Sunday, November 8, 2015

Just for the Record: I Am Not a Prostitute

So I get this email from ETS (of ACT/SAT/AP super-testing fame) offering me the “opportunity” to score STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) exams.
And even more exciting than the prospect of electronically scoring standardized tests in the isolation of my own home is the whopping $13 per hour they are willing to pay me.
At this point, equal parts disbelief, insult, and amusement are frolicking in my head.
$13, seriously?
Just for the record, I am not a prostitute, physically, academically, or otherwise.
This has me thinking, why do we do what we do, and why do we do things for money?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (thank you Psychology 101) comes to mind.
Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow reminds me that if I have my most basic needs met (food, water, shelter) unless I’m a former Olympic runner from Stevens Point, I will not prostitute myself for money. So ETS loses on that count.
Next comes safety and security, and since I have good health and gainful employment, ETS’s $13 per hour fails to lure me on the physiological front.
Love and belonging? Check and check as I count a loving family and wickedly fun friends among my good fortunes. And besides, one can hardly imagine hours of scoring standardized tests providing love and belonging, but rather their opposites.
Next on the Maslow plate is self esteem. You know, confidence, achievement, respect from others? The things that scoring standardized tests would suck from the marrow of my very bones.
Finally, self actualization, the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy. This is nirvana, flow, purity of soul and spirit, notions known to vaporize in the mere presence of standardized tests.  
So, ETS’s job offer pretty much fails on all levels of human needs and desires, leaving one to ask what conscientious and competent educator in their right mind would score standardized tests for $13 per hour?
None, I think, and here’s why:
  1. Teachers are busy, very busy. Show me a teacher who doesn’t do school work at night and on weekends, and I will, with great disbelief, ask you to prove it.
  2. Teachers who love being teachers love the kids, love the content, love the teaching itself, but rue the stacks of papers and tests. Correcting is the bane not the allure of the profession.
  3. Teachers are human beings. In the little down time we have, grabbing a book, touching base with our spouses, getting to know our own kids, taking a lap at the gym—these are things we aspire to do, not assessing standardized tests.standardized-testing-comic3
  4. Standardized tests (as I’ve written repeatedly) only work on standardized kids. Our students are dynamic individuals who develop at different rates and have different aptitudes and abilities. This is why we need to teach them as individuals and not judge them in a standardized, meaningless way.
  5. Finally, $13 per hour is inordinately insulting. If standardized tests are to be given, they must be scored in a valid, reliable manner by qualified experienced educators. $13 per hour is in no way commensurate with the task, and will in no way attract qualified experienced educators. You   get what you pay for, and while ETS will find people to score the STAAR exams, they will be inexperienced unqualified non-educators who determine the outcomes of these high-stakes exams which have enormous consequences for students and schools.  And that, ETS, is simply disgraceful.  
So, for all the reasons mentioned above, to borrow the timeless lyric of Johnny Paycheck, “Take this job [ETS] and shove it.”
And remember, just for the record, I am not a prostitute. 

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