Slice of Life Tuesday: State testing time approaches – sigh…

The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers

     The past two weeks have been all about the NJ ASK – our state tests.  We’ve analyzed prompts, figured out strategies,  and spent our precious class time gaming the test.  Every year I try my very best to convince myself that I am teaching a valuable genre: test taking.  Every year I approach this with dread – I feel guilty that I have so little enthusiasm for this type of teaching, and I feel guilty that this lack of enthusiasm on my part will have a detrimental effect on my kids and their performance.  I can’t win…they can’t win.  
     On Friday, we worked through a reading comprehension practice test.  The passage was somewhat interesting, but the questions zeroed in on minutia –  forget about “big ideas” and interpretation of the text (100% of what I’ve been asking my kids to do so far), let’s look at line 5 in paragraph 2 and one word in particular.  And please don’t ask why the perfectly good reason why you came up with answer 3 will simply not fly – the answer key says the correct answer is 4…so 4 it is.  I’ve spent all year trying to get my kids to think deeply about the text, and now I am asking them to read a passage, answer 10 multiple choice questions and an open ended question in 25 minutes flat.  They are confused, and I am unhappy.
     Then we take on a poorly worded persuasive writing prompt – last years’ prompt, actually.  It is about an issue they have not thought of, would never think of.  But, they have 45 minutes to plan and write the five paragraph essay.  We are simulating the test, and practicing how to time ourselves – and I can already see that my kids are struggling to come to terms with this prompt.  One looks to be close to tears, and others are staring at the prompt…a glazed look on their faces.  So, I stop the process.  We work together to figure it out – we pool our ideas, clarify our thinking, re-work our boxes and bullets writing plans and begin again.  
     At last, everyone is done and we stand and stretch.  There are complaints all around: why was the prompt so confusing? why are they trying to trick us on purpose? how are we supposed to write when we can’t figure out the prompt?  I do my best to settle them down, explain the process.  No one looks convinced.  So, I busy myself with this and that, and allow my kids to vent amongst each other.  Then, I am ready to get back to work, and turn around to see this on the board…which pretty much says it all:

Testing is next week – but the comments on this TC site have me anxious and angry for my kids – is this what education in America has come to????
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10 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: State testing time approaches – sigh…

  1. I'm so sorry, for you & for the students, Tara. You are expressing the response when asked a question at my school is 'it depends' & you teach that way, I hear you. There are so many kinds of answers. I cannot figure out how test-makers think they can determine the 'correct' answers. I think I would say that it's tricky, is that okay for you to say? And that it's okay to be wrong, in the test-makers eyes anyway. Best to you and your class!

  2. Tara,I feel your pain as our kids are finishing up testing this week too! I think it really sucks (sorry for being blunt) that testing has become the flavor of the week lately! I do feel there may be hope…I'm noticing pockets of revolt against standardized testing beginning to form…something's got to give! This is really turning into madness…only to get worse when aligned to the CCSS!

  3. We are testing this week-3 tests reading, math and science, Each test 2 1/2 hours each with similar 2 and 4 pt. responses. Sometimes I wonder how and why these tests show that are students are readers and writers. Often I wish they would look into their reader's notebook at all of their thinking. The charts they design to organize their thinking. The webs they use to extend characters attributes. Look into their writer's notebook and see the amazing stories with setting that is rich, complex characters, and problem & solutions that I would not have even considered. Let alone the climax of the story o the cliffhanger what will lead into another amazing story. That is how I know my students as readers and writers not by the 2 1/2 hour test they take this week. It is important that we have our built in blogging community for support.

  4. I feel your pain. I feel like I've wasted the past month with test prep. The only thing keeping me sane is that testing started this week, some students in my inclusion classes have thanked me for helping them make more sense of tricky questions. They feel like they have a fairer chance with the test. I hope your testing goes better than the online debacle here in Indiana. It's been frustrating.

  5. I am sorry for you and your students. Somethings have to be persevered and perhaps this is the most important life lesson. I am thankful to be teaching First grade where we get to bypass the state test. When testing ends celebrate all the good thinking and learning that has happened this year. You get the joy of reminding your students. This high stakes testing takes so much out of us, We can't let it have the last say. Hang in there! Your students know you are standing with them and we are standing with you!

  6. We start testing on Thursday. We've been doing practice tests. I try hard to stay positive and help my students figure out the best strategies, but I am in agreement with you. I'm always surprised to get a window into my student's thinking, while trying to help them find the "best" answer. It's a muddled mess!

  7. We just finished our annual ELL testing and are moving right to annual spring standardized testing for all students. I can't remember the last time that we did not talk about testing or data in our school meetings. Perhaps we should act on those ideas that Finland has shown us; not just talk about them.

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