Friday, January 28, 2011

School Distric Logic

Another old one.  I really would have appreciated an answer to this, even if it was "You're right and there's nothing we can do."

Speaking the Truth..

...whether or not anyone's listening.

My letter (also known as career suicide) to the people in charge of "Research, Assessment, and Accountability" in my district. Also known as the department that makes my kids take so many tests. (They're not responsible for the state testing, only for the mountains of district testing heaped on top of the state testing). I may be blacklisted now, but there are some times that - even if it's just for my own sake - I need to say what I know to be true.

Dear XXX,

I am a 3rd grade teacher in this district. I have just finished giving my students the mid-year math assessment and mid-year language arts assessment and I have a number of concerns that I hope you can address for me.

First, this is the second math assessment this year which covers standards not yet scheduled to be taught. In particular, this mid-year assessment - with a testing window of Jan 22-26 - covers geometry, scheduled to be taught from Jan 22 - Feb 9. Among other topics not yet covered, there are two or three questions on the different types of triangles; a standard not taught until Feb 8 and 9. I have to question the validity and usefulness of data obtained by testing children on standards not yet taught. It seems to me that either the math pacing guide or the testing window could be adjusted to make a more reasonable assessment.

Secondly, I am highly concerned about the math and language arts assessments being held at the same time, as well as the sheer number and frequency of district assessments. This week we had to complete both the mid-year language arts assessment and the mid-year math assessment, in addition to the regular weekly math, reading comprehension, and spelling assessments. Because of the time and energy these assessments take, it was difficult to fit the required teaching into the week.

The main reason I am concerned about the frequency of district tests is the adverse effect that it seems to be having on the children. To have five intensive Open Court Unit tests throughout the year, three district math assessments, the new district language arts assessments, on top of state testing and the weekly assessments required by the math and language arts curricula, is simply too much for my third grade students. They are not being given enough time to learn the subjects they are tested on, and are even tested on subjects not yet taught. They are frustrated and discouraged by being tested on what they haven't learned yet, and the frequency of testing is overwhelming them and causing some of them to dread coming to school.

I have a class full of wonderful students who are eager to learn and beg to be allowed to act on their innate joy of learning. They actually beg for science, they love exploring new topics and ideas, whether they be in math or language arts, and I feel that an excess of district testing is taking away from their valuable learning experiences. I hate to see children's self-confidence being damaged by being tested on subjects they haven't even had a chance to practice yet, as has been the case in some of the problems on the math assessments.

At this age, children will learn to love or hate school. We as educators, by our actions, can encourage the students to love learning or we can turn them off to it entirely. I hope you will take these concerns into consideration when planning assessments for the next school year. I am sure you want the best for all students in OUSD. If you have any questions about any of my concerns, please feel free to contact me via email at any time.
No. I never got any sort of response at all. Predictable, but still disappointing.

Four years ago: Speaking the Truth

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