I’m dead in the middle of IEP writing (and LEAing) but I need to say a word or two about End Of Course Testing or EOCT’s. The EOCT’s are the brainchildren of our own Georgia state legislature, who decided that they would develop and pass their own version of NCLB and require these tests for certain subject areas. Fortunately, my kids are all exempt and so the impact upon my little universe is minimal. However, for the 95% of the rest of the school, it is significant. I mean really significant.
This entire week, Mon-Thursday, the schedule is modified and we are effectively on a block schedule. Since we’re not used to this, it really causes problems with students who have to sit in their classes for about 2 hours, whether they are taking a test or not. The result is that students (and teachers) are incredibly bored by the second hour. Tons of students are getting restroom passes and wondering the halls.
For those who are taking the tests, the pressure is really on. The state mandates that the EOCT count as 15% of the final course grade. So failing these tests can have dire consequences, especially since we are less than 3 weeks from graduation.
What makes these tests sort of stupid and redundant is that the subjects currently being tested are exactly the same areas that are measured by the Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT). I recognize these because they are the same areas that I had to look at for the dreaded GAA!
So basically, an entire week of instruction is piddled away for more testing. I suppose one could argue that the EOCT is a good warm-up for the GHSGT. The GHSGT counts towards a school’s AYP, but the EOCT does not. The EOCT counts towards a student’s grade, but the GHSGT is basically pass-fail. A student can theoretically fail an EOCT and still pass a course, but if they fail the GHSGT they will have to retake the portion that they fail.
Clear as mud?
EOCT’s can be taken as either paper-pencil tests or they can be taken on the computer online. Last year, 880,000 students took an EOCT and about 80,000 were administered online. Schools have the option of doing either or both. Here in Magnolia County, we do pencil-paper tests and then make-up tests are done online.
The reason I know all of these fascinating facts is because our beloved superintendent, Kathy Cox, sent us all some pamphlets explaining all about Georgia’s testing program. You can read it for yourself if you have any questions.
Education is pretty much test-focused all around now. Actual learning, acquiring a skill, successful work habits and anything promoting good character has really been taken over by The Test, whatever the test happens to be for your state and grade level. The rationale happens to be that testing informs instruction, but if that were true it would be done at the beginning of the school year, not at the end. Here we are, taking tests a couple of weeks before graduation. What good does that do anyone? By the time school starts again (which will be in about 9 weeks from now for us) these tests will be forgotten. A new group of teachers will come into our school who have never seen these tests and will have to start all over again. It might have some value for returning teachers, but this is buffered by the fact that it will be a whole new crop of students taking their courses.
One other reason the DOE gives for these tests is so they can ensure all students have access to a quality curriculum. It’s the same rubbish they gave us about the GAA. A test does not ensure access to a quality curriculum, it only mandates minimum standards. It simply ensures all students have access to a test! Assessments are good and necessary, but they should be ongoing, done within the regular routine of instruction, provide near instant feedback and not disrupt the entire school system. Tests are only a tool, but they have turned into the sole engine for education today. It’s like throwing a hammer into a boat and expecting it to sail around the world. A hammer is a perfectly good tool, but it takes a lot more than that to get a ship to sail.
Good luck to those of you taking EOCT’s or giving EOCT’s or having to fiddle with whatever testing is mandated for students in your state and grade level. Summer will be here before you know it!
Now I’ve got to get back to my own paperwork nightmare. If nothing else, the GAA made IEPs look pretty simple by comparison.