Slice of Life 2013

Slice of Life April 23, 2013: Testing Season Begins

on April 23, 2013

Slice of Life

Slicing on Tuesdays with Two Writing Teachers.

Writing feels like…

Work right now. The ideas aren’t there and the words feel like pulling teeth.

No, that’s not quite true. I have things I want to say but feel like I can’t shouldn’t say them. Why? Well, who might read them? What will they think? Do I really want to put it out there?

I guess what’s really on my mind is the sad reality that “testing season” has begun in earnest at our school. Last week, our students took a three-hour test to predict how they will do on the test next month. Our End of Grade (EOG) Test in reading is one month from today. Four short weeks to get it all done, to make sure my students have mastered the CCSS.

Recently, we got to see a “released” version of the new test. It looks somewhat similar to our old test, with a few updated question stems (to align with CCSS), but mostly the change is noted in the length. On our 7th grade test, there were at least three passages that were over three pages long (front and back). Any language arts teacher worth her salt can tell you that a struggling reader will take one look at that and crumble. We’ve all seen it before. No surprises here. But the sheer length of the test is worrisome to most of us. We know that struggling readers, even if they can read the passage and answer the questions correctly, will see those LONG pages of dense text and they will shut down. Since it is a new test and norming will need to be done, these students will not have to suffer through re-takes. We don’t anticipate scores until sometime in October. (Something to look forward to!)

No, the kids will be okay regardless. We tell them they must pass the test, but we don’t really mean it. They will move on to the next grade level as planned. Everyone knows that the real accountability does not rest with the students.

But this is not true for the teachers. In my state, accountability is almost exclusively for teachers. Seems that our legislators have been extra busy this week ensuring that those of us who don’t make the cut, whose test scores are not superior, will lose our tenure. I heard that it was an almost unanimous vote against teacher tenure. Really? There are that many bad teachers in our state? The state that boasts the highest number of National Board Certified teachers? Oh, and speaking of NBCT’s, one of the DPI’s recent proposals for salary restructuring suggests dropping Master’s pay and NBCT pay differentials. I am sure that will do wonders for the quality of teaching professionals in our state.

Yesterday we sat through a one-hour training on a computer tracking system that allows the state to determine just how much “accountability” we have for every one of our students. This allows the state to determine our “teacher effectiveness rating” which is now a permanent part of our performance reviews. Right now my “teacher effectiveness rating” shows a big RED box: INEFFECTIVE. This rating was the result of a combination of my students’ scores and the entire school’s rating. Our school as a whole did not meet “expected growth” and that pushed everyone in our building into the “ineffective” column.

Most of the time I try to stay above all of the craziness going around in education circles in our state and our country. I know why I teach and I try to be the best teacher I can be for my students. But as testing looms in our not too distant future, the pressure can’t be denied. Talking with my colleagues, I see the worry on their faces; I overhear the conversations where their very real fear can’t be missed. It makes me so sad.

This is not the way it’s supposed to be. We say it can’t last, that everything in education swings on a pendulum and sooner or later things will swing back in our favor.

I used to believe that.

I’m not so sure anymore.




3 responses to “Slice of Life April 23, 2013: Testing Season Begins

  1. I completely understanding how you would have a hard time writing as test season descends. So far, the new assessments and the structures for teacher accountability and evaluation have created many more questions and issues than answers and positive change. I’m not sure that any of us see the through line that connects best practices for children with tests that measure only a fraction of what we teach. Venting feels good, but I wish that we could get legislators to work collaboratively and think of more meaningful ways of creating positive experiences for students.

  2. mayawoodall says:

    Wow..a scary reality. I, too, am unsure of what that pendulum is doing. I am right there with you, feeling the pressure, and wondering the future.

  3. mag says:

    Another slicer wrote about her lack of pay raise. I vented ! Raise the scores! Raise the benchmarks! Raise the pay? NO! Raise the taxes? NO! We suffer from a communication disrupt and a lack of respect and pay.

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