The Definition of Inauthentic


My school was fortunate to be selected by our state to field test their latest standardized weapon of mass instruction.  Fortunate.  You know, like when you step in gum, and you're fortunate that your errands are over and you're on the way home.  Fortunate.

We just had our state writing test a month ago, and have our state math and reading tests in a few weeks.  Now we get to field test next year's writing test.  More scantron bubbles; more prompts.  We're fortunate.  I'm not sure the kids thought so.

Groans and moans filled the room when I announced our good fortune.  Groans and moans about the test, and groans and moans about writing.  I understand the first, but the second broke my heart.

The Test

"The test is practice,” I told them.  “You're just test driving it to see what needs to be adjusted for next year.  We'll send them off and never see them again.”  “Don't stress," I said.  "It's not even graded."

Of course a kid asks, "Then do we even need to try?"  That's what happens when kids are graded.  They quickly figure out what really needs their attention.  A few other students echo the sentiment.

"What do you think?"  I threw it back on the student.  Another student chimed in and said, "We should always try our best on everything we do."

Then, silence.  I let those words settle to the ground like dirt kicked up on a playground soccer game.  I didn't know what to say.  It's kind of a cross roads question.  I feel like the field test is a waste of time, but I think each student needs to make up their own mind about it.

The Day Of

One girl is fed up.  She said she did not want to take the test.  I'm secretly proud of her, but I can't tell her that.  At least not now.  Kids should have some say in their education, right?  A short talk with the AP and she was off to work.  I wonder what that conversation was about.

One boy was excited about his written composition.  He liked his prompt, and he's writing something he cares about.  He asked, "Can I copy this on to notebook paper when I'm finished?  I want to keep my story."

His expectant eyes made my heart sink.  I knew the answer I had to tell him.  "I'm sorry, buddy.  I can't let you have any extra paper during the test."

He raised his hand thirty minutes later.  With confidence he said, "I'm finished with the test, but I'm going to sit with it for a while.  I want to memorize my story so I can write it again when I get home."  I just nodded my head.  The response I wanted to give was not on the approved phrases list that I carry around on my testing clipboard.


This is the definition of inauthentic writing.  The student doesn't own it- literally or figuratively.  Tests like this are why kids hate writing.  Writing like this is why I hate testing.