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Teacher or Score Whore? August 13, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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6 comments

 

“All perceived underachievement by students is entirely the fault of teachers.” 

I’ve been mulling over posting Rewriting the Attack on Teachers from The Last Word on The Lawrence O’Donnell Show for over a week now. The show featured a clip of Matt Damon and his mom, who is a teacher, speaking out against this national obsession with standardized testing. The comment above is taken from the show. (And yes, if you click on the link, you have to sit through a commercial first. ^#^&8&.)

But in the meanwhile, MY students’ STAR test results came in. I was elated to learn that four of my 28 third graders scored a perfect 600 in math on the standardized STAR test given in May! Even more exciting, 24 scored Advanced and 2 at the Proficient level. I wasn’t surprised about the two students who didn’t make the grade. They struggled all year and scored Basic, but it could have been worse. There ARE sub-levels of failure including Below Basic and Far Below Basic.

It helped that this year I taught a cluster of GATE (Gifted and Talented Students). They made up half of the class. The four previous years, I taught an ELD (English Language Development) cluster where the test scores can sometimes make you wonder if you’ve been talking to yourself all year.

My students’ English Language Arts scores were less stellar, but that’s always the case. Whereas, math is black and white, the English Language is a moving target for my students. Still, if I taught in one of those districts that handed out money for test scores. Ka-ching! My initial reaction was, “Woo hoo!”

But then I got to thinking, something that teachers are prone to do. Though my class tested well, most of my students have difficulty writing a coherent paragraph. And with all that test prep, we barely touched on those two subjects that begin with S – Science and Social Studies. But these things aren’t “on the test” which is code for they must not be that important.

But what about imagination, passion, and creativity? Matt Damon asked. “None of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested.” Sssh! The elephant in the room has stirred!

In Not Your Imagination: Kids Today Really Are Less Creative, Study Says, Ron Beghetto, an educational psychologist at the University of Oregon, posits, “The current focus on testing in schools, and the idea that there is only one right answer to a question, may be hampering the development of creativity among kids,” adding, “There ‘s not much room for unexpected, novel or divergent thought.”

Amen.

When it comes to talking not just about educational reform, but educational Revolution, I can think of no one as articulate and downright funny as Sir Ken Robinson. In his 18-minute talk at TED Bring on the Learning Revolution!, Robinson urges us to scrap the outdated industrial/manufacturing/fast food model of education where the goal is standardization and success is based on the standardized test in favor of a model where kids’ natural talents can flower. He also debunks the myths that “Everyone should go college” and “College begins in Kindergarten.”

It’s rousing food for thought, especially as a new school year awaits. Score whore no more! I’m a teacher. Period.

Credit: Score: Score Whore merchandise (yes, that’s the front of a notecard for the teachers in YOUR life) available through Urban Dictionary.

Testing, Testing, Testy May 10, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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5 comments

We start standardized testing tomorrow. This is a BIG deal. Your ABCs aren’t nearly as important as you API. I suspect Fisher-Price already has Baby’s First Scantron in development. What a great way to teach kids A,B,C, and D!

Don’t get me wrong. I do take testing seriously, but really, “is that all there is?” In Third Grade, we did 20 days of test prep on top of the unit testing for Open Court. One reading comprehension story involved a boy with a paper route.

Now I don’t know about you, but my newspaper (which we now only have delivered Thursday through Sunday) is delivered by a grown man named Jorge who drives an old Toyota and is left curbside at 6 a.m. I used to worry when the paper was missing that it had been stolen, until my husband reminded me that no one reads the paper any more. I hate it when he’s right.

So why are they asking my students, all whom were born post millennium, about a paper route. Most of their families don’t even read the newspaper!

Then there was a question about where you’d look to find more information if you were writing a report about kangaroos. The choices were a) the index b) the glossary  c) an encyclopedia, or d) the bibliography. One by one, my students raised their hands to signal they needed help. “I don’t get it, ” they whispered, “Where’s Google?”  Can you blame them?

I’ve recently trained my third graders on how to refine their search engine terms, so Wikipedia is the closest they’ll every come to the Encyclopedia. The other day, I took them on a trip down Memory Lane to the reference section of our library, so at least they know what an encyclopedia looks like. We only have one because it’s just so special.   If only we had a card catalog to complete their education in 20th century information hunting and gathering.

So we start standardized testing tomorrow. I have my fingers crossed. If only they could choose A,B,C, or G (for Google).

Photo Credit:  Paperboy from Google Images

Kvetching About Testing April 11, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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3 comments
testing1

My favorite book about high stakes testing. The cafeteria serves students salmon because it's good for their brains. Available on Amazon.

Spring has sprung, and as teachers know, April showers bring May flowers testing. Yes, it will soon be time for The TEST.  For students in California, it’s the CST.  High stakes testing that will determine our school’s API (Academic Performance Index), an academic Scarlet Letter that we’ll have to wear in public for an entire year.  Public stoning is a possibility, though for most of us, it’s more about self-flagellation.  Yes, it’s “No Child Left Behind” (or only a few children and hopefully one of them is not yours).  

All of the learning and teachable moments that I’ve shared with my students since September pale in comparison with their performance on The Test.  It is the ultimate trump card and though I’ve taught my students every test-taking strategy on the planet (at least on mine), in the end they’re flying solo.  Unlike in Second Grade, where teachers can read the directions aloud, in Third Grade, students read the directions by themselves.  (Despite all my admonitions, I cross my fingers that they’ll bother to read the directions!)

We have only three more weeks to “prepare” our students for testing.  On our first day back from Spring Break, we’re spending part of our Professional Development day making motivational posters to inspire students.  This is the closest I’ll ever come to being a cheerleader.  Rah rah. 

I don’t believe for a minute that all this emphasis on testing is a reliable indicator of what children have actually learned or are capable of.  Yes, testing provides a measure of accountability, which is necessary, but really! Even my principal, at a recent staff meeting, worried out loud that all this emphasis on test results could lead to “unethical behavior,” or as one teacher shouted out, “You mean, teachers might cheat!”  

The temptation to cheat is a legitimate concern.  Especially with talk about putting students’ test scores in a teacher’s record (as in, “This will go down on your permanent record.”)  Then there’s that talk about financially rewarding teachers based on their students’ test scores. If that were the case, who’d want to teach my class? (Many students who are chronically playing “catch up” because they’re learning English.)

My students have come so far since September, but like a proud mother, I might be a tad biased. Our school librarian still laughs every time she remembers how my new boy from Korea turned to me when checking out a book and asked, “What’s my last name?”  Should I be worried?  Hell, yes! It might say “Miracle Worker” on my coffee cup, but it’s my students who move in mysterious ways (which might explain why they so frequently fall out of their chairs).

A week of testing awaits in May, and once the “offices” (manilla folders stapled together to discourage wandering eyes) go up, I can only cross my fingers, and look to the heavens.  I’m still hoping that April showers WILL bring May flowers.  


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