Turn the Tables: Praxis and The Testing Environment | Science in the City

Jun 29, 2014

Turn the Tables: Praxis and The Testing Environment

I went about 2 weeks ago to take the Praxis II in Earth and Space Sciences, as one of the requirements for the NYS Master Teacher program, to which I am applying.

The testing environment was highly secured, and, although I did well, I found it extremely stressful. I really gave me new consideration for the testing environment in which our students operate and how it impacts them.

For me, this test was not really so high stakes.  I want to score well, but it is to gain admission to a program, not to retain or earn my certification, or to graduate.

When I arrived (30 min early, as instructed), I had to have my ID checked, and complete a waiver as to my honesty and test integrity.  Not only did I have to sign, but I was instructed to copy the paragraph, in cursive, not printing, and then sign.  Then I was brought back into the testing area.  I was given a key to a locker and told to empty my pockets.  Nothing can go into the testing room.  Not even kleenex (I had a cold).  I was told if I needed kleenex or something else during the test, I was to raise my hand.  You cannot bring your own pencil into the test.  Literally, nothing, enters the testing room. I had to remove my watch and jewelry and place it in the locker. Anything you have goes into a locker.  Then you are wanded with a security wand and patted down.  Then your photo is taken for identification.  You sign off that you are the person you claim to be, and then you understand you will be recorded while testing.  There are video cameras in the testing room.  You also initial the time that you enter the room.

You are given pencil and scrap paper, with instructions to write down nothing during the directions or sample questions, only to write during the test.  Then you begin. A 100 question multiple choice test apparently determines my content knowledge.

I have to admit, I am an adult, a strong test-taker, and this was not a particularly high stakes exam.  However, I was unnerved.  By the time I was sitting and ready to take the test I had to take a few minutes and calm down, take some deep breaths.

I did well, and I understand (to some extent) the need for security.  However, I also have to pause and reflect on what this means for our students.  Many of them NEED to pass these tests, are not strong readers and test takers, and do not have good coping skills under stress.  It seems to me that we owe it to them, and to ourselves as we develop a future society for students to be assessed in a way that is meaningful, and allows them to demonstrate their knowledge to the best of their ability.   Students should not be under undue pressure, but would ideally be asked to do something meaningful, that allowed them to be comfortable and use their knowledge.

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