Saturday, April 18, 2015

A state of emergency

This past week, my fifth graders were supposed to take the SBAC test, which is an online version that replaces the traditional paper and pencil standardized test.

Since we were testing in the classroom, we spent weeks going over laptop procedures to get them ready. We talked about how to properly plug in the mice and headphones, how to carry the laptop, how to remove the laptop from the charging cart, how to tell if you need to plug the laptop in, how to set up the splitter and ethernet cords since we didn't want all the laptops pulling from the school's wifi.  My students were assigned cart-wrangling jobs and everyone knew their testing number, since it corresponded with the bag of mice, headphones, and laptops.  We went over the procedures for logging into laptops, logging into the test, all the web 2.0 tools (highlighting, clicking, hovering, typing, etc) that are imbedded in the test and necessary to pass.  We went over all these procedures more than once until every child knew what to expect.

I spent hours of instructional time practicing for THE TEST.

We read Testing Miss Malarkey and were adopted by another class, who provided us with cute treats the morning of the test.  

We had a pep assembly at the local high school to talk about test anxiety and get them ready.

I spent several hours after school covering all my anchor charts, since my room was the testing zone and had to be within protocol.  And as a friendly reminder, teachers aren't paid over time, so all this necessary prep was done on my time since I can't climb on desks while teaching--that's rather frowned upon.

We, almost painfully, problem solved every possible "what if" scenario...except for the big one.  

What if the test doesn't work?

We used splitters to problem solve for the wifi bandwidth.  The rest of the school was asked not to use the pod computers during testing time.  We did a practice run as teachers to create the testing window  and select all the various buttons we'd need to click in order to properly set up the test for the students.

We created a schedule, rearranged preps and lunches for the entire school.  We have three grades that need to test, but only three classes can be testing at a time (two on the laptops, one in the lab).  Some of our students need smaller groups or accomodations, but all that was worked into our perfect schedule.  There was time for make ups and no tests were scheduled for Mondays.

However, none of that matters.  Tuesday, the morning of the test, the SBAC server failed.

Not just for our school.  Not just for our district.  For the entire state.

Correction, for three states.

On a side note, system issues also briefly took out curriculum engine (where we have our online lesson plans) and interact (our email server).  Good times!

To say I'm disappointed with the SBAC corporation would be an understatement.  They had years to hype this test and get it ready.  We asked, time and again, for practice runs.  They failed to adequately deliver the standardized test.

The line from the media report is that they experienced technical difficulties due to a "spike in student participation."  

Students logged in, during the testing window, to take the test...shocker.  This in no way should have been a surprise.

We lost the entire week. Testing is "scheduled to resume on Monday" but we'll see.

So the tough decision was made to rearrange some of the other testing...which means my students had twenty four hours notice that they'd be taking the science component of the old CRTs (paper pencil version of the standardized test) on Friday.  Both sections of the test.

This component of testing was originally scheduled for the middle of May.  

They weren't ready.  We weren't ready.  We have a guest chemist coming in next week to talk about mixtures and solutions.  We have a whole force and motion unit planned, since we put our instruction on hold to prepare for the SBAC.  We stopped teaching to prepare for a test that through no fault of our own, and despite our best efforts to prepare them, still didn't happen.

My students did amazing, despite the circumstances.  With grit and determination, they spent the entire day struggling through a test of concepts we hadn't taught.  Some were more prepared then others.  They did their best and I can't ask for more than that.

I'd like there to be some accountability from SBAC.  This situation was ridiculous and unfair to both students and teachers.  There are now discussions at a federal level about repercussions because what happens if Nevada doesn't test? Will we lose federal funding?  What if the test doesn't work on Monday, then what?

I, as an educator, uphold my end of the deal.  I show up to work each day with an optimistic attitude and a desire to inspire, teach, lead, and challenge students to help them become the leaders of tomorrow.  I juggle state mandates and curriculum with the very real emotional and social needs of thirty young individuals.  I provide rigorous, challenging, engaging lessons that lead to connections and real-world applications.  I work tirelessly to make sure my students' needs are met.  Sometimes, I brave this battle with heels.

I did my job. Test makers, do yours.

No comments:

Post a Comment