Friday, June 13, 2014

Testing Rant

I have already ranted about the excess amount of testing in our county at the beginning of this school year for our youngest learners.  In our sixth week of school this year, our district finally revised its testing calendar and dropped the Science, Music, Art and PE pre and post tests that they had originally required of Kindergartners.  They also dropped the Reading, Math, and Science tests they had originally required at the end of each nine weeks and only required post tests in Reading in Math.  Hallelujah! However, they added  post tests for the computer programs we have been using... when we were able to get to the computer lab, as we worked around the computer testing program (we have one lab for 1300 students!)  To say this year was full of disorganized chaotic testing is an understatement.  The amount of hours of instruction lost to a ridiculous testing schedule is disgraceful.

Lucy Calkins made a statement about testing being the Titanic of the Common Core, and I think she is right. I'm not sure how testing got tied to the Common Core because there is nothing in our new standards that require the type of testing that is being done today.  Certainly we need to understand where our students are at any given time so that we know how and what to instruct, but it seems we've just gotten into testing, as if by simply testing students, they can improve!  We miss the point entirely.  Assessment completes the prescriptive cycle of identifying through assessment, writing a prescription, selecting the appropriate resources to instruct, instructing, and then assessing again to identify the new targets.  Testing without engaging appropriate instruction is simply wasteful. It's malpractice.

As I was leaving school this afternoon, I caught this picture outside the Test Administrator's Office.  Fifty-eight boxes were taped and labeled, ready to go to the District's Testing Office.  That's not the state required high stakes test that was given in the Spring but 58 boxes of required county tests given to our K-5 students at the end of the year.  These will be used for performance pay for teachers, eventually, although the inaccuracies are mind boggling.  I know that the intent is to move the county forward, but it just seems like the implementation has been boggled at every turn.  We were fortunate to have a Test Administrator who was able to shoulder the enormous time and responsibility of organizing the distribution and administration of such a massive testing schedule (I guess you could say her part time job was being the only Assistant Principal at our very large school!)  Her talent and perseverance were noticed and appreciated by all.

As for my school, we tried, as we always do, to carve a course through the mine field and to just keep doing what we know works.  We gave the assessments that we absolutely had to give, although it is difficult to trust the results of a new test - we were not able to depend on it for anything.  We did the best we could in a "red" school (meaning we do not have the technology infrastructure that we need to support the expectations of computerized testing) and tried to soothe the hysteria of high performing teachers  who often were on the verge of tears knowing how hard they had worked and how much they wanted to prove it. The principal continued to work on relationships and easing the stress and pain, instead of playing into the panic.  She continued to assure our faculty that if we continued to keep our eyes on our students, we would prevail... and we have.

With a population that is changing (our second language and free/reduced numbers continue to climb) our results continue to remain high (we had the highest writing scores in the county!)  Our teachers are collegial and continue to depend on each other.  We are not always in charge of our own fate, but we are in charge of our destiny. We continue to see through the fog into the eyes of the children.  Now that is leadership.

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