A reader in Florida describes how she was transformed from a librarian to a test supervisor:



Dear Diane,

I’m a library media specialist in Florida and have taught for 25 years. In those years I have experienced the degeneration of school library media programs which has accelerated with the advent of Race to the Top. With “testing season” upon us, the school media center will be closed to book checkout, research, information literacy lessons, enrichment activities, etc. and I will become a test administrator for weeks at a time. School-wide, instruction will come to a halt. Students will be regrouped into “testing groups” and very quietly marched in and out of the library and computer labs for long sessions of testing. Even the most behaviorally challenging students know the drill and march to the testing orders. It’s scary how compliant they are. If nothing else, we have taught our children how to take a test – not pass a test, because we already know a high percentage will fail thanks to the arbitrarily set cut scores – but they have been taught since 2nd grade (and now Kindergarten) how to BEHAVE during a test. Is this our educational legacy?


The most distressing aspect of becoming a robotic, script-reading test administrator in a high poverty school is seeing the resignation to failure on the faces of many of our students. They know they’re going to “fail”; they fail every year. The year we switched from FCAT to FSA (Common Core), I told my students, “Congratulations, you’ll never have to take another FCAT test again.” They cheered. Then I told them the bad news – that the new tests will be longer and harder and on the computer. One girl asked, “Why they going to make us take a harder test when we can’t pass this one?” A good question and one I could not answer.


This year, during the FSA Writing Assessment, a student raised her hand and asked, “What are they asking me?” I told her I couldn’t help her with that. I suggested she go back and reread the prompt. She was a very low level reader and the article on which prompt was based was too hard for her. She knew it, I knew it, her reading teacher knew it. Her teachers know because they work with her every day, so how does taking this test help her in any way? She raised her hand again, “How am I supposed to answer when I don’t know what they’re asking.” I encouraged her to try. At that point, she huffed, turned off her monitor, and put her head down. She didn’t realize it, but she had opted-out.


What are we doing to a generation of students who are repeatedly being told they’re failures? How do these tests inform the people that can actually help them with their academic or emotional needs? (And the emotional needs are great and must be met before meaningful academic progress can be made. No standardized test can address this.) They don’t inform, they label. Parents and teachers know from working with their children on a daily basis the needs of the child, so who benefits from the massive amounts of data the tests are producing? When I think of the money one district alone, even one school alone, must spend on computers, tests and materials aligned to the tests – new tests mean new textbooks, hardware and software – I believe the answer is obvious. Hint: It’s not the kids.


I’ve become so disheartened by billionaire reformers meddling in public education and the trend toward privatization that I’ll be attending NPE’s conference in Raleigh next month. I’m looking forward to seeing you and meeting others that are trying to push back against reforms that are hurting our children.



Anna Thoma