For the last two weeks there was a certain atmosphere of intensity, anxiety and mild excitement as we administered the Advanced Placement (AP) tests to our students. AP’s are a set of standardized tests to assess college-level learning of a specific discipline in high school. If a students does well they can receive college credit and at the very least it is a method of standing out academically on college applications. Now I am not going to get into the pros and cons of the AP’s right now or whether the benefit of these tests outweigh very clear problems. It something I have been thinking about seriously for a while and will share in future posts. What I did want to point out was something that was brought to my attention by watching a fantastically insightful clip from Last Week With John Oliver talking about standardized testing.
In an eighteen minute rant against the value of standardized testing, John Oliver mentions the anxiety these exams create in kids and cites the Ohio Department of Education’s Achievement Assessments guide which has a section on what to do if a child vomits on their test. Honestly, I thought he was completely joking as it sounded quite absurd. Well, I did some searching and, nope, it is no joke.
Here is a verbatim excerpt from the guide under the header “Student Who Becomes Sick.”
A student who becomes ill and vomits on his or her test booklet or answer document and is able to continue the test should be given a new test booklet or answer document so that he or she can continue. Later, the student’s responses and demographic information must be transcribed into the new test booklet or answer document, which will be the copy of the test to be scored. The soiled test booklet or answer document should be placed in a zip-lock bag with the barcode written on the zip-lock bag and returned to the DTC with the unused materials. BTCs have been advised to contact the DTC about this situation so the DTC can document the test booklet or answer document barcode on the Material Resolution Form. After the Material Resolution Form is completed and returned to Pearson, the soiled test booklet and/or answer document should be securely destroyed. Do NOT return the soiled test materials to Pearson.
There were two questions that immediately rushed to my mind when I read this. One. Why are we letting this kid continue the test after they have thrown up on it? Two. How much does the DTC employee make who is responsible to receive the soiled test booklet in the zip-lock bag? Also, I found it odd that this was the only thing discussed in the “Student Who Becomes Sick” section. The entire section is devoted to what happens if the kid pukes. Not has the flu, migraine, nosebleed or other illness. Clearly, they know that these tests get kid so anxious that the only thing they need to prepare for is vomiting. Plus, the assumption is that the kid will likely want to continue taking the test after throwing up. What a trouper!
I have a lot more to say on the subject of standardized testing and the AP’s specifically. I certainly see value in our AP courses at VTHS. Mainly, because we have some amazing teachers who work hard to ensure our students truly learn in their AP courses. However, while some anxiety is healthy, I do think we need to look at the overall value of any standardized testing system that prompts a state board of education to write in their assessment guide the protocol for when a student vomits on their test.