we sent report cards home but told parents they were never, ever allowed to even see any of the assignments or tests or books or materials that their child had worked with during the year.

To claim that we can make useful corrections and tweaks to educational programming based on tests that we never ever see is ludicrous. It's just one more reason that the Big Standardized Test is a waste of everyone's time and money.


  1. That is appalling. OPT OUT, people!!!!

  2. Precisely. So how pray tell, does it "inform instruction."

  3. And "because the validity of the test is a fragile and delicate thing" many school districts are keeping non-testing students in the testing room while testing is going on and are claiming that won't invalidate the tests. Fragile indeed!

  4. I have parent friends who were told by their child's teacher that they (the parent) were not permitted to view the child's work, assignments, or textbooks in a particular subject because the parent would simply confuse the child. Gee, I wonder where that policy started?!

  5. Also, did you not have to sign the 4-page NDA that permits Them to read your personal email and text messages?!

  6. Meanwhile, check out the high falutin" qualifications for test scorer. If you know anyone who qualifies. Oh, and this looks very secure.

    1. Oh my god. The Pearson application is - when my jaw resumes its customary position just below my upper lip, I will start laughing, and may continue for some time.
      Thanks for all the other links too, workingmomfromnys. Very instructive.

  7. Yes, teachers with "a scintilla of common sense" can recognize this OCD test madness as dysfunctional and a harmful environment for children. So, the real problem is that teachers have become sheep and are "going along to get along". Perpetuating this psychological abuse to children is the most evil kind of behavior. Teachers with moral courage will refuse to participate. The only option is to REFUSE to allow yourself to be used to bully children. Teachers, call in sick on test days, and use whatever covert means you can devise to help parents Opt Out by calling in their children sick on test days. The only way to stop bullying is to refuse to participate and take the power away from the bullies.

  8. Here is my observation of the madness of CCSS

  9. And this post is the most (sadly) hilarious one yet.