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How to Give A Standardized Test

Just in case you haven't had the sheer pleasure of administering a standardized test in today's high stakes environment, I thought I would give you a peek inside the exhilarating experience.

At least the parts of the experience I am allowed to divulge per my Test Security Agreement.
(Still have the band aid on the wound where I drew the blood to sign said agreement.)

Let's begin at the beginning:

8:15     Students arrive on time after having a good night's sleep and a healthy breakfast :)
            (Except my students, many of whom sleep several to a bed, if they have a bed at all, in a house with two or more families crammed in, and they had breakfast after arriving at school because school is the only place they get food.  But I digress.  My kids arrive and they are super ready to dive into that online, 6 hour test:)

8:16     Take everyone to the restroom.
               "I don't have to go."
                It's testing day, try to go.
               "But, I really don't have to go."
               Look, kid, we're about to be locked away into the great depths of The Computer Testing Lab for the entire day.  Go Pee!!

8:25     Everyone has peed (or tried to) and we begin the absolutely silent, solemn march to The Computer Testing Lab.
Cue the music.

8:30    Everyone is settled into their comfy plastic school chair and I begin reading the verbatim directions from the Test Examiner's Manual.  Just in case you say something wrong, there is a verbatim phrase to use to tell the students you screwed up and you'll try it again.
I am grateful for this phrase.

8:50     Complete the 20 minute long recitation of the verbatim instructions.

8:51     Begin Actively Monitoring.  This means I move unobtrusively about the room, monitoring the testing process but not actually looking at the computer screen, moving quickly so as not to linger too long in one place, but not so quickly to be distracting, not speaking to the students at all except for the four scripted responses from the testing manual, giving no encouragement, making sure everyone is staying seated, facing forward, and absolutely silent.
For the next 6 1/2 hours.

Two laps clockwise.
Two laps counter-clockwise.
Two laps clockwise.
Two laps counter-clockwise.

8:59     Oh My God It's Only Been Eight Minutes!

9:04     Student falls asleep.  Frantically search through the Examiner's Manual to see if I am allowed to wake him up and what the protocol/script is for that.

9:17    Starting to get dizzy from circling the room.  Begin figure 8 strategy.
           Sing Schoolhouse Rock Figure 8 song in my head.

9:20     Student asks for a tissue.

9:21     Another student asks for a tissue.

9:22     Apparently my students are allergic to testing because now every. single. kid needs a tissue.

9:23     Resume Actively Monitoring.  Pray for millionth time that there is no 'testing irregularity.'  Not sure I could endure the paperwork.

9:30     Are you kidding me?  It's only 9:30?!
              Help me...................

9:31     Another kid falls asleep.

2 and half hours later...
Two and a half hours, people.  Let that sink in.  Think about how much you accomplish in almost three hours. And in three hours we get a quick break and we're back at it for three more hours.
Now imagine that you have to walk in circles in one room and do nothing else for HOURS.  It is mind numbing and will drive your mind to all sorts of crazy places.

And what about those kids?  6+ hours taking one test.  That's like taking the SATs twice in one day back to back.  They are 10 years old.

Anyway, after being in the lab for a total of 3 and a half hours, we break for lunch,
I could not be happier because guess who forgot to go pee before the test?

NOTE:  I am quite certain that it has been scientifically proven that in the last 20 minutes before lunch break, time actually slows down.  I'm not too sure time doesn't move backwards.

12:00     Lunch time!  Yay!!
             And, seriously, the Lord has shown mercy on my wretched soul because the cafeteria has ICE CREAM today!

12:01     We begin the silent march to the cafeteria and back to our room where we eat in complete silence.  And where the walls are bare and boring because, God forbid someone see a main idea chart on the wall and get some unauthorized help on the test!  So we eat in silence and barrenness and just so dang glad for it.  After all, it's better than The Computer Testing Lab.

12:03     Listening to 24 children chewing.  Almost longing to return to the computer lab.

12:30     Back to The Computer Testing Lab, also known as the Innermost Ring of Elementary School Hell, just after indoor field day and lice checks.

12:35     Resume Actively Monitoring.

12:40     Try to remember what it was like to teach when I first started two decades ago, before politicians and businessmen decided they knew better than educators.  Start to fantasize that Pearson goes bankrupt and school divisions give teachers a raise.

12:45    Getting angrier at what is being done to my students in the name of  "assessment" and "accountability."  Realize that I am figure 8ing pretty fast and my active monitoring is no longer 'unobtrusive.'

12:46    Take a deep breath, think happy thoughts.  Switch to counter-clockwise.

2 hours later...

Still have 9 kids testing and the bus comes in 10 minutes.  Start calling their parents so kids can stay after school to continue testing.  Die a little inside for them.

3:45     I am home, now.  I'm not even sure if everyone is finished testing or not.  I had to get home to care for my own children, who are home right on time because I opted them out of testing.

Actively monitoring this now...
A humorous (but true) look at what it takes to monitor a standardized test.


  1. What are we thinking? And by "we" I don't mean "us." I mean "we," The United States of America. We are crazy.

    I opted my own children out too.

    1. Indeed:(
      So glad to see others opting out! It is one of the only ways we have to fight back.

  2. You're hilarious! But I think this falls into the category of "you have to laugh or else you'll cry". We tested in 90 minute blocks for 6 days. Much better than what you and your kiddos had to deal with. Our chairs SWIVEL. They swivel a lot. And sometimes the students' feet don't reach the floor. Fortunately, they don't seem to mind. I'm so glad testing is over (at least for this year).
    Laughter and Consistency

  3. This is such a tragic post because it's so true. Every politician needs to read this and be ashamed of themselves. Thank you for gently adding humor to the misery that is standardized testing while still portraying how terrible it is. Bless those sweet kids' hearts. And yours. And mine.

    1. Honestly, humor is the only way to try to make any of this even remotely bearable. I don't know how many more years I can do this.

  4. Wow, what test are they taking that is 6+ hours?! We do both PARCC and NWEA at my school, but none of the individual tests are longer than an hour and a half.

    Years That Ask Questions

    1. The state reading test - equivalent to the PARCC and also made by Pearson. I cannot comment on this year's test, but the previous year's released tests have been lengthy. And during practice tests, our students are encouraged to record test taking strategies for every single answer, marking why it is right or wrong for every question. So a 50 question test with 4 possible answers for each question would require a child to justify 200 answers.

  5. Gaaaa this post is hysterical yet unfortunately SO true...every.single.word. No one understands unless they experience it themselves! If I had kids I would opt them out too :)
    The Techie Teacher