There is always somewhere to explore

There is always somewhere to explore

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Laments on Standardized Testing...Reports from the Frontlines of Testing

My sweet third graders looked shell-shocked as they emerged into the light after 90 minutes in the computer lab pounding away at their keyboards. Less than 5% of my students finished the Performance Task section of the test. Which means they will all be back in the lab in the morning for their last round of Language Arts testing. This normally overly-chatty, exuberant group was silent as we walked back to class. I felt so sorry for them. I would say that none of them had the "I aced it" grin on their face or even a sense of accomplishment. They just looked weary. Luckily it was almost recess and they could go blow off some steam.

This is the first year these children (and yes, they are still children, ages 8 and 9)  have to take a standardized test, and from the looks on their faces it is probably the last time they ever want to take one again..Tough luck- according to the education gurus in our state, they have 9 more years to go! I sure hope that the test results this year, stun the testing reliant CA Department of Education to make changes to their expectations of what testing is required of children in our state.

The level of the testing was written above their comprehension- and I teach at a CA Distinguished School and a high-ranking school district.I have no English language learners in my classroom, so I shudder to think how the EL kids will do on this language -heavy testing system. The maddening thing to me is that we were told that this year's new tests would be adaptive, scaling up in difficulty or down as needed for each child. I saw no evidence that this was occurring. Last year when we were the guinea pigs for the Smarter Balance "test of the test', we complained about the degree of difficulty and the maneuvering and manipulation required to take the test. None of that was changed this year. It seemed to be the same format, the same type of answers. Why did they bother to test the test? Who was listening?

According to local sources, our third grade classes were the first in our district to take the new CAASP tests this week. Yes, you are correct, we began testing 8 weeks before school is out. Yes, that is 2 months of instruction that we are missing before the kids are tested for what they are supposed to have learned this year.. So far this week we have spent almost 6 hours in testing. Then next week, we go at the Math sections. All in all we will probably spend 12 hours in testing in 2 weeks! That is more than 2  days of lost instructional time when I still need to teach volume and the metric system, CA state government and the Structures of Life unit in Science!

I am not giving away any secrets here, because anyone can go on line and look at the CAASP practice tests and see that the entire test requires massive amounts of keyboarding and writing skills. Writing for language arts and for math is a necessity. I am grateful that my school district adopted the CA Common Core for Math last year, so we have been teaching Core Math for the past two years and we are Writers and Readers Workshop trained, so that covers our ELA curriculum.  The teachers in our district have spent countless hours in professional development to teach the new Common Core.This means that the students have been prepared as well as we know how, to meet the CA State Standards for Third Grade Curriculum. But even so, I was shocked at the grade level content on the tests this week. The expectations did not seem to me to be Third grade State Standards.. Maybe Fourth? Maybe even Fifth?

I am doing my job in my classroom every day to prepare my students to be educated contributors to our global society.  I do not want to teach to a test that doesn't make sense for 8 & 9 year olds' development. I don't want to crush their spirits and joy of learning in favor of test taking. I assess my children every day in a myriad of ways. Someone in the State Department of Education, come see the data I have on my kids, you will not need to test them to know they are well-educated and learning!

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