alfie kohn, merit pay, testing

Yes They Grew But Can I Take Credit For It?

We are in the midst of testing season at my school.  The students are doing MAP tests, as well as their writing assessments and we gather to discuss the results, to think of strategies.  To rank, to sort, to file.  To highlight, to shine a light, and to discuss what is working and what isn’t.  We pat some teachers on the back – look at that growth, and we wonder what else we can do.  We wonder if merit pay is on the horizon and how we will be ranked, filed, and sorted.  That will be based on these test results on those students gains or losses and yet, can we really take credit for the gains that our students may have made?  Can those test results really be accredited to the teacher?

I often wonder how much growth my students do on their own?  How their brain creates new connections, new ideas, and new strategies for conquering the learning we do?  How much of that growth can be attributed to their parents or home environment rather than the school?  How many of those new connections can really be chalked up to their natural development as a growing child who all of a sudden gets it more?  Or even how much of their growth should be attributed to their first teachers, perhaps in daycare, pre-school or kindergarten?  Those teachers set the foundation, taught those students that school was safe and an environment they could continue their learning in.  Can I take credit for any of the growth shown a piece of paper?  I don’t know.

being a teacher, Student, testing

It’s the Least We Can Do

De Cito Eindtoets Basisonderwijs.Image via Wikipedia

In this numbers obsessed society, test makers have figured us all out.  They have realized that if they make the test long enough, tedious enough, and fill them with multiple choice or scantron-able answers then we will assume they are valuable.  What more is that they have figured out that they can even sell us software that will grade the tests for us, break down all of the date, and create a nice graph.  Testing done.  Results at hand.

Except if we are to test students, then at the very least we should look at those tests.  We should try to decipher their answers, create our own data, and meet with them to discuss it.  Yes, a multiple choice test is cleaner and easier but it also provides less of a view into the heads of our students, into their thoughts, into their learning.  A clean test that a machine can correct provides us with data, nothing else, points to be graphed with no clear direction or at the very least not a very detailed one.

So if we must test the children, then do them the favor of correcting it yourself.  Give their work the time and effort you expect them to put into taking the test.  It’s the least we can do.

students, testing

When We Compare Test Scores

When we compare students based on test scores, we assume that when they took the test…

  • They have had a good night’s sleep
  • They are not hungry
  • They do not have any family or friendships issues distracting them
  • They have all had access to the same information
  • They have all had the same chance for practice
  • They have all had the same teaching leading up to the test
  • They all have the same type environment in which to take the test
  • They all speak and understand English at the same level

What if just one of those assumptions is incorrect, or worse,  what if they all are?

Student-centered, testing

How Often?

In the time of rush, rush, rush, we often forget that the kids need time to breathe.  As we spectacularly plan our days to make sure we cover every single last bit of information, we often forget to ask whether the kids are with us or not.  So when it comes to learning goals we expect the kids to all know on our set day for checking, except they don’t, and then we wonder how we failed.

Yet kids learn at different paces, and often one child may be ready while the other is ready the following week.  How often do we take the time to spiral back and double-check whether something is secure later?  After the test?  After the project is handed in?

How often do we ask that child whether they actually know it now, or even knew it then and just couldn’t find the words?

Giveaway, testing

F in Exams Book Give Away – Because It Made Me Think

Driving home the other night my 2 year old daughter was saying goodnight to the animals we passed.  “Goodnight cows.  Goodnight horsey.”  Just one of those moments.  Then she told me proudly, “Mommy, the chickens sleeping.”  I, knowing that she loves making clucking sounds, asked her “What do the chickens say when they sleep, Thea?”  Her answer?  “HOOOOONK!”  And with that my daughter failed her first test ever.

In honor of my continued fight against inane tests that serve no purpose other than to seemingly torture students, I am excited to be giving away “F in Exams” by Richard Benson as part of their blog tour for the book.  This collection of funny and strange student answers on actual exams will at first make you laugh, and then hopefully make you think.  All you have to do to enter is to share your funny/sad story about tests or exams, or even your opinion and leave me some way to contact you.  The giveaway will run from today to Sunday the 4th, where a winner will be selected.

From the book:

I have to admit my favorite was the following exchange:
“Claire was well prepared for her interview.  Explain how Claire may have prepared herself for the interview.”
Answer:  had a bath and put on her lucky pants.

Ahh yes, the lucky pants, who hasn’t had those.

So I am happy to be part of the giveaway for this book. Laugh about it, cry about it, but read it and think about it.

Tomorrow the give away continues, so head over to It’s Not All Flowers and Sausages to enter there as well.

being a teacher, education reform, testing

Frog and Toad Make Me Think about Our School System

A List
By Arnold Lobel

One morning Toad sat in the bed. “I have many things to do,” he said. “I will have many things to do,” he said.  “I will write them all down on a   list  so that I can remember them.”  Toad wrote down on a piece of paper:
A List of things to do today

Then he wrote:
Wake up
“I have done that,” said Toad and he crossed out:
Wake Up
Then Toad wrote other things on the paper.

A list of things to do today
Wake Up
Eat Breakfast
Get dressed
Go to Frog’s house
Take walk with Frog
Eat lunch
Take nap
Play game with Frog
Eat supper
Go to sleep

 “There ,” said Toad. “Now my day is all written down.”  He got out of bed and had something to eat.  
Then Toad crossed out:  Eat Breakfast.
Toad took his clothes out of the closet and put them on. Then he crossed out: Get dressed.
Toad put the list in his pocket.  He opened the door and walked  out into the morning.  Soon Toad was at Frog’s  front door.   He took the list from his pocket and crossed out:
Go to Frog’s house

Toad knocked at the door. “Hello,” said Frog.  “Look at my list of things to do,” said Toad. “Oh,” said Frog, “that is very nice.”   Toad said, “My list tells me that we will go for a walk.” “All right,” said Frog.  “I am ready.” Frog and Toad went on a long walk. Then Toad took the list from his pocket again. He crossed out: Take walk with Frog.  Just then there was a strong wind.  It blew the list out of Toad’s hand.  The list blew high up into the air. “Help!” cried Toad.  “My list is blowing away.  What
will I do without my list?” “Hurry!” said Frog. “We will run and catch it.” “No!” shouted Toad. “I cannot do that.” “Why not?” asked Frog. “Because,” wailed Toad, “running after my list in not one of the things that I wrote on my list of things to do!” Frog ran after the list.  He ran over hills and swamps, but the list blew on and on.  At last Frog came back to Toad. “I am sorry,” gasped Frog, “but I could not catch your list,” “Blah,” said Toad.”I cannot remember any of the things that were on my list of things to do.  I will just have to sit here and do nothing,” said Toad. Toad sat and did nothing.  Frog sat with him.  After a long time  Frog said, “Toad, it is getting dark.  We should be going to sleep now.” “Go to sleep!” shouted Toad.  “That was the last thing on my list!” Toad wrote on the ground with a stick:  Go to sleep. Then he crossed out:  Go to sleep. “There,” said Toad.  “Now my day is all crossed out!” “I am glad,” said Frog.  
Then Frog and Toad went right to sleep.

The End

How many times do we have to stick to our list and pass by those teachable moments?
How many times do we not get to explore because that particular direction has not been dictated to us?
How many times must we take a path that does not engage the students?
How many times do we lose our list and instead just bumble along until we get to the end of the day?

How many times do we give up teaching curriculum in a meaningful way and teach to the test instead, hurrying so we may cross things off our list?
How often do we tell others that they must comply because our list says so?