Saturday, September 26, 2009

Time for Testing ... but not academics?

I'm worried about my kids' workloads.  I'd like to suggest that we trim some things from their to-do lists so they can concentrate on what's important.

I refer, of course, to the TEST.

I don't know about most of you, but here in the VT-NH-RI NECAP regions, we have AYP testing in the fall of the junior year. Many schools around here are getting antsy because their "didn't-make-the-grade"-checkmarks are being checked. Accumulate checkmarks in two consecutive years and you're on notice. Continue to not make AYP for any subgroup and your school is on double-secret probation. Administration might be forcibly changed. Schools might suffer sanction.

A school to the south of us is having eight days of one-hour delayed-openings ... for PRACTICE TESTING. Then they'll have six days of two-hour delayed openings for the actual tests. 9th, 10th and 12th have no school and are home sleeping for the extra hours. 11th are cramming for the test.

When did actual teaching take a backseat to the state-wide testing pogrom? When the principals started fearing for their jobs.

Few people other than the teachers and students make the connection that one of the major reasons that education is on the ropes is the tremendous number of things students miss a class for. I have kids with 10 excused absences already and it's only the 18th day of class. Sure, they're excused, but they're still not there.

Doctor's appointments, valid sicknesses (and the cough-cough days-off, Mommy calls the school), vice-principal call-downs for discipline, counselors who talk to them about their "issues" or who counsel them on getting into college (miss class to talk about going to college - don't you just love it?). Field trips and other teacher's projects. Assemblies for anti-bullying and harassment, watching the President, pepping up the cheerleading section, Prepping for the NECAP tests, staying off drugs (as presented by seven steroid-laced muscle-bound men who stress that they've 'never done drugs'), not driving drunk, watch out for STDs and creepy Internet pedophiles. MADD, SADD, SMILE and WORLD OF DIFFERENCE taking various kids for one, two or three full days.

Then you've got in-class suggestions to "drop everything and prepare for the NECAP test" three weeks from now, not to mention the idea of giving the 9th, 10th and 12th graders time to sleep while the 11th graders practice test-taking strategies, and then six more days when they're actually taking the test. And the principal opines that it's not fair for anyone to give homework during the testing days -- and then reinforces his opinion with a direct statement "I don't want you to give homework in any class that has an 11th grader in it." For math teachers, that's quite a few of them.

Throw in the random interruptions, sports excuses, part-time job, ill parents and kids in a pissy mood cause they're teenagers with active glands. Add the nurse call-downs for swine flu, or regular flu, or the school-based physicals.

NOW is when we're taking time off for testing?

Pretty soon the students have no time to spend concentrating on math and really, don't they have enough on their plate without also demanding that they learn that, too? Let's drop the math requirement and replace it with test-taking strategies and test-taking skills. That'll learn them.

Hmmmm ...

Or we could just teach and eliminate all the other silliness. Consistent, steady progress towards a goal. No distractions, just routine.

NAH. It'll never happen. This is education. Homey don't play that.

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