Monday, April 24, 2006

And the Testing Begins

Tomorrow, bright and shiny, I will have 35 faces, 70 eyeballs staring at me as I read the instructions for their first day of the California State Standards test. Tomorrow and Wednesday will be the English Language Arts portion of the test. Of course, I've signed a statement saying that I will not look at the test, talk about the test, or help any of my students on the test. However, I have to walk around, not looking at the test, but making sure my kids are bubbling in properly, not just filling in the "C" answer for every question.

Wait, these aren't my kids. Oh no. We proctor tests with students other than our own so that we don't get lazy. Make sure we pay attention to the test. No grading homework or lesson planning for me. No siree bob.

Okay, everyone knows how I feel about these tests. They are a fact of life for our kids. I took standardized tests too (way back before they meant anything, but still). My issue is not with taking a standardized test; I think it can be used as a tool for measuring what they students have learned this year. My problem is that it is the ONLY tool used anymore.

See, there are 62 state standards (in Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening) in English Language Arts for eighth grade. Only about 26 of the standards are tested, and of those, only the Reading and Writing areas. Actually, as I went over the released test samples last year, the Writing standards are not tested the way the students are taught them. It's really more reading standards.

In addition, and I think nobodyknows over at Reflective Teacher mentioned this, these questions are more often than not trying to trick the students. So, instead of the standard supposedly being measured, we are instead seeing how well the students can figure out convoluted questions and answer choices.

Again, tests are a part of life. Figuring out tricky test questions is a skill. However, is this really the meat of what we are doing?

I had a teacher tell me the other day that since the eighth graders aren't actually tested on writing a persuasive essay (the writing test is only in the 4th and 7th grade), she wasn't going to teach it.

Is this what we've come to? If it's not on the test, we cut it out?

I know I have. Last year we read 4 different novels, performed the play, The Diary of Anne Frank, and held Socratic Seminars at least once a month. Now, there's no time for that.

This isn't the kind of teaching I signed on for.

1 comment:

nobodyknows said...

Neither is it "teaching."
If we're working to teach toward the test, we're dumbing things down for the kids--if we do this, we're just meeting goals; we're not working to surpass those goals, and a good number of teachers only try to "meet."

As for trick questions, here's another one I found today:

Which of the following is not an example of an INDEFINITE PRONOUN?
A. They
B. We
C. Myself
D. Us

It's a trick question for a number of reasons:

1. The "not" factor. The word "not" is placed within the question to throw off students who might quickly read the question and answer it. for the most part, using this word is not a measure of a student's understanding of pronouns, but the student's understanding of a test and the liklihood a test tries to trick the student.

2. This question pretends to ask about PRONOUNS, when in fact it's actually asking for a student's understanding of base words and prefixes.

So why do we allow for these types of questions to be included? Oh, yeah...we don't make the test. That's not our job.