Friday, May 17, 2013

This is a Nail-Biter!!!

This is what my students and I have been preparing for the entire year; The Algebra 1 Keystone Exams.  This is a high-stake exam, in that the students must pass the test in order to graduate.  The good news is that they can take the exam multiple times in order to pass.  The bad news is that their first attempt is what counts for our district's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

I have a secret to share.  This is not a popular opinion.  I like state tests.  Please, before you burn me at the stake, let me explain.

  • I like the challenge that they create.  There is a clear goal that my students and are working toward.  The state (PA) has become more clear on what topics are to be taught in Algebra 1 and the curriculum is no longer a mile wide and an inch deep (more like 3/4 mile wide and 6 inches deep).  

  • I like that it's something out there imposed on the students, rather than something from me.  This gives the classroom of us against them, rather than them (the students) against me.  We are in this together.  When they are successful, I am successful and vice versa.  I still give a mid-term and a final, but it also based on these state tests.  
  • It keeps me motivated.  With the test in the room like an elephant, there is no room for fluff lessons.  Every moment I spend with my students must be productive.  

There are a few things I don't like about our state tests:

  • You are punished rather than supported for being a poor performing school.  What if we did that in our classrooms?  What if the poor performing students' name were listed in the newspaper so we could point our fingers at them and laugh?  Why do we do that to the poor performing districts?  Why aren't they offered support rather than ridicule?  
  • I don't like how much instruction time is lost to the tests.  This year I am losing six days to testing.  That's over an entire week of instruction.  
  • I believe the students are over tested.  The same students are taking two days of Literature tests, two days of Algebra 1 tests, and two days of Biology tests.  All in a two week period.  
  • I'm not a big fan of figuring out the logistics of all of this.  Not that it's my responsibility, but still. The test results most likely won't come in until close to the beginning of the next school year.  Any students who failed the test the first time will need to take a remediation course in order to prepare the reassessment in December.  So a few weeks, maybe days, before school starts, student and faculty schedules will be disrupted and changed.  

So, here is sit, hoping and praying (can I do that in public school) that my students are successful.  Now I wait.....

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