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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

I. Abhor. Standardized. Tests.

Ok, so, I hate testing season. Though I respect the need for data in the classroom because it informs instruction and the need for quantitative data for the administrators and politicians, I. Abhor. Standardized. Tests. I really, really do.

Luckily, I teach high school. That gives me the option to be quite frank with my students. How honest should we, as teachers, be with our students? I'm not sure. I definitely tend to err on the side of honesty:

I tell them up front that these tests suck, that they are long and boring and awful, that if I could I wouldn't ask them to these tests.

Then I explain why they have to and why they need to do their best anyway.

Because it impacts the semester grade they will earn.

Because the state judges us (the students and the teachers and the schools) using the test scores.

Because this test, no matter how asinine, is our one real opportunity to show them we know what we need to know.

Because the worse we do, the more the tests the powers that be seem to think we need to take.

We don't do "test prep" in the weeks leading up to our T-day.

Instead, I have worked really hard to interweave the standards, the reading skills, and the test taking skills they will need into our daily work.

Before the test, I always ask them how many times I have mentioned that something we are doing will help with their end of course exam.

At least one kid inevitably makes a snarky comment about how I say that constantly.

Yesterday we began our end of course exam. It was as miserable as I anticipated. The passages are downright unwieldy. And so blech-boring.

Virtually every kid began without complaint. They were trying too! You can always tell.

It was super amazing how little push back, resistance, whining, or complaining they displayed.

There was just one problem...

This is technically a "practice test" (that makes it free for us and relieves the district of obligation to report results to the state-both good things).

Because it is a practice test, we don't get a special schedule with extended classes and no bells and no interruptions. Instead, we take the test during our regular class period while the rest of the school proceeds business as usual.

That wasn't the problem though. The problem was that nobody really knew for sure the kids would be able to log back on to finish their tests.

I was pretty anxious (filled with screaming terror, basically). The amount of relief I felt when I found an early bird to test the log in was ridiculous.

It would have been disastrous if they hadn't gotten to finish. First off, most of my department was absent today, including two teachers scheduled to give the test. I know they had back up plans, but that would still reek.

Secondly, my credibility, our credibility in asserting the importance of these tests would have been wrecked. Totally demolished.

Then there is the fact that we would have had to do something else to count towards the semester grade. Also not a fun idea.

Rather than a catastrophe, it was a success. Once again, kids took the test seriously. They worked methodically. They read the passages (!) and used the tools (they get to mark out wrong answers, highlight the text, take notes, and mark questions to return to later).

A ton of the students stayed after the end of their class to finish the test. I even had kids come from In School Suspension to finish.

I guess I can say that despite the fact that I hate these tests, the taking of them, and the taking them seriously, was a good thing.

Maybe I just got lucky. Kids have good days, so do classes. Or maybe being honest, being real, helped them. Maybe its ok not to cheerlead every thing that's required as long as we can emphasize the  value of the requirement.  I don't know.

I can't wait to see their scores. I am really hoping the scores will reflect how awesome my students are.

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