Testing The Limits


Chances are if you have taken the SAT, English teacher Amy Markan has had something to do with it. For a little over two years, Markan wrote and edited questions for the test while taking a break from teaching.

Being very practical growing up, Markan always wanted to be a teacher because she knew it was a sustainable job. However, she had to take a break from teaching while pregnant with her son. Unable to sit idle at home, she took a job with the company Edgenuity.

“I always knew, in the back of my mind, I wanted to become a teacher one day. And then, when I was pregnant with my son, I’m just not one of those people that can stay home and do nothing, so I was like, ‘hey, maybe I’ll do this at home.’ I started working for a company called Edgenuity, and then COVID hit and that’s what Texas started using for online school. So I worked for them, and then the College Board,” said Markan.

The College Board is a company that administers tests such as the SAT, MCAT, and GRE. Working for this company is a great accomplishment for teachers, and Markan learned many important skills while working there. From writing the questions, to editing the tests, Markan played an important role.

“As a teacher, it’s one of the most amazing things to have on your resume. I get so many accolades by saying I worked for the College Board. It was just something I did because I have an English degree and I know what I’m doing. I wrote test questions, and then I was really good at what I did, so they kept promoting me and then I ended up becoming the final editor. Before the SATs got published, I had to sign a contract, and I was the final editor that looked over the test questions in 2016,” said Markan.

Even though she helped write test questions, Markan has rather negative feelings towards state-mandated testing. She believes it causes unnecessary stress for both students and teachers. She also believes it limits the freedom teachers have as they are required to teach the content on the tests.

“I think standardized tests are a waste. I can understand the merits and I can understand why they were initially created. I can understand being tested once a semester or once a year, but I don’t value the amount of testing our school district does. The amount of time I can’t teach students life lessons, skills, or do things like discussion time, it’s all STAAR testing. I can’t do any of that anymore because it’s all STAAR, STAAR, STAAR. It’s not right,” said Markan.

Markan has noticed growth in her abilities as a teacher because of her time at the College Board. It has improved her test writing skills and given her more insight into what students need to be successful. She has a deeper knowledge of what will benefit students and will provide a better understanding of tests.

“I thought I was really smart as a teacher when I was in my beginning years, but one of the things I learned was to highlight words like ‘best’, when asked what’s the best answer to this question. Although, in my mind, I was like ‘oh that’s common sense’, it made me realize to point it out to students or point out that there’s more than one right answer. One of the things I pride myself on is that I’m able to write really good tests and challenge our kids without making it confusing,” said Markan.

While working for the College Board was an impactful experience, it wasn’t what Markan wanted to do ever. She enjoys teaching and wants to be at Lake Ridge for her own kids’ time as students. After around two and a half years of writing and editing test questions, Markan came back to teaching right after COVID hit.

“I did it for two years, and then part time for another six months. I came back in August after COVID hit in March. The only reason I came back to teaching is that I live two blocks away and my kids are going to come here, and I was like if I ever teach I’m going to come to Lake Ridge. I’ve loved it here ever since. I feel so lucky to be here. It’s been such a nice, good thing for everybody,” said Markan.