Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Do-de-do-de Twilight Zone

This week is three straight days of SBA testing (Standards Based Assesment). We are in our second day today. First day was reading, today is writing, and tomorrow is math. The kids have been remarkably good, even sitting here with minimal breaks for a good four hours of testing a day. I tell you what, it is more tiring as a teacher to sit here and procter a test, to just watch them, than it is to teach. The day is looooooooooooong.

This reminds of a an episode of The Twilight Zone I watched once. The entire premise was that a family was gearing their son up for these important tests. The whole time, they were stressing how important these tests were. It was a kind of future-era. The whole thing boils down to the end of the show when we hear that the son did not do very well on the tests and his funeral was set for a certain day.

I don't want to go as drastic as that, but I do want some high stakes attached to these tests. These are the numbers that they look at to see how well the students and the grade levels are doing. They have already made the Alaska test, the HSGQE, mandatory for graduation as the Washington State WASL test is. You must pass all three parts, reading, writing, and math, to get your diploma. There are even retakes available each year. Minimum competency tests.

However, try telling that to an eighth grader. Yesterday I watched one student fall asleep and drool all over her test booklet. I saw one writing "IDK" (which stands for "I Don't Know," a kind of short hand for real laziness) on the short answers during thereading test, and I am watching another one right now just staring at the piece of paper for a good twenty minutes without raising his pencil. Look at that: another girl is using her time to write all over her arm with the pencil. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're thinking.

Then again, maybe they just hate tests. Test, test, test. Next week is MAP testing (I forget what the truck it stands for). Next week. Another test. I remember doing these tests as a kid. I did them because the alternative was being supremely bored and staring at the wall. I also remember a buddy in high school that used to fill in the bubbles as fast as he could because he wanted to read his book, as he was a prolific reader. The test meant nothing grade-wise or graduation-wise. Why should I take it? he would ask. What does it do for me?

Should these be the tests that say whether or not they pass their grade level? That's an interesting thought. If they don't pass they have to take the grade over again, social consequences be damned. We aren't killing the kid, but if these tests are so important, why isn't there a catch? We already will pass on way too many students that received F's in the majority of their classes all year, in order to keep them with their grade. I personally think this says to the other kids, "Why the hell should I do well if that jerk got to pass without doing a damn thing all year?"

I'm starting to swear, which means I am getting vehemently upset about this.

All year long, we teachers would build towards these tests--and let me get this straight: it ain't "teaching to the test" if these are state-mandated minimum competency grade level expectations--and get them to pass the tests. Nothing wrong with that. Then there would be stakes. There would be a mountain to climb.

Sure, you would have 15-year-old fourth-graders. Maybe then they would realize how important this free state-provided education is.

No comments: