The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non-fiction works.
The Selection: “Educational Testing: Just Another Job” from collection of essays titled “Personal Indianapolis.” This is the fourth piece from this book that I’ve read for this year’s Deal Me “IN” challenge.
The Author: David Hoppe –An Indianapolis writer who has labored for Indy’s “Alternative Weekly” Nuvo Magazine since 1998.
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storyroster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. The 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” is also a “Legacy Project” officially endorsed by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission!
Educational Testing: Just Another Job
“In test-scoring centers, dozens of scorers sit in rows, staring at computer screens where students’ papers appear… each scorer is expected to read hundreds of papers. So for all the months of preparation and the dozens of hours of class time spent writing practice essays, a student’s writing probably will be processed and scored in about a minute.”
I struggled with this piece, which was my least favorite of those that I’ve read thus far in Hoppe’s book, Personal Indianapolis. I have no children in school so perhaps lack a good vantage point of the issues the essay covered, but I have followed news stories about standardized tests for years, and have frequently been amazed at how big the time gap between testing and receiving results is. I also naively hadn’t realized that the standardized testing included a writing sample from the students (i.e. something that can’t be scored in an automated fashion). I had just been picturing a multiple choice, computer scored exam like many we used to have even way back when I was in school.
Hoppe had come across an article in the Monthly Review by Dan DiMaggio titled “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Test Scorer.” (linked here if you’d like to read it) and kinda jumps on the bandwagon of condemnation regarding the process. While I agree there seems to be much that should be condemned, I felt Hoppe’s piece was superfluous once I had read the “source” article. It’s frankly a little sloppy too, as an instance of ‘bad math’ had me in an uproar pretty early in the essay:
“DiMaggio, who lives in the Twin Cities, says he has personally read tens of thousands of papers, for which he has been paid at a rate of 30 to 70 cents per paper. That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12 an hour”
Wait. It only means that if the rate is at the bottom of that scale. What about the 70 cent rate? At the top of the scale it would be $28 an hour, right? Shouldn’t it read something more like “scoring forty papers every sixty minutes might only earn him $12 an hour,” or even “That means he has to score forty papers every sixty minutes to make $12-$28 an hour”? My loyalty as a reader goes out the window pretty fast when I feel I’m being manipulated by partial truths, whether they are intentional or not.
Overall, though, this piece and the DiMaggio article that inspired it, left me disappointed in “the system” once more and even glad I don’t have kids that are being “taught to pass tests” that people who often are not even educators themselves are scoring in an assembly line fashion.
What about you? Any teachers out there reading this? What are your thoughts about standardized tests and their value? I’d love to hear more from the front lines on this issue.
Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “Murder on Indiana Avenue” by Andrea Smith
P.S. Yes, I’m even getting a little bit ahead of schedule now, as I’m hoping to be done by Indiana’s ACTUAL bicentennial date of 12/11/16 rather than the end of the year. We’ll see if I can make it.🙂