No, They’re Not Kidding Me

Yesterday during the first of three meetings I attended, we heard the news: next spring third and fourth grade teachers can expect their report card grades to be correlated to student performance on MCAS. And, I suppose, since that’s what happened last year, graphs and tables will be created into Powerpoint slide shows identifying each teacher’s result. No, they’re not kidding.

At least with Reading Grades, the selected standard (no, not every standard will be targeted) – Comprehension of Fiction and Nonfiction – makes sense to me. The math standard – Communication, does not. I don’t know how students can communicate on grade level when they can’t conserve number in counting, don’t know what a digit’s value is, and still can’t add or subtract basic math facts through 18. But, no they are not kidding me.

Here’s what concerns me about this data collection and what the data means:

  • The MCAS test is challenging for any third grader. My understanding — and I’ve gotten used to not understanding anything in education — is that the test includes items beyond grade level expectation.  Won’t these items skew the result? And then make my personal report card assessment look inflated?
  • The MCAS is a third graders first experience with standardized testing. It is unnerving to a 8- or 9-year old. Won’t that also deflate the kids’ scores?
  • MCAS is a snapshot moment in time (2 days for the Reading test). What if on one or more of those 2 days, the student comes to school upset about something outside of the home (mom and dad were fighting, mom/dad left home, electricity was turned off, we were kicked out of our apartment)? I teach traumatized students and each of these events HAS happened to one or more of my students during MCAS. How will that affect the students’ MCAS scores on one or more of those 2 days?

I see my students for 180 days each academic year. I get to know them and about them – sometimes it is too much information. I assign report card grades after looking at many, many assessments – formal and informal, paper and observational. I do my best to provide an opinion of progress representative of how I see the student meeting grade level standards in the classroom — and I do not base this assessment on a 2-day high-stakes, anxiety ridden test.

Someone please tell me where these results are going? What is the agenda here? Is this going to turn in to more fodder for proving I am shiftless and lazy? That I don’t know what I am doing? Because this data collection is pretty scary and no, I am not kidding you.