Thursday, April 10, 2014

Testing....Testing....Is this thing on?

Thus endeth my first standardized test of the year.  It wasn't that bad....for me.  All I did was pass out test papers and stare at my 8th grade students for two and a half hours.  But oh wow....those poor kids.  The ones that finished the test early were forced to sit in absolute silence, without getting out of their seats, until the rest of the class finished.  In some cases, this was over an hour.  This included kids with  ADHD, who were physically uncomfortable and really struggling under these conditions.  Those students worked their rear ends off for us.

I teach engineering.  Even though I cover science, technology, engineering and math, these tests really are not an accurate assessment of what I teach.  Here is what I teach..

When we build bridges, we load test them, and then we use mathematics to calculate what their efficiency is.  We build robots and program them to do different tasks.  These tasks require math and science skills that are only hinted at on the test.  There are performance-based assessments that I perform with my students on a day to day basis.  My administrators check my on-line grade book to make sure that I am hitting my objectives, and that I am evaluating and assessing my students according to school policy.  I work really hard with each and every student to make sure they are absorbing skills and knowledge in the best possible way--practical application.
It may sound unprofessional, but I actually get my little feelings hurt when I hear that testing the snot out of my students is the only way we can make sure that teachers are doing their jobs.  You can't isolate teacher accountability that is a measurement of teacher and parent and student and society accountability.  Teacher accountability is measured every time and administrator stops me in the hall and asks what I am doing today.  It is measured every time my assistant principals reminds me to get my grades in on time.  It is measured every time a parent calls to talk to me about their child. 
Of course, there are some teachers out there, as much as I hate to say it, are coasting.  Maybe they are burned out.  Maybe they are rethinking their career choice.  Maybe they are just not meant to be a teacher.  Do you for one minute think that their supervisors do not know this?  Of course they do.  But a teacher who attends 150 hours of professional development a year and tutors after school and writes their own curriculum and serves on committees, and busts their hump every single day of the year has the same job security and salary as a teacher who shows up, passes out worksheets, and hits the door at the bell every day.  How do you motivate someone under those conditions, if that motivation doesn't come from within?  And guess what???  That worksheet teacher is most likely doing drill and kill for the test, which is great for "bulimic learning", where the student barfs up info on the bubble sheet, and promptly forgets it two weeks later. 
Still think standardized testing is good for teacher evaluation?


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