The Last of the CSTs


This morning our eighth graders are taking the California Standards Test in Science. The rules are like every year in their school life so far. Number Two pencil,  absolute quiet, no food or drink or electronic devices. I’m not sure why this test was deemed necessary this year, since all the other ones have been suspended, but there it is.  And even though I know they know what to do, and even though they will probably do it, I still feel like I am holding them on task by pure force of will.  As if the quiet will all fall apart if I am not watching them every second. Like maybe they will drink or eat by their testing materials, or haul out their cell phone and start texting. They might even talk if I am not vigilant. The thing I don’t count on is the force of habit when taking a standardized test.

These kids do know what to do. They have been doing this for eight years, practice tests, real tests, quiet-quiet-quiet, number two pencils only. And this is the last year they will do so. After this I guess all their tests will be on the computer, and will be far more complicated. Read this article, read that article,  find evidence to support your claim and write an essay about it. And yes, an essay is longer than three sentences. This year they took the practice test for next year, and it was a doozy.  They are completely unprepared for this next version of testing.  My work is laid before me, clearly.

As I write this, Juan is wearing a pair of broken sunglasses, I mean really broken, I guess in hopes that someone will look at him and laugh. Does he think I don’t see him? Okay, he got it and stopped.  No, wait. Now he is putting the lens in his eye like a monocle.  Really?? Okay, now it’s mine, the whole broken mess. So now he comes up and tells me he has continued to number 55, even though he is supposed to stop at number 33.  Exasperated, I tell him to just sit down and be quiet. See, I knew it. Someone would surely act like a jerk if permitted to do so. They’ve never seen Jacobs the testing queen. More like testing bi*&ch.

Since Juan began the sunglasses game, Cristina lost her phone, Rosa had to go outside to cough and stayed a long time and Claudia has begun popping her gum. How did we make it through the last twelve years of this?

I suppose the fact that 68% of them are failing Science has something to do with their quick termination of the test. If you don’t know the answers, it’s easy to finish early. Next year we will offer our English learners a supplemental class in Science and History to help change this statistic. But for now, They’re making me crazy without even trying. Well, Juan is trying.  The rest are just doing what they know to do, which is be quiet and suffer.


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