Because I Had To

This week concluded our adventures into the world of the  Third Grade  MCAS Reading Test. And yes, our third graders took their last test on April Fools Day – better known as March 32 in Room 207.

I’ve been administering these tests during each of the four years I’ve been teaching third grade. Before that, my time with my students was not disrupted by high stakes testing – I taught second grade.

While I was giving my students a pre-test session pep talk – and I can’t believe the words “that’s what a good test-taker does” came out of my mouth! – for the umpteenth time I felt the ridiculousness of a single test experience determining what my students have or have not learned.  And in mid-stream of our third grade curriculum, no less. Does it make any  sense to test students on their acquisition of reading in third grade 2/3 of the way through the year?

I had to explain to the students that I am bound to read a script to them and that they may hear me say things that just don’t make any sense.  And right off the bat, the script instructed me to warm my students against using cellphones or music players during the test. That created a giggle that could almost not be stopped. With all the wisdom that an 8 year old can muster, one little one explained that was so “those teenagers” didn’t cheat on their tests. Did that just create a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Well, my little test takers made me quite proud. I have no idea whether or not their answers will get us out of under-performing hell,  (as an test administrator I cannot so much as look at the test contents, it’s against the law – really). What I did observe was students who glanced at the questions following a test selection before reading, holding a finger to mark their place in the questions while looking back for the answer, staying in the designated writing boxes when answering open response questions. All things that seem out of whack with the developmental age of these students, but strategies that I spent time teaching so that they could survive the test experience. In other words, they performed their due diligence.

Oh, and no one had a meltdown and threw the test at me – that kind of frustration level was manifested AFTER the testing was finished.