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Sunday, May 10, 2015


dave handelsman

It feels broken because it is broken.

No Child Left Behind and similar initiatives are designed to create some way to measure and track how schools perform. This creates both intended (a way to compare schools' performance) and unintended (teaching to the test)consequences. At our annual beach vacation, we've spent part of each week for the past 10 years discussing this with the parents there -- which includes teachers and a principal.

I think your comment about "working the system" is spot on. Incentives drive behavior, and some schools have figured out the best way to achieve their incentive-driven goals based upon their student population. Other schools may not have figured it out, or they may have other factors that make it difficult to achieve higher EOGs, or maybe they're making progress but it's still below where it should be. It's also possible (or likely) that the wrong incentives are in place.


Here's a new research project - how much money does the state spend on test materials? I maintain that the true beneficiaries of testing are the marketers of tests.

From a number of years spent tutoring in Dallas public schools my insight on the math scores is that many of the math problems on the tests are word problems. If a child is a poor or slow reader they are going to have poor math scores.


Have any of your kids read the Origami Yoda series? In the later books in the series the kids start a rebel alliance against all of the school's testing regime. They're very entertaining books (even if the fictional solution isn't necessarily realistic . . .)


Dave - agreed. I guess I can understand the desire to track school performance. It just seems like if 50% or more of kids aren't performing "at grade level expectations" across the board then the expectations are too high or the test used for measuring is flawed.

Catharine - no, we haven't read those, but it sounds great. I may need to read it myself! Maybe I can start my own rebel alliance.


Another huge problem is what the actual % correct on the test is considered passing. On some of the reading, at a 50%(ish) you would get a 3 and a low 60% = "projected level 4" -- it is INSANE. I hate doing all this test prep as a teacher, but it isn't as much the material as it is the actual test taking strategies that the kids need practice with. They have no idea how to narrow down the choices or how to read the question to try and find the "right" answer. Even with my 5th graders, they have trouble sometimes choosing between the last 2 logical choices and many times it is because they take too much of their background knowledge into account and not looking strictly at the text. Is it ridiculous, yes. Is it necessary, yes to an extent. The test scores determine so much now from their math course for middle school, to being identified for AIG, to whether or not they pass the 3rd grade. A colleague and I put in our "requests" for teaching next year for anything other than 3rd grade (i.e. K, 1, 2, 4, 5). It is that much worse in 3rd now with the read to achieve law. Be thankful your first two didn't have to go through third like it is now. I am thankful my kids didn't have to do what I am required to give.


Ack... Steph, you have me nervous about Addie's third grade year. GAH! This pressure-cooker atmosphere has gotten worse and worse every year. Next year will be a breath of fresh air in 2nd grade, but I'm dreading the last three years of elementary. :( It really shouldn't be that way. It is freaking elementary school!!


OK... so I just read this article about Read to Achieve. It sounds horrible. Absolutely horrible. I loved the quote from the teacher who said, "I don't need 36 tests to tell me who is reading on grade level and who isn't. I already know who those students are. And 36 tests won't make them better readers. It will just make them hate reading." EXACTLY. Steph, you think I could hire you to homeschool Addie for 3rd through 5th grade?


Forgot to add the link. http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2014/03/20/students-teachers-grapple-with-read-to-achieve-law/

Barbara Eldridge

Albert Einstein: "A Society's competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic tables but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity."



Absolutely -- do you have benefits? :) I really wish I could do something like that -- small group, awesome lessons, impromptu field trips. I would love it. I LOVED homeschooling the girls in 2nd grade -- best 7 months ever :)

Barbara Eldridge

Ann - This testing business seems to be world-wide. The following is from a letter to the editor of The Times of the UK.

"The torment of our exam-ridden children:
It is madness that schools, in a desperate pursuit of prestige, are tormenting children through their obsession with examination results."


Steph - man, if I thought I could afford your salary and benefits, I would hire you in a heartbeat!

Barbie - you can forget about imagination and creativity. I think that is gone. Elise uses more imagination and creativity in middle school than the younger ones do in elementary... and the youngest ones are usually the ones full of great imaginative thoughts! No time for creativity though... too many multiple choice tests to take.

Fascinating quote from the UK... I had assumed all the testing madness was a US thing.

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