Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Testing, testing... Ready to rant.

Let me first say that I am not opposed to standardized testing in limited quantities. It's one of many ways to gather information about students and schools. But what people outside of education might not realize is that we don't just give tests (which already use up about 4-10 days per year depending on the grade level). Oh no, we also have to give practice tests mandated by the city several times throughout the year.

There are so many tests, practice tests, and practice-practice tests that I am left wondering when exactly I am supposed to teach science!

Today, in our team leaders' meeting, we found out that we are giving full Math & ELA practice tests to every student in every grade.

Now, our kids get extra periods of Math & ELA and fewer periods of Science. Nevertheless, this test will more than likely be given schoolwide and so I will give up yet more periods of Science teaching to administer practice tests in other subjects.

As I said in the team leaders' meeting, "Can I give a practice Science test?" I wouldn't dream of asking other teachers to give up their teaching time so I could give a test, let alone doing it several times a year. When I give practice ILS exams, about twice during 8th grade, I do them in class.

But I'm used to this issue and have been pressuring my administration to administer practice tests during the appropriate subject periods. No, there's worse.

The official memo from the Region says that these tests must be scored by teachers, and suggests that we do it "during grade level meetings or after school."

So, they are mandating a practice test - and this is not just multiple choice, no, it includes essays and constructed response and the whole nine yards - yet they have no plan to pay anyone to score it??? These tests are no joke to score. Getting 225 Math and ELA exams scored is going to take several teachers hours of work. And apparently, we have to find that time in grade meetings - because we have nothing important to discuss with our teams? - or after school. It doesn't suggest paying per session for grading. It doesn't take into account the fact that most of us already work after school. No, it just says, give the test on this date and get it scored by that date, good luck.

Here are the options we discussed:
1. Grading it during a Monday PD, all teachers involved. (Fine, but so much for the workshops on differentiation and tiered instruction that we have scheduled. Also, that won't be enough time).
2. Cancel afterschool for a couple of days and have all the afterschool teachers grade the tests. (At least we get paid, but Robotics and HS Prep matter to me and to the kids, and what kind of message does this send about what's important? Also, one or two days won't be enough time).
3. Find some sort of educational movie to show the kids for most of a morning and create an assignment to follow it, put the whole school in the auditorium with a couple of teachers and the AP, and have everyone else score tests. (Do I really have to explain the problems with this idea? Not only do the kids miss classes to take the test, now they miss more while we score it?! Also, that won't be enough time).
4. Some combination of the above. (Solves the time problem; compounds the other problems).

It seems like this shouldn't even be allowed. Can they make me score these tests? Is that really something I just have to go along with???

Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that I plan to refuse to grade them. My school will come up with some kind of plan, and I will participate, because we are all in it together. If I refuse, pretty soon the entire burden of grading them will fall to the Math & ELA teachers, which isn't fair or right, either. And I don't want myself or our school getting a reputation as a troublemaker. But this rubs me so much the wrong way that I am wondering whether we can fight back at the Regional level. Can they really just hand out a memo and wipe out hours of our teaching/afterschool/meeting time? And if not, what can we do about it that doesn't single out any individual teacher or school but that frees us from this ridiculous burden?

And where the HELL are my Science Exam scores????!!!!!

I am starting to feel really unappreciated. The thing I do best - teach science - gets shorter and shorter shrift, tossed aside for the slightest needs of the ELA and Math departments. It's not my school's fault, they are just following the orders handed down by the Region. Last year, Science had a strong presence within our Region, much stronger than ever before. This year, it feels like a giant step backwards.

If I ever leave for the suburbs, it won't be for the money, it will be for better working conditions (I am talking about physical plant, not hours) and because there are places where what I am good at actually matters to the people in charge. And the city wonders why no one can find any science teachers ---!

We do not count.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Tim Fredrick said...

You are so right that these darn tests are taking time away from actual learning. Even in the ELA classes, they spend so much time teaching to the test, there isn't actual teaching/learning going on. Having these tests take up so much time and energy is hurting learning in ALL classes, even ELA and Math! As teachers, we do need to speak up that the tests and practice tests are taking away from students' LEARNING!! We must speak up.

7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that your Region just woke up. Many regions had us administer the practice ELA last week so that we could use Election Day to grade them.

All teachers, clusters, even SBST and Guidance were involved in the marking. Teachers were put into groups by grade. One grade leader did the training in the morning and the rest of the morning was spent on marking.

However, we will probably have to do the same thing with the State Math test. Hopefully time will be given for the marking, even if we have to use PD Mondays which by the way can be used for assessments.

7:48 PM  
Blogger ~lynnie said...

Wow, I'm so impressed that other teachers help grade the ELA tests!!! We are required to grade them ourselves (including the 3 short answer questions and 2 page essays). They did pay to have us pulled out to grade, but then after 1+ of testing, the kids all had subs for a day!

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Chaz said...

Why don't you talk to your Chapter Leader & District Representative about pressuring the school in giving you either per sesson pay or give you a day off and let subs do your classwork. Any other alternative is an abuse of the classroom teacher.

8:32 PM  
Blogger posthipchick said...

ugh, i am so sorry. it sucks that you feel like that and that they keep taking time away from what you teach.

one day, you will change the system.

10:47 PM  
Blogger graycie said...

What do your contracts say? I agree with chaz about consulting your rep. There should be extra pay for extra work.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Tep said...

Over here in 4th grade we are actually told that we should not be taking time in the classroom to teach science, at least not until the few weeks before the state science test in May.

It's a shame that science has become so neglected because you could easily build literacy and math around science, at least at the elementary school level, in a series of investigative, engaging projects.

Children have such a natural inquisitiveness that too often gets ignored.

And it seems like whenever a politician talks about making our schools competitive worldwide, they are largely refering to our deficiencies in science.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Mr. Lawrence said...

Hate to break it to you, but I live and work in the suburbs. It's not any better here ... at least, I don't think it is. ;-)

4:44 PM  
Blogger JHS Teacher said...

"The thing I do best - teach science - gets shorter and shorter shrift, tossed aside for the slightest needs of the ELA and Math departments."

I agree with you most of the time, but not this. This is not a need of the ELA or Math department, it's an edict sent down from above.

Teaching English, really teaching it, is being tossed aside for the test, just as Science and History and everything else.

I'm not to create any lessons on my own this year (after 10 years of doing just that!) and I have to give practice test after practice test.

I feel you Ms. Frizzle.

12:04 AM  
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