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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Super Tuesday

Today is Testing Day in the Great State of Texas.

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Every third, fourth and fifth grader are testing today as part of the No Child Left Behind act. It's the first reading test for third and fifth, the writing test for fourth. You can tell by the time of this post that I'm not worried at all.

For the past few months, we've been working on skills to aid in reading comprehension - context clues, main idea, predicting, comparing. For the past few weeks, we've "endurance tested" the kids to make sure they don't wear out when they get to that last story. We teach strategies, like naming what kind of question they're being asked, what skill, and what strategies they use to figure out the skill.

For the past few months, I've walked the fine line between stressing the importance of the test and stressing the kids. Yesterday, we didn't even talk about the test till the last thirty minutes, when we rearranged my classroom into testing mode.

Today I will go in my classroom and remove all visual aids, including the alphabet. I will pick up the secure documents and bring them to my classroom. We will have hallway monitors, including one from the district office to make sure no irregularities occur. We will not have PE, and we will eat lunch with our kids to make sure they don't talk about the test. (It's worse at my mom's school. Even the little kids won't have PE or recess today - I don't see the point in that. It's a big school, and they won't be disturbing anyone.) I cannot look at the test except to make sure that the kids have not marked on the bars at the edges of the scored booklet. Every time we leave the room, I must lock up the test. Every book must be accounted for. My children's performance will be part of my evaluation (the school's performance was part of my evaluation even when I was music teacher.)

My students may not get up out of their seats, even after they're finished. I know I'll have two done in two hours. That means they have to sit and read for the rest of the day (I know, what a hardship.) I also know that no matter how much time I give four of my students, they will not pass. They'll have another shot in April. They won't pass then, either, but hopefully one will be in Special Ed by then and the other in dyslexia. One of them will be so stressed today that she may shut down. I worry about her the most, even though her mother and I decided holding her back may be the best for her in the long run.

Two of my boys will pass, but it will be a fine line. If they stress too much, forget it. They'll pass the second go-round, I'm sure of it, but I sure hope they pass today.

In two weeks, we'll know, and we'll come up with more strategies. But damn, what a way to teach.


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

This just makes me ill, Mary! What is the sense to this? There is so much more to learning than taking a test. And what ever happened to trusting teachers to evaluate their children fairly? The teacher is the person who sees the children learn.
My hugs to you and your darling students!

At 8:43 AM, Blogger bridget said...

Oh Mary, I'm seeing red. I hate this testing thing so much. I remember how stressed out we were taking the SAT's!

If they must have scores, why, oh why, don't they just have teachers administer a short quiz every week (state-approved) on the kids' current knowledge, then tally them all up at the end of the year to get a final score? Why put them and the teachers through such agony?

Hugs, Mary, and hugs to all those kids.

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Good luck to you and your kids, Mary. I hate testing, particularly stressful, long testing. I used to get so sick at my stomach before big tests. I can't see where this type of stressful situation is good for anyone.

At 5:45 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

There were 46 questions. I had one student stay till 4:00. The girl I was worried about? She did GREAT on the first three stories, but the last one was just too much for her. My ADHD boy didn't get going till 10:30 and finished by 2:30. No telling how he did.

I'm still exhausted, and we have practice tests for writing and math the next two days, and a field trip Friday. I know what I'll be doing this weekend!

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Jill Monroe said...

Putting on my M Ed hat, I hate testing as well.

I've noticed something in my oldest child this year, she began to dislike school. This was a child who was mad during spring break, would wave to the school as we drove by - you get the picture.

I tried to discover just what caused it - and it's basically just third grade. Third grade is when teachers (at least in my district) have to teach to the test, and no longer have the fun thematic units.

Fun thematic units are how teachers used to teach, and it's really how children learn (I've shared some of my thematic units over at the site).

In my district, it's like the teacher has been cut out of the equation - they have a teaching calendar on Day 8 they teach multiplication by 4s. Day 11, they move to 5s. What if in the mean time the teacher realizes not everyone understood 4s - she needs to reteach. Sorry, there's a schedule to keep because by Day 16 they need to be learning 6s. No reteaching allowed.

Remember the day when spring came early, and the teacher let you take your paper outside and you wrote a poem about what you saw - maybe you wrote a haiku about the wind or searched for the first flower. Right there you did writing, science work and social studies.

Now you read about senses in a book and take a test to it. Then you read about Japanese contributions to the culture and then take a test on it.

Not fun and not really all that educational.

I so, so hope the pendulum will swing the other way. I can't be mad at my District for being so strict - they have to do what they have to do in order to keep the scores up, to keep their funding blah blah blah - vicious cycle and all.

But I fear we're producing a bunch of kids who are really good at taking tests, can memorize and regurgitate facts, but have no true critical thinking skills and look at school as a dreary place of constant evaluation rather than a place to open their mind and be excited about the world around them.

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

I never heard such craziness.

Jill, you also put it very well. I want to write haikus under the trees.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

Jill, I used to love teaching thematic units. It was so fun coming UP with the lessons. But like your district, we have a timeline to follow (though not day by day, week by week.) The math I taught in 5th grade last year used to be taught in high school. And you're right, the kids stress and don't like school. I really hope my kids did well enough that we can start doing learning centers again. They love that.

We had two district assessments this week and have two more next.


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