I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. You should do it too! Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!
“I know what the PSSAs really stand for! “Pretty Stupid School Assessments!”
I can’t help but laugh, but I try to hold it together. After all, I’m having a small group teaching some test taking strategies. I shall not let my personal bias show. I shall not let my personal bias show. I shall not let my personal bias show.
Last week my test prep copies arrived, and I stacked them on my desk. I had ordered them because I want to make sure my students have an idea of what kinds of questions they will get on their standardized test, but the sight of them on my desk has caused me and them a fair amount of stress.
“What are those, Ms. Feinberg?” Students have asked with a grimace on their face.
One of my girls pretended to try to to sneak them off of my desk and into the trash.
When I look at them they seem to mock me. “Think of all the things you haven’t taught yet.”
I’m supposed to understand that testing is a part of academic life. So, I tell my students that they will be taking tests for much of their academic life, and it’s good to just get used to it. After I say that aloud, I can’t believe myself. In a recent post on ditchthattexbook.com, Sir Ken Robinson says, “Don’t think someone is the system. You are the system,”
Cornelius Minor at TCRWP’s Saturday Reunion last week said, “Systems don’t change because we know about them. They change because we disrupt them. To not be a thing is to be complicit. You have to be anti-the thing.” Now, Cornelius wanted us to look at systems in our classrooms that create unequal outcomes… he told us to look at our “Realm of influence, not our larger realm of concern. But, his point is still on my mind today. Standardized tests are in my realm of concern, but I’m not sure they are in my realm of influence. Or are they?
I tell my students, “You can do this. You’ve got this. You’ve learned so much this year!” and I look over at the pile of practice packets, and It mocks me. “Think of all the things you haven’t taught yet.”
This week, I want to dive deeper into the nonfiction work we have started. We have just started to scrape the surface of the idea of not believing everything we read. We are using Jennifer Serravallo’s strategy from The Reading Strategy Book, page 245: Perspective, Position, Power. I don’t think we’ll have time for this important work though. We need to practice Text Dependent Analysis, and closely reading multiple choice questions.
I’m supposed to understand that standardized testing is part of academic life. But, my students are 11 and 12.
I’m supposed to understand how lucky we have it. And, we have it lucky. My district still has art, and music. We are encouraged to work towards big understandings, and test prep isn’t really this huge, mandated thing. It’s just me, wanting to give my students a little bit of a reminder and practice so they feel less stressed about the tests. But I’m not proud of myself when I do it. There are schools, I know, where test prep is all year. Where the time spent on preparing for the tests takes so much away from real learning. But just because I have it better, does that mean I have to be okay with it?
I’m supposed to concede that we need standardized tests. That it’s how we do things. Problem is, I don’t think we need these tests. I think there are better, more authentic, less costly (in money, time, and social justice) ways to assess learning.
I’m supposed to agree that we get good data, that we need the data. That it’s how we do things. Problem is, I think there are better, more authentic, less costly kinds of data.
I’m supposed to keep my mouth shut. That’s how we do things. Problem is, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. I have a hard time with doing things just because that’s how we do things.
Lucy Calkins asked us last Saturday, “What would you teach with just one (year/month/day) left?”
With just one year left, I’ll tell you what I wouldn’t teach. I wouldn’t spend even one minute on standardized tests.