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NCLB Outrages

Testing: How to Stop the Reign

NOTE: NCLB testing begins tomorrow in New York, when 1.2 million kids begin to take the ELA and math tests in grades 3 - 8. This year the tests contain embedded multiple-choice items that are being field tested, enabling the new vendor (you guessed it, Pearson) to develop future tests on the back of the children. The items won't count but they will make the exams considerably longer.

Fred Smith presents a strategy for making this greedy scheme backfire.

Ohanian Comment: I don't give up on my dream of the day the corporate-politicos schedule the massive testing scheme and no parent allows their children to participate AND a huge majority of teachers engage in the professional act of refusing to administer the tests.

by Fred Smith

Teachers, you are too good to revolt against the Caesars who rule education's holy empire through fear and the test master's cruel lash. Too patient awaiting leaders who will finally mass your mighty numbers in unified rebellion. Too battered to engage in acts of resistance. And far too decent to do this:

This week, when forced to participate in Albany's annual rites of examination, subjecting 1.2 million children to ever worsening trials, please closely reflect upon the tests that you are all suffering.

Many of the passages you see and the questions that follow will reappear next spring when the ordeal is repeated. Many of the same math riddles your students must answer will also return in MMXIII. It was so decreed by the emperor's closest advisors. Take heed honorable teachers.

Both you and your young charges in grades three through eight will be judged by how well they perform at this year's testing games and the next and the next. As proctors throughout the provinces, you will have time to minister the 90-minute examinations, study them and remember their contents.

Your legions in those grades are 45,000 strong. Properly deployed you can disarm the test master and destroy his vile instruments. For he has left himself vulnerable at the very moment he expects to lead you and your lambs to slaughter. Arrogant miscalculation has exposed him to defeat at his own hands.

The battle plan is simple. Its successful execution depends on discipline in the ranks. This year four forms of the exams are being given, enabling the master to try out and hone the blades he will use at next year's sacrificial altar. He likes to call them items that he is field testing. You know better. They are the knives and swords that will be used against you in the coming years.

Don't worry that you don't know which items on each form are being field tested. Know that each form will contain 15 to 25 try-out items per grade. The sharper ones will be included on next spring's exams when they will count.

Know that there are 7,500 of you at each grade level, to whom the master is exposing the material. Little does he expect you to attack and overwhelm it. He assumes you are too distracted, disorganized and beaten down by testing to fight back. But he has tipped his hand and given you the opportunity to preview next year̢۪s tests.

Mark every word on this year's examinations. Rely upon your eyes and collective memories to absorb each passage, question and choice set before your flock this week. Use the same weapons next week to penetrate the math material.

After the smoke clears, talk to your comrades and share the information you took away from the exams. Nowadays, there are so many ways to network. Each one of you in the state has a piece of the story. Put the pieces together and you can build the most efficient test preparation strategy ever devised. When you teach-to-the-test next year, you literally will be teaching to the test.

Does this seem far-fetched? There was a Spartacus, known as Stanley Kaplan who outsmarted the College Entrance Examination Board fifty years ago when ETS was the reigning test master. He knew that ETS was embedding items within its tests and trying them out for purposes of developing subsequent examinations.

He sent spies to take the high-stakes exams and report back to him what they saw. He debriefed others who had taken the exams. Armed with the knowledge he compiled, Kaplan's shrewdness paid off. He ran successful coaching courses boosting the SAT scores of those who took them.

The thought alone that test-abused teachers are ready to strike back would make the evil testing empire shake with rage and threaten retribution—and sweat nervously as the backlash gains strength enough to topple its dominion. May the empire’s fall be near.

Fred Smith, a retired Board of Education senior analyst, worked for the public school system in test research and development.

— Fred Smith



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