Thursday, January 8, 2015

G'Morning You'll Be Testing Today

every morning starts out good until . . . 
Monday before winter break and the Tuesday after winter break, my students took the standardized MAP test for reading at 8am.  Both test days looked pretty much the same:  I marched them down to the computer lab and tried to be serious and upbeat about the test they were about to take.  I calmly paced the room giving kids signs of encouragement which for the first, say, 15 minutes proved helpful.  They all looked like they were alert and trying hard.

8:15am and the usual signs of decline were in motion.  Can I get a drink?  How many test questions are there, Ms. Naputi?  How long do I have to do this today?  My phrases of encouragement - I could tell - were not enough to keep the majority of my students engaged.  No matter how high-pitched and authentic I tried to be, the kids were deteriorating fast.  Soon what came out of my mouth were re-directions and stern sideways glances, and towards the end of the hour, I couldn't even fake it.

#painful #smh

Yesterday I combed through the results of their reading tests only to be seriously disappointed by my classes overall performance.  Of my 43 students, only 23 made growth.  That of course means 20 did not make growth.  And even though this winter test data is "just a snapshot," it still feels demoralizing.

Lordy lordy.  I spend so much time thinking about and teaching critical high level skills like - interpreting nonfiction text, evaluating sources, analyzing songs, lyrics, poems, speeches, and narratives for themes and deeper meaning, not to mention building new knowledge through collaborative dialogue - so it's not hard to understand the ongoing conflict I have between the snapshot through the test, and the real, authentic learning that I actually get to witness in class.  There are points in time when I throw my hands up in the air and say fuck it I'll just teach all the stuff the kids will be tested on.  Only to be challenged by other voices like me who say, be brave, put the kids first and have the courage to teach relevant, important skills that are life-long and meaningful and sustainable.


Man it's crazy.  Cause what I have to do is willingly sacrifice my job and suffer the consequences of poor student test scores in order to save my students from the outcomes of the crappy policies currently guiding public education.  Does this bother anyone else?


This is a long conversation and one that isn't going to go away.  But really, think about it.  As an educator, is our best hope for change in education the willingness to subvert a dysfunctional system?


At the end of today, the fact that standardized testing is at the front of my brain tells me that I either need a better book to read or I should have worked out harder after work.  To be honest, it's coming at me from all sides - even on the homefront when I made an informed decision to opt my kids out of the MAP testing going down tomorrow at their school.  I felt like I was walking a line between wanting them to experience testing for the sake of experience testing, coupled with wanting to know what the tests outcomes will be.  What will the test results tell me as a parent?  And more importantly, what will they tell my kids teachers instructionally?  And will it matter if I opt them out?  In the end, it still comes down to the fact that if teachers are measured on student test performance outcomes, and if students are taking tests under duress, and teachers like me even consider and often do teach only what will be tested - that it's still a matter of crappy educational policies and practices that need to change.


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