Writing my way through the school year!

Posts tagged ‘Standardized test’

Why I Can’t “Teach to the Test”

I know it would make life much easier if I did.

Pull out the worksheets of all flavors;Reading, Writing, Math, mix in a Performance task.

Place them on their desks, one subject after another, hoping that when the BIG test comes, they can pass it, because they have been drilled, and drilled, and drilled.

Put them in labeled groups, those who will fly through the test, those who might pass, and those who don’t stand a chance.

“Teach” them based on where they fit in the “testing” spectrum.

No arts.

No Recess.

No engagement.

No fun.

Just test drills.

But, I can’t….READ MORE


Merit Pay for Teachers? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Bribe!


And you know they would! ūüôā Merit pay, how realistic is it that our pay could actually be tied to test scores? Very realistic!

What is merit pay?  Noun :extra pay awarded to an employee on the basis of merit (especially to school teachers)

What “think tank” thought up this idea, maybe the same one that stated that smaller class size doesn’t matter? I am amazed by what people (non-educators) come up with in order to hold teachers “accountable.” Or is it to make sure that the “better” teachers get what they deserve? No matter the reasoning behind this premise, it is ridiculous! ¬† I know it probably sounded like a good idea, but it is difficult to come up with criteria in the education field that would allow this idea to work.

Tie our pay to test scores? Are all students equal? I don’t think so. If that was the case, why would we need differentiated instruction? If Teacher A works ¬†in a school with struggling students and Teacher B works in a school with high achievers, does that make Teacher B a teacher who is deserving of merit pay, and Teacher A is not?

If Teacher A and B engage their students, and provide ample opportunities for their students to learn, but Teacher B has enough students that pass the test, does this mean Teacher B is a better teacher?

Or what if Teacher B does nothing but teach to the test, while Teacher A works to establish a well-rounded student?  Is Teacher B going to get paid more if more of his/her students pass?

I believe that most teachers are dedicated, hard-working people, who don’t need to be “bribed” to do their job. Teachers don’t do what they do for money, that is obvious from the salaries we make. ¬†I partially agree with¬†Arne Duncan, teachers should be paid up to $150,00. But pay them for all that they do, not because their students scored high enough on a test!

The World “Because of” Standardized Testing!(A Little Teacher Humor!:)

I hate standardized testing. ¬†I hate what standardized testing has done to teaching. SMH ūüė¶ ¬† ¬† ¬†This is what it has driven me to!


1.  A guy goes in for a job as a bubble filler.

He lets the boss know how he meets the requirements for the job.

“I can fill in bubbles really well. ”

” I’ve been taking standardized¬†tests since I was in kindergarten.”

“I make sure the circle is filled in, no white showing, and no stray marks.”

The boss says, “You sound like just the person we need!”

The guy reaches over to shake the bosses’ hand, “I think this is going to work out just great!”

The boss pulls his hand back, “Did you say think?” “I’m sorry, we can’t use you.”

2.  Bunch of guys sitting in an office.

“We have a huge order of scantron forms that need filling in!”

“OMG, how are we going to fill that order?!”

They put their heads together.

A woman shouts, “I got it!”, and picks up the phone.

Ring! Ring!

The person answers on the other side, “Hello, Dumbdown Elementary, how can I help you?”

3.  A principal walks into a classroom unannounced.

The students quickly try to stuff their lined paper in their desks.

He looks at the teacher. “What’s going on here Ms.Cannolongerteach?”

She stammers, “The kids wanted to see what it was like to use lined paper, they were tired of using grid paper or scantron forms.”

Kid starts crying. “Ms.Cannolongerteach was just giving us a break, Mr.Bringthescoresup! She didn’t mean any harm!”

“I’m sorry kids, but Ms. Cannolongerteach knew the rules. Pack your stuff and come with me Ms.Cannolongerteach.”

4.The students in the new teacher’s class, Mr.Icannolongerbecreative’s ,eagerly turn on their laptops.

“Okay everyone, we are going to create a video about WWII. Please go to the Photopeach site.”

As students click on the site, bells begin to sound on each laptop.

“Warning! Warning!” Creative learning taking place! Creative Learning taking place!”

School security bursts into the room.

Mr.Icannolongerbecreative stands pale and shaken.

“What’s going on?”, he shouts.

They put handcuffs on and drag him out.

“These laptops are for test-taking skills only!”, they yell vehemently.

“I didn’t know!”, he yells as they drag him down the hall, “I didn’t know!”

Matt Damon‚Äôs Speech to Teachers at SOS Rally

I love this speech! I wonder how many politicians heard or read it?

I  flew overnight from Vancouver to be with you today. I landed in New York a few hours ago and caught a flight down here because I needed to tell you all in person that I think you’re awesome.

I was raised by a teacher. My mother is a professor of early childhood education. And from the time I went to kindergarten through my senior year in high school, I went to public schools. I wouldn’t trade that education and experience for anything.

I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself ‚ÄĒ my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity ‚ÄĒ all come from how I was parented and taught.

And none of these qualities that I‚Äôve just mentioned ‚ÄĒ none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success ‚ÄĒ none of these qualities that make me who I am … can be tested.

I said before that I had incredible teachers. And that‚Äôs true. But it‚Äôs more than that. My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn‚Äôt taken up with a bunch of test prep ‚ÄĒ this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn‚Äôt promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

Now don‚Äôt get me wrong. I did have a brush with standardized tests at one point. I remember because my mom went to the principal‚Äôs office and said, ‚ÄėMy kid ain‚Äôt taking that. It‚Äôs stupid, it won‚Äôt tell you anything and it‚Äôll just make him nervous.‚Äô That was in the ‚Äô70s when you could talk like that.

I shudder to think that these tests are being used today to control where funding goes.

I don’t know where I would be today if my teachers’ job security was based on how I performed on some standardized test. If their very survival as teachers was based on whether I actually fell in love with the process of learning but rather if I could fill in the right bubble on a test. If they had to spend most of their time desperately drilling us and less time encouraging creativity and original ideas; less time knowing who we were, seeing our strengths and helping us realize our talents.

I honestly don’t know where I’d be today if that was the type of education I had. I sure as hell wouldn’t be here. I do know that.

This has been a horrible decade for teachers. I can’t imagine how demoralized you must feel. But I came here today to deliver an important message to you: As I get older, I appreciate more and more the teachers that I had growing up. And I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me.

So the next time you‚Äôre feeling down, or exhausted, or unappreciated, or at the end of your rope; the next time you turn on the TV and see yourself called ‚Äúoverpaid;‚ÄĚ the next time you encounter some simple-minded, punitive policy that‚Äôs been driven into your life by some corporate reformer who has literally never taught anyone anything. … Please know that there are millions of us behind you. You have an army of regular people standing right behind you, and our appreciation for what you do is so deeply felt. We love you, we thank you and we will always have your back.

“The Cheating Scandal!” Isn’t Cheating a Choice?

I read an article by Jay Matthews of¬† The Washington Post the other day, “Easing Test Pressure Won’t Save Kids”, and it went along with something I had been thinking about ever since “The Cheating Scandals” (in a whisper) broke. I don’t agree with everything he had to say in his article, but there was one element that struck me.¬†Is cheating acceptable¬†because of the enormous pressure put on teachers, principals, and superintendents?¬† Is it alright to excuse, justify, or rationalize¬†cheating, because of the intense pressure put on schools due to¬†standardized testing?

Just as we all handle grief differently, I am sure we can apply that same thinking to pressure. I would not cheat, and I have not cheated on any of these inane tests I am forced to give my students.¬† I can say, with confidence, that if I was told to cheat, I would not. And yes, maybe the principal would try to “get me” or “put me on their list”, but I still wouldn’t budge on what I believe in.

In the Huffington Post article, “Atlanta Cheating Scandal Unveiled By Reporter”, the reporter stated, “The report paints a vivid picture of a culture where teachers were publicly humiliated or fired for underperformance,… For example, a group of teachers at …¬†held a weekend “changing party” at a teacher’s home, where they systematically altered test answers to boost results.¬† A post by Maureen Downey on her blog, ¬†“Get Schooled”¬†provides another example, ”¬†… the principal forced a teacher to crawl under a table in a faculty meeting because that teacher‚Äôs students‚Äô test scores were low.

Maybe I am naive, but how does this happen?¬† How does my supervisor coerce me into doing something I do not believe in, knowing that I will probably be the scapegoat when¬†it blows up!¬†¬†In situations like these, ¬†no matter how much¬†you try¬†to hide it, it¬†is going to blow up! Who could make me crawl under a table?¬† Were these untenured ¬†teachers who feared for their jobs,¬†and felt¬†that the ends justified the means? Were they teachers who believed in “by any means necessary?”

All teachers did not choose to participate, they chose not to cheat.  As  a matter of fact, a lot of those teachers stood up to their supervisors and reported them.  A lot of them were ignored, and many lost their jobs, this was the choice they made.

I look at it this way. Let’s say I catch one of my students cheating. I say to them, “Why were you cheating?” , and their response is, “If I fail this test, I can’t play football.” Do I say, “I understand the pressure you’re under, so I will excuse you.” No, it would never happen!¬† I have read so many tweets from educators who blame the system for creating these high pressure situations, and then ending with a¬†“Well, what did you expect to happen?” kind of ideology. But should we look at it that way, that all who participated were somehow “forced” into it, and all other options were closed for them?

In the end, I feel sorry for those teachers, all over the country,who have¬†lost their jobs because of the choice they made, for whatever reason. My heart goes out to those kids who were made to cheat, what lesson did they learn? Standardized testing is the worst way to assess our kids and hold teachers, schools, and districts accountable.¬† But until they change it, I don’t think cheating is the solution we are looking for.

“The Teacher and the Politician” – NCLB and RTT

This¬†“conversation” takes place over a¬†period of ¬†years. The politician represents all politicians(any party) and the teacher represents all teachers (those who are affected by these ridiculous ideas our politicians and CEOs’¬†come up with.)

Politician: (Talking to a teacher) I have this great idea. It’s called NCLB, No Child Left Behind, sounds good right? No Child Left Behind, every child can and will learn. Like it?

Teacher: Hmmm, it sounds like a good idea, what does it mean?

Politician: Well, (stroking chin), it means no child will be left behind. It means we’re going to test the hell, I mean, heck out of those kids, and by golly, they will become really, really, smart!

Teacher: I don’t think testing them is going to make them really smart, as a matter of fact, all it will do is create a nation of test takers.

Politician: Hmmm, I never thought of that. (Waves hand) We’ll look into that. But (pointing finger), in the meantime, here are the consequences if a measurable amount of students in your school don’t pass these tests.

Teacher: Consequences?  I thought you said you would look into it.

Politician:  We will, we will. If your school does not show measurable growth, we will notify the public that your school sucks. Did I say sucks? I meant that your school is horrible.

Teacher: Are you serious?¬† If our students don’t pass one test, our school, no matter how well we have been doing, will be judged according to those test¬†scores?¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Politician: Yes, how else will the public know what schools are crappy?¬† We’ll post your school scores¬†in the paper, to make sure you are properly humiliated, and, just to make sure we’re helping¬†the students, we will fire all the teachers and administrators. And here’s the plus, the parents can move their kids out of the crappy schools and put them in Save Our Schools March & National Call to Actionthe better schools.

Teacher:  Better, as in test score better? (shakes head) Let me say if I got this right. You are going to humiliate a school, fire staff, and have parents move their students to another school,  based on one test score?

Politician: Yes, we are going to hold you teachers accountable! You have gotten away with doing nothing for our children for far too long!

Teacher:     What about Special Education students? Or non-English speaking students? Will they take the same test?

Politician:   And why not?  Why should they be left behind? 

Teacher: You do realize there are far too many factors that affect a students’ ability to learn and function in a classroom that would enable us to say “No Child Left Behind?” And what do you think is going to¬†happen to critical thinking? differentiated instruction? gifted and talented programs? ¬†special education? the arts? Recess? Field trips? Do you realize that schools will only focus on testing?

Politician: Hmmmm, never thought of that. Oh well, we’ll work on it. How about if I give you more money than other teachers in your school if your kids do better? It’s called Merit pay. No? (Years go by) Hey, I have a new idea, it’s called, you ready? Race to the Top! Like it?

Teacher:¬†¬†¬† What does it mean? Who’s racing to the top?

Politician:   It;s a competition among states, vying for millions of  federal money to throw at any education problems you have. The states with the most points out of 500, will win the money!

Teacher:      And we can do whatever we need to do with the money?

Politician:¬†¬† Of course you can! As long as you follow the federal governments rules AND you keep testing your students. It’s a win-win situation!

Teacher:¬†¬†¬† But it’s been proven, again and again, standardized testing doesn’t work! Throwing money at schools doesn’t work! Education reform designed by non-educators doesn’t work! Aaargh! (Tearing at hair)

Politician:¬†¬†¬† Oh by the way, we’ve decided you teachers have too much power. We’re taking away your collective bargaining power.

Teacher:     @#$^&*!

Politician:¬†¬†¬† And, the economy is really bad now, so we all have to make sacrifices. We’re increasing class sizes.

Teacher:     *&^%$!

Politician:¬†¬†¬† I don’t think that language is necessary,ok listen,¬†we have another solution. ¬†If you go along with Arne Duncan’s vision, we will waive some of the rigorous¬†requirements of NCLB. How’s that sound?

Teacher:¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Jump from the frying pan into the fire? How is that better?¬† Why aren’t you listening to us?

Politician:    We are listening. (starts to walk away)

Teacher:       Good luck to your kids who are in public school!

Politician: (Chuckles)¬† Are you kidding me?¬† My kids don’t go to public school!

Open Letter to Pres. Obama: This is What Standardized Testing “Looks” Like!

Dear President Obama,

Today was the first day of Round 3 of standardized testing in the state of Delaware. The test is administered online, and the students get their scores immediately. It covers everything we learned in the 5th grade, even though we have not finished the school year.

Let me begin with my morning. I attended a union meeting where I am told the state of Delaware has decided that they will decide whether I am a good teacher according to how well my students do on this test! It’s bad enough, that my school is judged by test scores, but now my ability to teach is questioned because of test scores? Does this seem as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Does anyone realize how many other factors control how our children perform in school?

I have prepared my students to the best of my ability for this test. As much as I despise it, I do not want them to fail. Aren’t we supposed to be creating critical thinkers? How can I do that, when instead of doing projects, or collaborating with our pen pals, we are filling in bubbles!!!!

The test. They worked hard, they really did, and all of them showed growth. In fact, most of them passed, except one. Have you ever been in a room full of children taking a standardized test? Have you ever watched student’s knees and hands shake as they go to press the “Submit Test” button, and wait anxiously for their scores? And no, it’s not because of horror stories I have told them, it’s the pressure of it all. The release of air when they have met their goal is audible. Except if they “fail.” He cried. This student that worked so hard, cried. I held back tears and congratulated him for working so hard and for showing growth, and then sent him to the bathroom to collect himself. He cried, no test should make a child cry!

At the end of the day, I told all of them to clap for themselves for working so diligently, he didn’t clap. I pointed at him, my voice cracked, and I said, “You worked so hard, you showed improvement, you get to clap!” Imagine this, we still have two more days of testing.

This is not right, Mr. President, you said so yourself : “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you‚Äôre not learning about the world, you‚Äôre not learning about different cultures, you‚Äôre not learning about science, you‚Äôre not learning about math,” the president said. “All you‚Äôre learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that‚Äôs not going to make education interesting.”

I am not against assessments or evaluations, but there has to be a better way. Don’t you agree?

A Heartbroken, Stressed-out, Teacher

Testing!Testing! 1…2…3

It’s that time again! Actually, for me this is the third time my students will be taking the state test. When Delaware opted out of the DSTP,(Delaware State Testing Program)¬†I was thrilled!¬†We¬†used to take the DSTP ¬†in March,¬†even though we had not finished teaching the curriculum. ¬†We would actually lose about two weeks of teaching(and learning) time while our kids took that test.¬† Not to mention the time we were forced to teach to the test.

Delaware has a new system called DCAS( Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System)¬†in which we test the students three times a year. ¬†The beginning¬†, the middle, and¬† the end of the year.¬† The students take the test online, and get their results right away. I was excited because the students could take the test online, they would know their score right away, we only spend two days testing,¬†and each child would be judged by their ¬†individual progress. And best of all, student promotion would no longer be based on one test.. I thought it would be better, but I’ve come to the conclusion that state testing is , how can I put it, not good for students or teachers.

New test, same stuff.¬†Little has changed.¬†Our student scores are still compared to the district and the states.¬† We are judged¬†by¬†¬†the cutoff score that¬†decides whether or¬†not¬†we actually taught.¬†Our school will still be” under review” if¬† we don’t meet the¬†NCLB guidelines.¬† ¬†I still ¬†spend time teaching to the test, and to make it worse, ¬†this year they’ve added a Science (K-5) assessment to the 5th grade.

All this testing is stressful! I think what I despise most of all with testing, is not the actual testing, but what is done with the student test scores. These scores should be used to improve how¬†we teach,or ¬†used as a method¬†to differentiate instruction.¬† Instead,¬†the scores are used as a tool to punish and humiliate districts, schools, and teachers. Our pay is not tied to these tests, but I’m sure that’s coming as well.

Use state testing for good, and I’m all for it. Unfortunately, for now, as far as I’m concerned, ¬†it’s being used for evil!

“When Will the Testing Bubble Burst?”¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Why Can’t Johnnie Read?

It’s scary out there! More and more, teachers are being held accountable for low test scores, low test scores from students who can’t read. Back in the 80’s, you had a small group of students in the “low” group, and the rest were average or excelled. Flash forward¬†to 2010, and those “low” students are now the majority. Why can’t they read?!!! I have been struggling with this question for the past few years, it is so frustrating.¬† I have tried¬†a multitude of ¬†strategies, refusing to¬†give up.¬† Is it the lack of books at home?¬† Is it just that they don’t care?¬†¬†Is it the lack of conversation and the almost nonexistent vocabulary?¬† ¬†Is it …..????? ¬†What do you do with students who, year after year, program after program, show no progress, literally, none! One parent asked to have her kid tested, she is frustrated as well because her daughter has been pulled out for¬†reading¬†groups for years.¬†

I volunteer to read to 3 and 4 year olds once a week.¬† Some of them are so enthusiastic and they can point out numbers, shapes, colors,etc…, they follow the plot of a story. While others, can’t form¬†a single word.¬†One of the parents came to pick up her son, and I overheard the teachers telling her he was using the word “f$#@”.¬† This same kid couldn’t form words and wouldn’t read with me the following week. Hmmmmm………¬†

Today I had the kids that failed the reading test take it online, while I read the questions and choices aloud, they still chose the same wrong answers, while looking in the book for the answers! I tell students my¬†¬†students every day, “There is no magic reading dust that I can sprinkle on you, the only way to become a better reader, is to read!” If only they would listen. Or better yet, maybe we can get Tony Danza to teach them! ūüôā

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