Friday, September 23, 2011

Yet another reason why I hate High Stakes Testing!!

Today was not a good day...

Never in my ten years of teaching have I ever seen anything like what I am seeing in my new classroom. When I received news of my new placement, everybody said, "You are so lucky. You're going to a good school. They have some of the best test scores in the district."

Well, I am here to tell you test scores don't mean much when the students in your class ARE COMPLETELY LACKING EVEN RUDIMENTARY BASIC SKILLS!!

The first two weeks of school usually involve doing basic assessments. We check their reading, we check their math, we get a feel for where they are and where we need to go. I was shocked by what I found in my current class of second graders. I've taught in the worst neighborhood for the last six years. Now I'm in a better neighborhood. I erroneously thought that my new students would have better basic skills. I can honestly say that I have NEVER had a class, and yes I mean the entire class, so far behind. I taught first grade last year, so I know what they SHOULD be capable of, and they aren't even close, and too often I am looking at a sea of confusion and blank stares.


I keep asking the question. Everyday when I become frustrated trying to teach a new skill, I ask how can it be that these children are so ignorant.

Well, I was told that in an effort to raise scores, the most highly effective teachers were moved to the testing grades. Weaker teachers were moved to the primary grades. In addition, there were a number of long term substitutes, non-certified teachers, also placed in the primary grades.

The Results: Increased test scores in the testing grades, 3, 4, and 8, and primary students with NO BASIC SKILLS. As an example, I only have 5 out of 17 students reading on grade level. 75% of the students could not name all of the months or seasons and most certainly not in order. Few students were able to identify coins let alone give the value of a group of coins. About 1/2 were able to count by 5's, few were able to count by 2's. Writing is very weak and they are making structure and other similar mistakes that one might expect in the beginning of first grade. Many of these skills are learned in K and mastered in grade 1. So because of the over emphasis on test scores as opposed to quality learning, an entire group of children lost their foundation. I see that the second and first grade is stacked this year with amazing teachers, so I think that mistake may be corrected, but I worry that it may be too late. We may need to retain a very large number of children in order to assure their foundational skills are complete, and I predict very low test scores next year if the majority of the students move onto third grade.  It also means that I will probably work harder than I ever have since entering the field of teaching.

The situation makes me angry. Someone along the way failed these kids. Wish me luck. We are all going to need it. To all of you, don't be fooled. Just because a school has "good scores" doesn't mean their kids actually know anything.

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