Madness of Another Kind….

There are no brackets. There are only anxious and tense teachers and students. Stressed to the maximum. And the cracks are starting to show.

We are in the middle of our test marathons. Last week it was MEPA – Massachusetts English Proficiency Assessent, given to 15 out of my 22 children to assess their growth in English. This week – today actually – we start the Reading MCAS. Fifteen out of my 22 students will have endured two high-stakes and grueling tests within the space of 2 weeks.

Walls are covered or stripped of anything that could remotely be thought of as a study aide. Last year I had to rip desk tags from tops of desks because the tags had the audacity to show the cursive alphabet. I’ve covered birthday charts, removed math words, and even turned the labeled genre baskets in our classroom library around. No cheating.

This year we have a new feature to testing that will not prove anything except that 9 year olds are not adept at checking their test booklets. We teachers have always been sworn to not look at the questions/test materials on the MCAS – please explain how I proctor students to ensure they do not go on to another section of the test that is off-limits when I can’t look at the test <sigh>.

Students – those very same 9 year olds – must check their own test booklets to ensure they haven’t forgotten to fill in a bubble answer. This is new and worrisome. If you’ve ever met a 9 year old, you know they are not usually meticulous about details. If they turn 2 pages of a test booklet at a time and skip 6 answers, for them, that is an “oops” moment. And it is frequent. It is making me very tense because my students need every answer they can muster and to punish them for normal kid-stuff seems mean. And maybe meant to up the ante in proving teachers don’t know what they are doing.

I feel like there is so much more my kids could know of third grade curriculum before being tested. And there is, of course. It is mid-March; school does not end for 90 days – one-quarter of a school year later. What could possibly be the motive for testing children on end-of-year skills 3/4 of the way through their learning cycle? Seriously?

The cracks are showing. Kids are acting out. Teachers are not smiling. No one is happy.

Welcome to March Madness – public school style.

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2 thoughts on “Madness of Another Kind….

  1. Very well said, Amy. The intention of these tests is good (isn’t it?) but they seem to have the effect of making things worse, and not just a little bit. What do you think should be done about them? And if they were to be stopped, what should be done in their place?

  2. That IS the question. In my mind, a single, high-stakes test for anything is an insane way to measure learning. One dysfunctional day (parent yells at kid at home, evicted, gunshots through the front window – these have actually been the case for some of my kids) and all of a sudden you’re underperforming. Shouldn’t there be a collection of what the child can do at the beginning of an academic year showing a sampling of what has been accomplished under real circumstances? Couldn’t a standardized test exist alongside other data?

    I dislike the tone of the MCAS – it seems to be that if your students begin to show some growth, the DOE will come up with another test administration ruling to make the actually test taking – not the test content – yet another challenge. And for my ELLs or children who have very little background knowledge, the language of the test itself can be limiting. There needs to be another way to show that these kids too are making progress in the curriculum.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I get that I need to prove my students are making progress in the curriculum expectations, but there should be multiple ways to show that they are doing so. A one-day high stakes test isn’t fair or comprehensive.

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