Tuesday, March 28, 2017 – STAAR – Assessment Tails Wagging the Dogs of Education. Academic Lockdown.
This is for all educators across the school districts across Texas.
Good Morning Boys and Girls,
I hope you are rested, well-fed, anxiety free, and prepared for the state assessment tests beginning today. The fact that your educational future is dependent upon your performance on this test should be put far back into your mind.
My career as a public school administrator began in central office when it was TABS. Takes you back doesn’t it? Texas Assessment of Basic Skills if I recall. It was part of the 1984 education reforms.
When I moved to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in 1989 my entire division’s opening lines for presentations to educational institutions were: “Good Morning, my name is _______ . I am from TEA and I have NOTHING to do with Assessment or PEIMS.”
However, what goes around comes around. Captain Hair Spray, then governor of Texas and now in charge of our nation’s energy and Texas A&M Student Body elections, line-item vetoed the entire agency where I then worked and removed $270 MILLION dollars ANNUALLY from public schools, public libraries and institutions of higher education. This single stroke of a pen sent me and many others spiraling downward into the pits of Assessments – probably located in the same level of Dante’s Hell as the politicians are.
Here is a look back on my career in assessment.
RP Unemployment – Scoring (we do not grade) assessment tests for $10.00 an hour or $11.50 an hour at night from 4:30PM – 10:30 PM. I would tell you more, but I might still be under Pearson non-disclosure papers. My therapist and I are still working through this repressive period of my life which I usually refer to as seeing “the asshole of education.” You talk about tax dollars at work – assessment is the place. And no, scoring is not always done by teachers or any other types of educators. If one can produce a piece of paper from an accredited educational institution with fancy writing and fog a mirror you are pretty much in.
I was fortunate to obtain a position in a central Texas school district as a central office administrator. Please, allow me to share my assessment experiences and your tax dollars at work.
One Year – I was An Assessment Bathroom Nazi – my role was to visit four assigned campuses in the morning and the same four in the afternoon. My duties were to relieve the individual guarding a bathroom for their 15 minute potty break. Please note there was another brigade of Assessment Lunch Nazis moving around their respective campuses to allow the actual test proctors a 30 minute lunch break. Also note that most of us driving around the district were highly paid central office administrators who also receive district mileage per diem.
One Year – I proctored the testing of a single 5th grade student in the campus’ computer lab. I suppose I was placed in that location because I was a technology administrator and he was placed there because he took his test via a tape recorder. This adorable young man was alone because his testing style accommodations included that he listened to the test via recordings.
For those not familiar with the ever changing testing rules, test proctors are not allowed to sit, eat, have a cell phone, check email if in computer lab, read, average grades and/or do anything else to be productive and alleviate the instant boredom for the next three and a half hours that sets in as soon as the student begins the test.
Remember the students are allowed to have snacks. I do not remember this extremely bright young man’s name, but at one point he looked at me and said “Dr. D. You look awful. Would you like some of my snacks?”
One Year – I proctored three fifth grade students in a classroom in a portable building. Just before I was to start reading the instructions at precisely at 8:30 AM – must be read verbatim at this time according to rules – I realized I had not signed out the instruction manual when I signed all of the other documents I had to sign that morning.
I think to myself – I am an experienced educator. I got this. “Hey, two boys and one girl. Seems I forgot something. Let’s all go back in the main building. I will get what I need and you can get a free bathroom break.” Off we go – still in single file – We are locked out of the main building. Remember, I do not get to take a cell phone.
Fast forward – Bang on outside door until somebody opens it; I sign document that says I forgot to pick up instruction manual; I must initial and resign document that I states I picked up instruction manual; students get free bathroom opportunity; I do not get to go and at 8: 38 AM verbatim instructions are read to three students.
10:05 AM– Campus counselor interrupts testing by knocking on door of portable classroom to inform me that I must be written up for not following rules and forgetting my instruction manual and not starting the test on time. I politely remind her that I came looking for her prior to the beginning of test, within time frame and she was off campus – also against the rules. “So I am going to have to write you up too, including the interruption of the test so you could tell me.”
Next morning – the truly awesome principal calls me in and together we discuss (i.e. Eye rolls over Starbucks) the two write ups – hers and mine. I still remember him saying as he shredded all of the write-ups “Assessment days suck! Well, I have to go earn my highly paid administrative salary and let Coach Jones go to the bathroom.”
That May I retired from education. Assessment – the Cesspool of Education.
Good luck, Boys and Girls. Good luck educators. And God Bless Texas and its Public School System.