I temporarily reentered the workforce for six weeks to work part-time, evenings, as a test evaluator at McGraw-Hill in Indianapolis. I spent 4.5 hours each night reading and assigning scores for state’s standardized tests. The work was boring, like watching paint dry is more exciting, boring. And staring at computer screens, trying to decipher children’s chicken scratch and misspellings, was at times agonizing on the mind and the eyes, and the back as the chairs should’ve been replaced a decade ago.
But, I learned quite a bit from the experience working as a test evaluator, mostly about myself.
I like working. No, wait, I love working. I really do. Despite the repetitive nature of the work, I liked it. I liked having somewhere to go at a set time. I liked challenging myself to grade more papers each night and to have 100% accuracy (and to stay awake – oops!). I liked having coworkers to talk with and get to know even if the job didn’t allow for much chit chat. The interactions I had with coworkers were generally very positive. People there were nice. And happy. And hard-working. Many had full-time day jobs as well. It was the first job I’ve actually worked that required a bachelor’s degree. I was finally putting that degree to work.
I also learned that I can do more than I think I can. Somehow I still managed to keep this blog running smoothly (although admittedly with the help of some great guest posts during the month of April), get out with the kids, and keep the household mostly running. I was consistently going to bed when I arrived home from work and waking up around 6:15am so I could blog, and this was mostly while my son was teething hardcore, working on three new teeth and waking up at least once a night for the first two weeks I worked there. But, I did it, and it wasn’t totally crazy, even though I was tired and not everything was accomplished on time. Some things did go by the wayside a bit, like laundry.
I also learned that my husband doesn’t like doing bedtime every night by himself or going to bed alone. Nor did he like taking over too many of the household duties, as I still found myself doing many of them.
Due to the nature of the job, I also got a taste of the education system in America. I am not a fan of standardized tests despite always doing well on them myself. Working this job solidified to me (and now my husband as he currently works there full time) that these tests are ridiculous. Some of the questions and prompts are poorly written, include information like maps even though they aren’t needed for answering the question, aren’t specific enough as to what they are looking for in order to receive full points, and some of the grading scales are far too holistic. And then some questions are ridiculously challenging for the grade level, asking about something none of us had ever studied when we were in school. And you can tell that teachers are teaching to the test by the style of written responses you see.
That’s why I don’t think so much weight and emphasis should be placed on these tests. Despite how accurately we try to grade these exams as evaluators, some grading scales are too generous and others too lenient. Some questions too hard, some too easy. Some kids don’t give a darn about these exams and don’t try their best because it doesn’t matter to them. But, for some reason some states want to base teacher’s salary, school funding, and the amount of recess upon the results of these exams.
Lucky for me, I graded an essay question that let me catch a glimpse of today’s middle-schoolers minds and hearts. Some were very honest in sharing that they didn’t like these tests. Some were kind enough to thank me for reading their essays and asked me questions. But, it was what most of these early teens wrote about in answer to the prompt (which I can’t share due to legal reasons) that I found reassuring.
I have hope in the rising generation. Academics aside, the majority of these students seemed to grasp the bigger picture – life is about family, passions, love, and God. And many of them came to these realization themselves, when they were able to be alone (often in nature) and reflect on their life. Most of these students valued their privacy, time when they could be themselves and have no one around to judge them or lessen them, and that was often within their homes or playing a sport with friends or in their backyards.
I think it is very important as parents that we give our kids space. They need it to grow and mature. We can’t be and do everything for them as a parent. We have to discover who they really are, and that will come in those quiet, reflective moments by themselves. And they certainly can’t discover these things in schools, and certainly not from teachers. So much emphasis is placed upon the time a child is in school, and not enough to the time out of school. The time of out school is generally much more meaningful to a child. That’s where true friendships, passions, and religion are found.
Working as a test evaluator only helped solidify my desire to homeschool my children. I want them to really know who they are as individuals and understand the purpose of education and knowledge, and not just understand the purpose of school and tests.
What do you think about standardized tests?