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A Day in the Life of a Testing-Crazed Principal

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Tuesday was the first day of the ISATs for all 3rd through 8th grade students in the State of Illinois. This is a big deal for Illinois schools because the results of these mandated, high stakes tests will determine if our students attend “Meets” or “Does Not Meets” schools. Each school's percentage of students passing the tests will be published in all of the newspapers. Schools will be ranked and judged based solely on these tests. The pressure is on all of us: students, teachers, administrators, secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, postal employees, UPS guys, and the milk delivery man. (OK, maybe not the milkman).

I find this to be a very frustrating time of year. Right now, my office is filled with boxes of test booklets, answer sheets, paper rulers, testing manuals, and rules and regulations for teachers to read. The materials all had to be counted, labeled, and numbered, and each student was assigned a specific booklet and answer sheet. This was labor intensive work for our office staff which kept them very busy for a week. Then, whole-school and classroom schedules needed to be revised so we can test the students at the same time each day. Almost everything in school shuts down this week in the affected grade levels, and then, next week we will run around trying to give make-ups to all the students who were absent during the testing week. Phew. It’s tiring work for many, many people.

If all this effort, hard work, and added stress led to test results that we could use for improving student achievement and for overall school improvement, I would be in a much better mood these days. Unfortunately, the results won't arrive for many months and will not be available for school improvement planning done over the summer.

Anyway, there are more rules and regulations involved with administering the ISATs than ever before. This is what my day looked like on Tuesday:

7:00 am – Met with my assistant principal to review all of the different accommodations groups needed for the special education students.

7:07 – Realized that we were still short one certified staff member to take one of the many different groups. No matter how we sliced and diced this, we did not have enough people to proctor the tests. Decided to ask the social worker to take a group for testing all week.

7:19 – Finished with groupings and room assignments for all the different accommodation groups.

7:20 – Printed “Do Not Disturb” signs for all of the testing rooms. (I forgot to do this on Monday.) I woke up in a cold sweat at 2:30 in the morning when I realized this.

7:29 – Burned my tongue trying to down a cup of coffee in one minute flat.

7:30 – Looked through the boxes of materials for the 27th time to ensure that each teacher had the correctly labeled test booklets and exactly the right number of answer documents. (can’t have any extras in the classrooms due to test security laws).

7:42 – PANICKED! Learned that one of the proctors broke her foot the night before, and she would not be in school. She was assigned to a small IEP accommodations group.

7:53 – Took five deep breaths and called the assistant principal again. Grabbed my accommodations sheet and ran to her office. We switched some students around and found a place for everyone to take the test in accordance with their IEPs.

8:26 – Loaded up all the boxes on two giant carts so I could deliver all the testing materials to the classrooms.

8:34 – Went from room to room, asking teachers to sign the official “I Have Received My ISAT Materials” form which officially transferred the materials from my possession to theirs. Placed the boxes on the back tables in all of the rooms. Asked each teacher for a $300 deposit for the testing materials – cash only. (just kidding)

8:49 – Forgot the “Do Not Disturb” signs. Ran back to the office. Ran back to the classrooms to deliver the signs.

8:55 – Quickly made the daily announcements so testing could begin.

9:10 – Walked (very quietly) from room to room to ensure that the testing started off on the right foot. This testing is very important, you know.

9:17 – A quiet hush has fallen over the school (except in kindergarten, first and second grade, where they still are actually teaching kids stuff).

9:18 – Visited with the school nurse (NOT for Tylenol) but to get the attendance report for the morning.

9:23 – Created the Make-up Test spreadsheet and added all of the students who were absent in the morning. They all missed the first reading test.

10:00 – Ate my Fiber One bar.

10:01 – Walked around the school to ensure that the hallways were still quiet.

10:37 – Checked email, voicemail, snailmail, etc. There was a lot! I was never this popular when I was in school!

11:30 – Collected all of the testing materials which must be locked in my office during the lunch hour. Test security is very important in high stakes testing.

12:00 – Visited with students in the lunchroom

12:30 – Walked around asking teachers, “How did the testing go?” Most said OK, but I learned that a few of the kids did not finish. And a couple of students got lost on the answer sheet and they filled in the wrong bubbles. YIKES!

12:45 - Loaded up the carts with boxes and redistributed the testing materials for the afternoon round of testing.

1:15 – Walked around the school to ensure that the afternoon testing session was to begin on time.

1:38 – Visited with school nurse to get the afternoon attendance report. Took some Tylenol.

1:58 – Added all the students who were missing the first math test to my Make-up Test spreadsheet.

2::21 - Went to the bathroom for the first time.

2:27 – Walked around the school to ensure that the hallways were still quiet as the testing session was finishing.

2:59 – Sat down.

3:00 – Collected all of the boxes with the testing materials. Locked all of the boxes in my office to ensure that they were secure. Test security is very important in high stakes testing.

3:30 – Grabbed my keys, said goodbye to the secretary, and headed off to the district office for an ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE meeting! (I’m not kidding!).

... and so it has gone for the rest of this week. Next week, I will organize all of the make-up tests because 95% of the students must take these tests or our school will not make AYP.


(What would this week have been like if we did not have to go through all of this testing? Maybe I could have visited classrooms to see what the students were learning. What if the assessments were tied directly to what they were learning, and administered throughout the year in small doses instead of all at once under so much pressure? Hmmmm… I wonder.)


Dave Sherman
The Principal and Interest

3 Comments

Dave,
Feeling your pain. As the district test coordinator and elementary principal I hear what you are saying. It consumes what we do. It makes it difficult to move learning into the 21st century when we feel desperate to maintain our status quo on the statewide achievement tests. Thanks for sharing.

I am amazed that you did so much by yourself. In my high school, as special ed dept. chair, I helped the testing coordinator and administrators with all the special ed testing including testers, proctors, locations, accommodations. After testing, I made my sped teachers come up and help fill out any testing paperwork so the coordinator did not have to do it all. I think I really helped and the test coordinator did not feel all alone in this mess. Is there anyone you could get to help you with this?

Yup, same story here in Minnesota. I do, however, pay 2 teachers to be test coordinators to deal with the logistics. And believe me, those dollars are well spent!

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  • Nancy Flynn: Yup, same story here in Minnesota. I do, however, pay read more
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