“Active Monitoring” Standardized Tests Is a Joke

About Jake Miller

Mr. Jake Miller teaches 7th grade American history teacher near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

Most states have a guide for how educators should properly proctor a standardized test. Chief among the list of directions is teacher behavior while students are testing. Those of us proctoring tests are bound to come across the term “active monitoring” (AK-tiv * Mahn-it-ORR-ing) N.educational jargon-ese for teachers doing nothing other than staring at their students while the take their tests.

Several other educators have tried to have fun with the idea of this “eyes on the prize” mindset. Justin Aion of the blog Re-Learning to Teach made a map of the 90 circuits he used to travel around students, thus walking 4.3 miles in a school day. One of my favorites is from online blogger LoveTeach shared their version of “16 Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring during Standardized Testing (or the next time you’re crazy bored)” in 2014. My favorite are imagining which animals each student would be if they were members of the animal kingdom and “using Crest Whitening Strips.” The blogger followed up this entry on WeAreTeachers a year later with “17 More Things You Can Do While Actively Monitoring a Standardized Test.” Again, some of my favorites are “imagine what you’d want your last words to be” and “imagine sending each student positive vibes, one at a time.”

Can we stop pretending we are Professor X reincarnated, mastering telepathy? Stop finding ways to combat the apathy associated with proctoring the many hours of standardized testing? And do this before we find ourselves imagining psychopathy?

Most of all, let’s call a spade a spade and name active monitoring what it is: a joke.

From a professional standpoint, pretending that I have nothing to do but watch 30 students bubble in A through D over and again is an insult to my profession. I’d rather be grading the stack of papers at the edge of my desk. I’d like to plan the next week’s lessons like I did the first week of school. What if I sent an email to all the parents of kids who are doing great for a change? Or engaged in a great book on Andrew Jackson? Listened to a podcast on pedagogy or the French Revolution? Let’s stop pretending that teachers are glorified disciplinarians who will bring the sledgehammer of the state to any student whom veers from the script, less we be labeled as cheaters.

pretending that I have nothing to do but watch 30 students bubble in A through D over and again… Click To Tweet

From a fiscally conservative and government-watchdog standpoint, let’s examine the use of tax dollars. I’ll be proctoring tests in my school for 7 days, approximately 3 hours for each. That’s 21 hours or nearly 3 school days where I’m expected to watch students fill in bubbles. Many other grades, schools, and states will easily exceed that figure. Whether I take laps, send students positive vibes, or tug on my earlobes during that time matters not. But, what I’m not allowed to do is what I see primarily as the responsibilities of my job. I cannot work for the students and community that I serve during that time; I have to be all eyes and ears on test-takers – for 21 hours.

That's nearly 3 school days where I'm expected to watch students fill in bubbles. Click To Tweet

From a students’ standpoint, active monitoring seems like the loser-ist of all. While students work diligently to showcase what they’ve learned (or, conversely, rush through to give a big “screw this to the system” and, of course, my evaluation), what do they see in us, sitting there actively monitoring? I’ve worked diligently throughout my career to model appropriate behaviors for students. When I say I don’t want gum in my classroom, I don’t chew it. When I want them to be courteous to others in their community, I, too, wait in the lunch line for food. But when the students are expected to do their best to showcase the pinnacle of their learning, proctoring educators are expected to be one step above zombie status. Drool might even be acceptable.

This, unlike most things in education, is really an easy change. Stakeholders should demand that educators be able to perform the primary responsibilities of their position in a world that is increasing its demands and expectations on educators. The arguments are professional, financial, and student-centered. But, like watching a room for of standardized test-takers, those of us in the field will simply have to wait for those to bring forth the impetus for change.

Let’s call it re-active monitoring.

 

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About the Author:

Mr. Jake Miller teaches 7th grade American history teacher near Harrisburg, PA. He is the 2016 National History Day Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year and a 2017 NEA Teacher of Excellence. His articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and several other periodicals, but Miller has called TER home since 2012.

One Comment

  1. Carol Anderson April 3, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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