State issued No. 2 Pencils and the woes of SBA testing by Cole B.

You sit there in your chair, isolated by walls of silence, shackled to the chair by chains of hopelessness. You realize that you cannot escape; you are stuck.

Paralyzed by stress and anxiety, you sit helplessly as the principal announces over the PA those same repetitive words, over and over again. He will do so every day, 4 times a day, for the next six days, doomed to fail at making his point each and every time, as he utterly failed to do so the first time.

Then, you are handed two booklets, and answer document, and a test booklet, along with your state sanctioned No. 2 pencil, the end sharpened into a perfect point, the eraser plump and pink, with no signs of use; an aesthetically perfect pencil. Then you are told

“You may begin”.

But to nobodies surprise, this (i.e. basically the whole idea of this test) is the apogee of stupidity, the zenith of pointlessness, the epitome of anger and frustration provoking tests: you are about to undergo the most grueling six days of the school year… this is the terror know as none other than…. SBA testing.

During this time, you will spend 100 minutes taking a 25 minute test, two times a day. The reason for all of this excess time is that, contrary to what the word “test” would lead you to believe, you will not spend the majority of this time answering, reading, or writing answers to questions.

Oh no, you will spend this time painstakingly taking the  care to prevent even the most infinitesimally small rumor of a mark from exceeding the boundaries of that perfectly circular answer bubble.

In the end, you will ultimately take more time actually bubbling in your answer than you will spend actually taking the test.

When you finish the first of the two daily tests, you wait “patiently” for the rest of the class, and then the rest of the school to finish as well, hearing repeated variations of “Teachers and students, the lunch break will be delayed another ____ minutes so that students who have not finished their tests can do so.”

You will eventually stop listening to these “important announcements”, because after you have heard them multiple times, they no longer are important, but rather just wastes of your time.

Once everybody is finished, you are dismissed to your “designated break area” where you will spend 15 minutes forcing yourself through hastily thought up “snacks” as you mentally prepare yourself for the next test.

You will be dismissed back to your testing classrooms, where you will hear (for the second time that day) the instructions about “how to properly open your test booklets”, which questions to answer, when to stop, and all of that other great information that we supposedly don’t know how to do according to the state of New Mexico.

You sit down in your chair, and feel an eerily familiar feeling of isolation, and you feel as though you are tied to your chair, and through the silence comes a familiar voice say

“You may begin”.

Déjà vu right?


In reality, you are beginning your second test of the day, following in the exact footsteps of the first one, though this time your mind is haunted by the thought of freedom that is barely out of reach, and the only thing that stands between you and this freedom is the second test.

You spend the next 80 minutes or so taking your second test, taking just as much care, if not more, when you bubble in your answer, yet again struggling to keep any and all marks neatly inside that perfectly shaped circle.

You finish, and wait impatiently in your chair for the rest of the school to finish as you sit and realize that until the rest of the school needs to develop their writing speed skills and finish the test, your freedom is frustratingly just out of reach.

After what feels like an eternity of silence, the principal finally announces that you may be dismissed to either A Lunch or 5th Period.

You get up and walk into the halls, you are free for today, but you must still follow an overly confusing and poorly explained schedule for the rest of the day that involves alternating A and B blocks and afternoon classes.

All you have to do is follow the schedule and you are free from those infernal booklets and those aesthetically perfect state sanctioned No. 2 pencils, and all that waiting.

The only problem?

The schedule itself.

As mentioned earlier, the schedule is confusing and poorly explained, often resulting in missed classes, extra lunch periods, and unnecessary time spent wandering the halls in search of where to go next.

If you manage to miraculously make it through that, then the day is over, and you finally are free for the day. You think to yourself “Done at last!” as you rejoice at the days end.

But the euphoria doesn’t last long, as you will eventually make the tragic mistake of realizing one terribly depressing thing: only 5 more days of this to go.


6 thoughts on “State issued No. 2 Pencils and the woes of SBA testing by Cole B.

  1. I completely, unequivocally, apogically, zenithically, epitomically and provokitivly (I ran out of words that mean “a lot” after unequivocally and so just adverbized some of the words from the article) agree with you. Well, almost. I am forced to disagree with you on the subject of schedules. Albeit the schedule is confusing (to most, at least), it is explained in the best way that anyone can. Before you think that that is some great praise, think how much it would bite to have to explain such an overly-complex (as others view it) thing in a simple manner to a bunch of middle schoolers, many of whom either has an IQ below 100 or just acts like it.

    • “Students. Listen to this announcement carefully. If you have afternoon block, go to your fourth skinny class teacher’s lunch. If you don’t, go to your third teacher’s lunch. I repeat…”

      [six hours later]

      “Students are now dismissed.”

  2. I have a few things to say (obviously, or I wouldn’t be typing here).

    A) Why aren’t we just realesed after testing? That’s what my old school would do.

    B) The announcments take up so much time just to tell us what we already know and to explain us things that the teacher’s can do so much better than Mr. Announcer.

    C) The erasers don’t erase for s**t

    D) How come the pencils they give us can get so sharp without breaking?

    Yep, that’s all I have to say…

    • I loathe the SBA pencils. I, indeed, committed a heinous crime and sneaked in a #2 Ticonderoga. GAH!!!! I also despise how they ask us questions that our teachers haven’t yet covered. Stuff like photosynthesis and the water cycle, I understand. But how radioactivity works? Not so much.

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