I walked away from the rest of my class and over to the three computers in the corner of my classroom. Two of my 1st graders, Jasmine and Jayden, sat at their computers with their headphones off, waiting for me to reset their computers to Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) test number 2.
“I got 162,” said Jasmine. “You got 142.”
“You did better than me,” replied Jayden with a frown.
Shelly sat at the third computer. “I don’t wanna do the computer test,” she pleaded. “Do I have to?”
In the past three years I have experienced unimaginable computer frustration. Don’t get me wrong: I treat my MacBook Pro like a third child, and I definitely use technology in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning. I’ve been accused of being in love with my iPhone, which serves as a timekeeper, meteorologist, and DJ in my classroom. And the opaque projector is an excellent, plastic transparency-free alternative to the overhead projector. Computers and technology have come such a long way in the past 20 years, and they hold a big place in the lives of this generation of students. Unfortunately, one use of technology is failing in my classroom: the rapidly increasing use of computers for testing.
Computerized testing, including the widely used MAP test, has infiltrated the public schools in Milwaukee and across the nation like an uncontrollable outbreak of lice, bringing with it a frightening future for public education. High-stakes standardized tests can be scored almost immediately via the internet, and testing companies can now easily link districts to their online data warehouses, which allows districts to quickly access test scores (which would be good if the tests were generating usable data). This system provides momentum to those who believe more tests should be given to “track progress” throughout the year. In my district this means that every classroom teacher tests students at the beginning, middle, and end of the year, administering four tests in math and reading each time.
Limited funding and fewer staff in our district, as in most urban public schools, creates even more of a problem because there are not enough adults to serve as proctors. Setting up these tests is a tedious, time-consuming job involving a web of long, nonsensical passwords and codes. Teachers are being mandated to use many hours of valuable instructional time and limited teacher planning time to complete these tasks. In schools like mine that don’t have a computer lab, teachers have only a few computers in their classrooms. We are asked to simultaneously teach while setting up and administering a few tests at a time, seriously compromising the quality of instruction we are able to deliver.