Having a Me Party

“Standardized testing has become the arbiter of social mobility, yet there is more regulation of the food we feed our pets that of the tests we give our kids”

— Robert Schaeffer

It begins.

State testing will dominate the next two weeks of my classroom time.  Of concern is the fact that students are taking photos of this year’s California’s state assessments, and posting those photos on-line, thus raising the possibility of that school’s test scores being invalidated.  But buried within that story is this specific reality, not necessarily connected to the story itself but a trenchant observation at the standardized assessments themselves:

Students typically don’t have anything at stake on the annual tests: Colleges don’t look at student scores, and the scores don’t affect course grades or grade-point averages — although L.A. Unified has experimented with rewarding improvement on a standardized test with a higher course grade.

There you have it.  We ask so much of students on exams that ultimately have more effect upon the adults at the schools they attend, than upon their own academic prospects.  Nothing better exemplifies characterizing state tests as chest-pounding exercises in meaninglessness than the above comment–that is, if you’re a student.  But as one of those adults at their school, it’s everything, as the numbers they will produce on these exams will ultimately be taken as more about me than it does about them.  As much as I want to put the focus of my day upon my 32 kids, the next fortnight becomes entirely about me.

I hate this.


2 thoughts on “Having a Me Party

  1. “Colleges don’t look at test scores…”
    I know there are people who wish that were not true, but for now, SAT and ACT scores remain very much a part of the application packet that tier I and tier II schools look at. In fact, in many locales, even 4th tier colleges are looking at scores because they are having to turn away students due to an abundance of applicants. The local community college may not care about scores… but (or, perhaps, as a result of their indifference to academic measures) community colleges have, overall, a very poor record when it comes to their students eventually going on to graduate from four-year colleges.
    The annual tests – which are sometimes called “high stakes testing” – are an excellent means to accomplish two objectives toward the goal of better SAT/ACT scores:
    1. They give students an opportunity to engage in meaningful practice, each year, that simulates those tests.
    2. The test results can be used to help students and their parents determine whether or not they are keeping pace with college preparation. For example, we know that statistically, students who are only at or below reading level in 8th grade have a very poor chance of going on to graduate from a four-year college.
    Good luck to your students on their tests. They do matter.

  2. But as tests go, they aspire to measure a student’s academic progress in given year, yet they are administered long before my school year ends. I’m still teaching until mid-late June, but the entire focal point of my teaching becomes the first two weeks in May. Even though we talk to our parents about our report card measuring progress towards exit-level proficiency, we’re testing our students without having reached the exit. As a result, our report cards reflect one piece of data, while the state tests reflect something else.

    The testing calendar is all wrong. These tests should count for all stakeholders, not just for future possibilities but immediate circumstances as well. Especially given that while I would prefer that these tests be given as “final exams” during a school’s final two weeks of their particular school year, if we are forced to adhere to this artificial need to test in early May, then there is no reason whatsoever why we have to wait until August to get our test results back. These results should arrive in time to influence the students’ grades at the end of their school year. They should be made to count in what is real and immediate feedback for their efforts during a school year.

    Instead, as I alluded, beyond the intrinsic motivation that you describe–which is obviously valuable–there’s no consequence to a child that these test scores will provide them that can match the consequence of anxiety levels amongst teachers with this new trend towards publicly “outing” a teacher’s test scores in a given year that has taken hold in Los Angeles and New York. I would feel so much better if I could have a legitimate dialogue with my kids each year that these tests really do count for them as much as it does for me. While my students in my 6th grade class are finally beginning to recognize the tactics necessary for success in the “long game” of college prep, the next two weeks are wholly about the “short game” of what we’ve done this school year. But only I will be left pondering how my year will get judged, based solely from these tests, at a time when my now former students are prepping for their first day of middle school.

    Lastly, with respect to the SAT/ACT, the students can choose to retake these exams to better their score; state tests don’t offer that possibility (at least they don’t now; I understand the Common Core switch might allow kids the chance to do that once we’ve moved over to those standards…).

    Either way, I will no doubt be feeling like I’m rooting for one of my favorite sports teams; with no more power to affect their testing outcome at this point than I could the outcome of one of my team’s contests. It’s a totally helpless feeling.

    Thanks though, for the best wishes for my kids.

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