A New Semester: a Fresh Start?

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Once again, the second semester has rolled around.  We’re back from vacation, fresh and ready to go.  Still slightly in vacation season, but definitely on the downhill roll to the next big test.  Tests, actually.  I just printed out our district’s Quarter 3 Benchmark assessment for seventh grade and discovered that it is 29 pages long, and has 66 questions.  The last time I checked, the state test (Ahem, State Test) has only 75 questions.  Definitely testing for the testing. 

One of the questions on the Benchmark has a two-page reading about which they answer seven questions.  Three of those questions ask the student how he knows it is written in the first person.  Really??   What are we doing here??  Asking my students to read a rather complicated two page story in preparation for answering a few duplicative questions is ludicrous.  Not that they can’t do it. I believe they can, but as part of a 29 page test?  A 66 question test, one designed to see how well they will do on the 75 question test in a month or so? Let’s get real.  This one will not be completed in only one 100 minute block.  Just like the big State Test, it will be broken into segments.

Deep breath, Lynn.  I didn’t come here to do this.  I am not here to rant, no I am not.  I came today to talk about my newest strategy aimed at keeping at my students on task, participating, doing and handing in all their work so I can stop giving so many F’s.  I swear I didn’t mean to come and rant about the stupid Benchmark Assessment.  Really.

But what are we going to do about this testing business?  In what way is it helping our students?  I have nothing against knowing what point of view is represented in a story, but I believe we are sacrificing teaching and exploring about things that our students will actually need in their lives in this world just to prepare them for the next test to come around the bend.  The excitement about learning new things has definitely taken a back seat to some drudgery.  The students say that my class is never boring, but I believe that has more to do with the fun they make for themselves (that drives me crazy) than anything I am teaching.

I read an article today in the Huffington Post about a movement toward opting out of high stakes testing.  I am shocked to say that it made me a little uneasy when I considered advocating that parents and students opt out of the testing.  Does that make me a pawn of the whole machine?  Maybe so.  Actually, yes, I guess it does.  Sometimes I just wish I could retire now and opt out of the whole thing.  Hm.  I guess I’ll tell you about my clever strategy in a couple of days, when I settle down a little.

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3 thoughts on “A New Semester: a Fresh Start?

  1. N. Ingram says:

    Feeling a similar frustration lately myself! Returned from winter break to incessant reminders to go into overdrive to get my 7th graders ready for THE TEST. Really??? We are all so thrilled! What would I ever do in my classroom if there wasn’t a test! (sarcasm). Looking forward to the strategy!

    • lynnjake says:

      I agree! The test, and the oh-so-complexly written standards we must unravel to be able to teach what the kids need to know to achieve success on the tests. Sigh. Looking for a beach shack to hole up in for a few years!

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