Mark Limacher /dɒtkɔm/

General Politics, etc.

Where is the Resistance of Non-Participation re: Standardized Testing?

Some highlights from The Loneliness of the Long Distance Test Scorer in this month’s issue of Monthly Review:

Test-scoring companies make their money by hiring a temporary workforce each spring, people willing to work for low wages (generally $11 to $13 an hour), no benefits, and no hope of long-term employment—not exactly the most attractive conditions for trained and licensed educators. So all it takes to become a test scorer is a bachelor’s degree, a lack of a steady job, and a willingness to throw independent thinking out the window and follow the absurd and ever-changing guidelines set by the test-scoring companies.
Scoring is particularly rushed when scorers are paid by piece-rate, as is the case when you are scoring from home, where a growing part of the industry’s work is done. At 30 to 70 cents per paper, depending on the test, the incentive, especially for a home worker, is to score as quickly as possible in order to earn any money: at 30 cents per paper, you have to score forty papers an hour to make $12 an hour, and test scoring requires a lot of mental breaks.
Even if the scoring were a more exact science, this would in no way make up for the atrocious effect on creativity wrought by the mania for standardized testing. This impact has now been documented. According to one study, creativity among U.S. children has been in decline since 1990, with a particularly severe drop among those currently between kindergarten and sixth grade. {footnote in original refers to this Newsweek article}
I remember reading, for twenty-three straight days, the responses of thousands of middle-schoolers to the question, “What is a goal of yours in life?” A plurality devoted several paragraphs to explain that their life’s goal was to talk less in class, listen to their teacher, and stop fooling around so much. It’s asking too much to hope for great literature on a standardized test. But, given that this is the process through which so many students are learning to write and to think, one would hope for more. These rote responses, in themselves, are a testament to the failure of our education system, its failure to actually connect with kids’ lives, to help them develop their humanity and their critical thinking skills, to do more than discipline them and prepare them to be obedient workers—or troops.1

  1. DiMaggio, Dan. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Test Scorer. Monthly Review, December 2010

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