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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Exams (07/26/04)

TITLE: The Value of an Exam
By Kristee Pittman


The test booklets arrived in an armored car, and that, alone, communicated something about the exam. Cheating schemes had been on the rise. Because of the time difference, students on the East Coast could call students on the West Coast with the answers. And when the tests had arrived before the testing date, professors had helped their students to know exactly what to study. Now, for further protection and cheating prevention, the tests came just hours before the exam and in an armored car. Dr. Alford and Mrs. Alford met the truck; the Drs Dahl (Ralph and Shirley) were also there, receiving the precious cargo.

Debra and I saw all this because we had taken seriously the suggestion to arrive well ahead of time. We hadn’t taken it as seriously as some of the others, however. The non-traditional students – the mothers – were already there and had already been outside the gym waiting for an hour. Julie, known in our classes for panic in all areas related to the ExCET test, was reviewing notes in a corner.

The ExCET test. The one thing – other than failure to complete the degree plan – that could seriously prevent us from getting a job as a classroom teacher. The test was long and hard and loomed over us and our Saturday. We had one entire class devoted to preparing us for it. We had been to several study sessions and workshops. We had even taken a practice test. But now, we were taking the real thing.

While the mothers and Julie panicked and reviewed, Debra and I compared our hard candy. Real (healthy) food was prohibited, but we could bring in any quantity of hard candy to consume during the test. Hard candy had been proven to help you stay awake and to give you new energy during the exam. So that we could have options in our choice of sugar, Debra and I exchanged some candy.

Water was not allowed, but breaks to the bathroom and water fountain were permitted – if you were escorted and no one slipped you test answers under the stall wall. Our own pencils were not allowed. The ones we were allowed to use, I assume, came on the armored car with the tests.

At exactly 30 minutes before the test, we were allowed onto the basketball court, filled with desks and chairs for the day, and after a great deal of ticket checking and seat checking, the well-guarded test materials were distributed. I popped a hard candy into my mouth and got started.

The questions tested our skills in situations we would face as teachers – angry parents, field trips, craft corners, integrated learning, and curriculum planning. We had been taught and drilled over and over again to forget regular logic on the test. We must only use ExCET land logic. In ExCET land, time didn’t matter, money was abundant, and the other students in your class never clamored for your attention. We were to solve the problems with unlimited time and money. We were to ignore all over students except for the one in the question.

In effect, our answers were not to be what we would actually do in a real classroom - constrained by time, money and the other twenty-one students. Our answers were to be what we would do in a perfect (almost implausible) situation.

In one question, the class returns from a field trip, and little Johnny wants to commemorate the outing in some way. Of all the choices, the correct one is to let him go to the music area and write a song on the drums. Never mind what is left to do academically that day. Never mind that your school has no funding for music. Never mind that the sound of Johnny singing and banging will certainly disturb the rest of the class. Let him write the song. He is all that matters.

For three hours, I sucked candy and marked the scantron full of answers that I wouldn’t actually employ in my classroom. As I left, I noticed the armored car had gone. Apparently, no one was concerned about giving the completed tests protected transportation.

Member Comments
Member Date
darlene hight08/02/04
Hmm..makes you wonder about the value of tests.
Theresa Knight08/02/04
Kristee, this is a good one. It reminds me of the time I took the Florida Professional Teachers test
Melanie Kerr 08/04/04
Don't you just wish we all lived in ExCET land?