Friday, August 28, 2015


There’s been an outcry lately against the growth of standardized testing in public schools.
People are concerned – and with good reason -that classroom time has been lost that could have been spent on bringing joy to learning through art, music, or perhaps creative writing. The joy of teaching and learning is in danger of disappearing completely.

Testing is also growing on the other end of the spectrum; before you can become a teacher, all states in the US require some sort of licensure exam. Having seen some of the writing of today’s newly-minted college graduates, I can tell you that this is a good thing.

These tests vary, but to use Massachusetts as an example, the candidate must demonstrate competency in communication, literacy, and subject matter.

In today’s automated world, you might be surprised to know that these tests are scored by hand in large quiet rooms filled with grey-haired retired teachers.

I am one of these underpaid and highly qualified people (we earn about 1/3 per hour of what we earned as teachers, and we all have at least a Masters degree).

Most of us are there in lieu of volunteering at, say, the local library, and we are often working with friends from our teaching days, and since it’s a chance to get out one day a week or so, we're philosophical (or most of us are) about the low pay. I had been retired for almost a year when I began scoring, and after too many days of morning television, it was just good to sit in a room and spend fifteen minutes discussing the possible connotations of a single word in a paragraph.

Retirement is a wonderful thing, if you’re lucky, but I still think it’s odd that so many people spend decades building their skills in their area of expertise only to walk away from it at the height of their knowledge.

As for me, I can choose to work when I want, which is about four days a month; I earn a little money on a day when I likely wouldn’t be doing anything particularly worthwhile; I can still flex my English muscles; and I can keep my brain from atrophying.

As much as I enjoy crossword puzzles, it’s pleasant to have an alternative.


  1. That cartoon is priceless! I am so old I don't think I was tested hardly at all in schools, other than the usual stuff. Today's classroom is a mystery to me. Glad it's got people like you still hanging in there, though. :-)

  2. Marty, I find I must say several things. My brother in law, never the brightest bulb, has done little since he retired several years ago, except follow my sister around the house and watch what's being made for supper. His cognitive powers are gone. Point: maintain your skills, whatever they were; or, take up a new task that requires mental work.
    I am so happy to know those tests are graded by live humans, somewhere. When I took my MA, real professors graded and reviewed us, and I cannot describe my pride at being one of only two in the room full of aspiring MA's who passed. I do hope those who need it are sent back for remedial work. I read an article recently, in a respectable journal, by a presumably literate author, in which the word "to" was repeatedly used for "too." One wants to scream and throw the article to the ground, except it was on my computer.
    Finally, Both my granddaughters are in one of the highest rated school systems in my state and it even places nationally in the top hundred or so. They have standardized everything down to a science. I took charge of their education when I realized even the counselors were counseling to the benefit of the school, not the student. I cannot home school them, but I can stuff their little minds with alternative learning and lifestyles. These girls are completely aware they are learning to the test, and neither of them objects. They are competitive and enjoy doing well in everything. So, the system works for them.
    I began to write another paragraph about teaching to the test is the way I was raised, back in the Dark Ages, and it worked then. But, that simply whitewashes all the problems with children whose parents aren't involved and whose schools are substandard, so I won't go on.
    Well, a long read; thanks for ploughing on. And, thank you for the job you do.

  3. Calvin is always a winner.
    As is finding a good teacher. Half a lifetime away I was appalled at just how many would be teachers were barely literate.
    I am so glad that you are continueing this important work. And have NOT let your mind retire.

  4. ... and tests are not that accurate and the kids tested have wide backgrounds which does not make the test fair for everybody. Count me as an anti tester.

  5. My area of expertise was very easy to walk away from. Being able to glue insoles into 500-800 pairs of shoes a day doesn't transfer well into retirement/volunteer work.
    I am beginning to get a bit bored with sitting on my bum though, so I'll start looking around for something when the weather warms up a bit here.

  6. Even at my age I remember standardized tests, especially in the 7th grade. In my tiny class of 8-- 4 of us scored in the top one percent of the state. We had a wonderful teacher.
    I can see why you enjoy your 4 days a month. I had to taper off also when I retired till I finally really started to enjoy having all my time free.

  7. when I was in school the teachers taught the material and we all took finals to pass the class and ultimately the grade and we could all read and write when we got to college. I'm against the standardized testing especially since so much is tied to the results. the teachers aren't teaching material anymore, they teach how to pass the test so they won't get fired and so the school doesn't lose funding. everybody loses in this situation. but yah, it's bad to retire and not have anything to do. I don't plan on retiring but then I'm not employed by anyone, have always been self-employed.


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