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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Testing frustration

I wrote this and was going to email it to an old professor. Then I realized I couldn't do that - I'm too frustrated to write something calm enough to send to anyone. So, the blog gets it.


Hi Professor,

I hope you're doing well.

This email is coming to you out of frustration. I remember that last year at the end of my students teaching I lamented that I felt I hadn't assessed my students enough. I had been looking at everything through a rubric I made, and through just general observation. You had commented that teachers don't give themselves enough credit - their observations and the fact that they know and work with their students every day is worth more than it may seem.

Well, that may be true, but it doesn't matter. Teacher observation doesn't matter anymore. My poor students get so many, SO many tests. We're currently in the midst of preparing for our quarterly multiple-choice math test, as mandated by the district. This means I have to give them practice tests nearly constantly, because while many of them do a fine job of answering the question if given it in an open-ended way, the testing system the district uses manages to create horribly confusing multiple-choice questions for their assessments. My students can explain to me what a fact family is, why we are learning about them, how to know if a number sentence is or isn't part of a fact family, and how to know what else to put in a fact family, but when they are given multiple choice questions about fact families, they still tend to get them wrong. Apparently teachers know nothing. I may think my students understand, but they obviously don't. After all, the test says they don't, so they must not, right?

My students spent 40 minutes today working on a 5-question multiple-choice assessment, which was ridiculous. What did I teach today? Well, during the 5.5 hour school day I taught 2 hours of literacy, 20 minutes of math, 25 minutes of writing, and the rest of the time was pretty much spent testing or doing test preparation activities. That's not good. There's no way that I can interpret that as having been a productive day.

Next year it's going to be worse. District already has it in their plans to implement more district-mandated standardized tests for first grade. They're thinking about adding some tests for kindergarten, too. Occasionally I like to pretend I'm a teacher, and teach something. When that happens, I end up finding myself horribly behind with the mandated testing schedule.

Is this a normal first year teacher rant? Does this happen to all first year teachers at this point in the year? Do we all get to the point where looking at another test makes us want to throw it down on the floor and go cry in the corner of the classroom? Because that's how I'm feeling today. I don't want to do this part anymore. I enjoy my students, I like finding ways to make the content accessible to them all. I do not like the extreme testing. With the testing, it doesn't matter if the material is understood by the students, it matters that they know how to take the tests. I have been changing my teaching style to teach more traditionally, more directly. Because while my students truly understand some of the material, they don't understand it in the blunt overly simplistic terms used on the test.

I hope today was just a particularly bad day. I hope I'm able to deal with this all a bit better tomorrow. I hope I find a way to get past the testing, because it's not going away and it's not going to get any better any time soon.

Do I want to continue to be a teacher? Yes, I think I do.

If that is the case, I must learn to live with the testing. I must accept that it is here. It is the new wave. It is damaging at times, but it is what it is.

Sincerely,
A disgruntled former student

5 Comments:

Blogger Dree said...

Oh, I feel your pain. And our school doesn't test nearly as often as yours does.

Your rant is definitely not just limited to first year teachers... this is my 9th year, and it doesn't get any easier. I decided to become a teacher because I love watching a child's eyes light up when something finally clicks, because I think there's nothing better than children's laughter as they learn through discovery, because I can combine ALL of my skills into a lesson that feels more like fun than learning. I didn't become a teacher to help kids practice filling in the little test circles without going outside of the lines. Or to teach them how to eliminate the answers that don't make sense and go with the "best guess."

I'm sorry for you and your kids. Unfortunately, it seems to be the trend of education these days, and it really sucks.

2:32 PM  
Blogger La Brown Girl said...

You're not alone. I've felt like this all year.

This year was the first year I haven't assigned TAKS Masters because I'm so tired of wasting time practicing for the test. I could potentially get into a lot of trouble, but I'm so tired of it.

I guess my advice is that you either give in or rebel. It seems that it's a lot harder to do it in your case because you have to provide so much data.

Just hang in there. The summer is almost here.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Criss said...

You are speaking for all of us. This is one of the many things wrong with education today. Hopefully we will see a huge overhaul of the system soon -- we need one -- and this pointless bubble-filling testing will go away. I know I'm putting a lot on the new President's shoulders, but if anyone is going to get in there and do the ugly work to fix our schools, I think he's the one.

Thank you for writing this, and for sharing it. I think you helped a lot of people vent through you. :)

9:30 AM  
Blogger Sra. Profe said...

Thanks for writing this. I linked to this post on my blog -- you said it better than I could. :)

7:53 PM  
Blogger College Kid said...

Not Quite Grown Up ... I'm not a teacher, but I feel your pain. I tutor in a K-8 school in CA, and the district gives the students tests in multiple subjects each week. The students generally have 15-20 tests per month. It's completely ridiculous! When are the teachers supposed to teach the students the material if they're simply giving them tests?!? I only tutor three days a week, but I hate coming in and having half the class taking a test and students from other classes coming in to take tests while I'm just trying to help the students through tutoring.

Good luck with you job, and my thoughts are with you while with all other teachers in the same spot as you in CA. It's a tough time to be a teacher, in my opinion, and I'm just someone who looks up to teachers and feels extremely grateful for the work they do. I only wish the rest of the nation saw the value of a good education and would keep all teachers teaching, and let all children get the education they deserve, and trust that teachers will teach and do the best they can for their students.

1:06 AM  

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