3.14.2007

Standardized Testing Take 1

Today was the final day of NJASK6.

Monday went well, it was a 2 part literacy selection. The first segment was a persuasive writing piece, which I must say that my kids kicked ass on... then a reading selection- informational text followed by multiple choice and open-ended questions. My kids weren't rockin' that quite to the same extreme, but considering it was a 6th grade selection, and my students are performing at about a 3.5 grade level, they did pretty well, if I do say-so myself. Overall time testing was about 135 minutes, with one break in the middle. I was so proud I wanted to cry.

Tuesday began the excruciating painfulness of the testing experience... a 3 part literacy selection; first reading, then another persuasive writing piece, then reading again. Total testing time was 225 min with 2 breaks in between. HELL. The first reading piece went okay, again, their levels are much lower then the reading they are required to do, but overall they used the strategies they have been learning all year, and did their best. By the time they got to the writing prompt they had used up every last ounce of energy they had left on focusing to read something way over their heads and began to feel frustrated. Still, they did well, and wrote convincing essays to the hypothetical principal who is continually infringing on their rights. (Inevitably this is the topic of every persuasive writing piece any child in New Jersey is required to write for any and all state assessments.) Then, when we had to return to the reading selection, which was no doubt racist and slanted, they lost control. Jerry began peeling off tiny slivers of paper from his test book to ball up and throw at Ray. Of course Ray was so busy telling the new kid that his momma was a "crack-baby" that he couldn't figure out what kept hitting him in the back of the head. I ended up having to have the principal come up and help babysit for the last 50 minutes of that testing round.

[I have to put in just a quick blurb about the how unfair these test are... 1. my special ed students are asked to perform just as well as their regular ed peers on the same test, even though they are classified because they are unable to perform on grade-level. 2. These high-staked tests are long, and unbearable even for people with a lot of patience, like myself. 3. These tests are manufactured to put white suburban kids at an advantage, and I refuse to back down from that position. For example... in the reading piece about a mountain climber, when they described how the climber felt, there was a quote that read, "I'm psyched" and a footnote that described that "psyched" is a term used to describe a feeling of excitement. This was the only footnote used in the text. My students use the word "psyched" all the time. They are always "psyched" about something. However, my students have never seen a mountain. They have never been climbing, or even seen a climbing wall because they have never left Newark, NJ. My students have never seen a harness, or even heard of one, let alone a clamp or a caribeaner, or any other tool that is used for climbing, yet they are supposed to "infer from the text" what all those things are when the little white 6th grader sitting up in Suburban Elite White School gets a definition for the word "psyched"? The tests are unfair. 4. there are 10 billion better ways to test student growth and school achievement, but standardized testing is not one of them.]

Then there was today; the math section. 213 minutes worth of testing broken into 3 sections that get progressively harder. From the start my students were dragging. They were not happy about a third day of testing, and overwhelmingly aware that they had missed their specials classes (art, gym, etc) for 2 days now. Needless to say, they were very unhappy about the circumstances, couldn't focus on the test, and did not do their best. This was not because they didn't know how to do the math, or at least most of the math, but rather because they were stressed and frustrated, and tired of testing.

I hated today. I was so exhausted I wanted to cry. I am glad it is over. I am glad that I get to go back to teaching tomorrow rather than being a "chief examiner" for a test I don't believe in and happen to have moral qualms about. I am proud that my kids made it through these last few painful days, and even though I can honestly say they didn't do their best today, I think that I can also honestly say that considering what this testing is, they DID do their best for the unrealistic expectations put forth by the state.

I am a teacher that refuses to lower my expectations for my students, but when I set those expectations, I always set them making sure that I am not setting up my students to fail. I think that No Child Left Behind, and the States seriously need to think about what they are doing when they set forth unrealistic goals for students who could succeed if we would just give them the chance.

I have 2 days of being a teacher again and then I have to go back to "Chief examiner" for next week, when we will be testing Monday - Friday for NJASk4&5, so I will undoubtedly be back on this thing ranting about the horrible tests they force me to administer.

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4 Comments:

Anonymous ry said...

I wonder if there is a trend of test scores lowering as the days go by. For example, you said the kids did well the first day but by the last day they didn't perform as well. I am sure there is a trend as studnts get burned out of teaching, it sounds like hell.
Either way, standardized testing SUCKS and when you and I become Senator's we can change the whole educational system. wooo wooo woo!

3/14/2007 10:08 PM  
Anonymous ry said...

i meant testing not teaching... whoops
"I am sure there is a trend as studnts get burned out of teaching, it sounds like hell."

3/14/2007 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Lynsey Glassbrook said...

JIll, I'm really excited that you've been posting alot latley, maybe i just have not checked recently, but you know that I LOVE reading your blog. Anyway, I hate standardized testing, it's too long and it really does not benifit the students anyway.
When i was reading your blog I got really excited because it feels like forever sense we've talked and I normally dont get to hear about your frustrating classroom experiences. but I enjoy reading about them because I can always picture what's happening because you're good at writing :). I was many blogs behind, but it was great, because it was like when you're watching party of five and you've got only one disc left in the season, at the end of the season you just want to watch more. so at the end of each blog there was like 4 more that I had not read yet, Wonderful. I love you and miss you. Am I going to get to see you before i leave... I'm thinking probably not... but I'll see you on the ship right ? :) i better!
lyn

3/15/2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger molly_g said...

Here here! My son is a white suburban kid, and still those tests are full of crap. They way they test is also dooming kids with disabilities to not do as well.

3/21/2007 1:22 AM  

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