Sunday, November 22, 2009

Standardized testing can kiss my ass


Seriously, I’m to the point of not caring a damn about standardized testing. 

And while maybe I’m engaging in a little bit of hyperbole (after all, I’m hired to care about these idiotic tests), the fact of the matter is that more and more teachers are reaching that same conclusion about all the test jive. 

I am happy to see API growth but I just want to point out that the target is 800," school board member Dave Johnston said. "There's nothing magical about 800. When we get to 800, that means 55 percent of the students are at grade level, 45 percent are not. 800 is not a great target.

That’s the quote from one of my Board Members (check Friends of Dave right), who also said that teachers are working hard, yada, yada.  I’ve pretty much come to ignore anything coming from the mouths of politicians (no offense Dave) because I still think they don’t have a damn clue about what they are talking about.  Take the three in the picture at the top of the post.  Those are the three yahoos who will be representing the push for reform in education.  Race baiting ambulance chaser Al Sharpton, House Speaking hypocrite Newt Gingrich, and Arnie Duncan, whose choice of companions is a clear sign that only 11 months in, Obama’s education plan has jumped the shark.  How can you take education reform seriously with these clowns in charge?

With a new tool called Data Director, I checked out the results from my U.S. History classes from last year, and the results seemed to be pretty good.  No, not everyone was proficient, but well above the state average.  About 70%.  And of those that did not pass, almost all of those were basic. 

I saw three things from the data.  First, attendance had a direct impact on test scores.  Duh.  I’m dealing with Juniors in high school and obviously poor attendance was going to mean that students didn’t do well.  This was the number one factor in low test scores.  I could point to 70-80 percent of my non-proficient kids and said “yep, attendance was an issue”.  Now, how exactly am I supposed to be responsible for 16 year olds not getting to my classroom?  My lessons are engaging, my management is strong, my results are good.  Why should my job hinge on a 16 year wishing to get high instead of learning in my classroom?  And I’m so over the KIPP crap.  KIPP would have expelled many of those students before the testing, and those parents are more invested in their child’s education anyhow, which eliminates a huge problem in test scores.

Group number two is Hispanics.  3/4 quarter of my white students were proficient.  Just over half my Hispanics were.  The whole point of testing is to tear apart data, here’s another one.  And no, the attendance issue is not connected to ethnicity.  And yes, I am CLADed.  And yes, I am SDIAE trained.  And yes, I use multiple forms of instruction and assessment.  Some Hispanics did well in my classes, others did not.  Almost all were not that far from proficient.  Language was probably an issue.  It ended up impacting my test scores. 

The final group was the most shocking, and a clear reason why testing can’t be taken too seriously to measure anything except for maybe long term trends in data.  I consider myself a pretty tough teacher.  I think my students would say that they learn in my classes and that I have high expectations regarding quality of work.  Take a look at past teacher report cards (I’ve listed them in various June posts) where students occasionally state that I’m too college-like.  There is no grade inflation in my classroom.  Ok, take all of that into account when I tell you that the third group of students included those that were very successful in my class, but did not get a proficient score on the STAR exam’s U.S. History test.  I’m talking seriously successful.  Advanced Placement successful.  Social Studies Advanced Placement successful.  But couldn’t get a passing score on piece-of-crap state standards test?  They simply didn’t care.  “We had AP testing”, “It doesn’t impact us”, “They really bore the hell out of me”………yeah, except that my job is that much harder because I need to listen to our newspaper trash the school because of test scores, or watch pundits insist that everything is the teachers fault.

So really, the only reason I care at all about tests is because I’m paid to, and since I’m not paid well, and my pay continues to fall, I’m becoming less inclined to listen to people that blow hot air.  Test this. 

Thank God I teach Seniors.  No testing, just teaching.

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