Shaddup Already!


Day One

So day one of high stakes state testing is done. Only three more to go. Oy.

The FCAT, which I lovingly refer to as "FuCkthAT," is an insidious creature. Seriously. And the state keeps sending down more and more mandates to insure that the testing is fair and cheating won't occur.

This year, there has to be at least 3 feet between students and they have to be facing the same direction. It sounds good on paper, but obviously these bureaucrats have never been inside a school of 2200 students when it was built to hold 1200.

I have what I would consider a large classroom and I couldn't get my kids 3 feet apart. I could get them three feet apart from the sides, but they had to be in rows, with the desks pushed up against one another.

The other thing I find somewhat ridiculous is that the students had to write their names on their testing booklet. We have to assign booklets to students and keep an insane amount of records on who gets which book. In the past, we have been able to write the student's name on the booklet in order to save time in actually administering the test.

Our administration decided that we could write the students' names, but not on the line provided. So that took care of that problem--until the state decides that this constitutes cheating.

Personally, I wrote the students' nicknames on the booklet. I would like to think that someone somewhere will see those nicknames and realize that these are real kids--not just numbers. And that they have teachers who actually care about more than the score on their tests.

They have teachers who wouldn't think of cheating because they know that would be of no value to their students.

They have teachers who do their best to teach the almost immeasurable number of skills which aren't actually on the test, but will enrich their lives.

They have teachers who look into their faces on test day and just want to hug them--tell them that it's no big deal, it's just a test.

I did just that. I told them to relax, it wasn't a big deal, it's just a test. They're prepared and smart and, as long as they do their best, I'll be proud of them.

And I am proud of them. I saw them today, concentrating and taking this seriously. I saw a few of them using reading skills that I taught them. I saw the desire to do well on their faces.

I didn't see one student who I felt was "phoning it in." And for that I am so very proud.

They won't all test at grade level, but that's okay. There needs to be things more important than an overly powerful, under-effective standardized test to tell them their worth as learners.

I want the politicians to understand the magnitude of a child's education and I want them to understand that they are eroding the educational system through these selective, high-stakes tests.

Most importantly, I want these politicians to take the 10th grade FCAT and make their scores known. In fact, I think the public should find out their scores before they do. I don't trust them and I don't believe that most of them could pass the test that they now require students to pass in order to graduate.

Frankly, I'm unsure that many of the politicians would be able to pass the 6th grade FCAT.

I'm not allowed to look at the test, other than quick glances to make sure the kids are working on the right part, but the training passages we've been shown are pretty ambiguous. Not to mention that there is an assumption that all students will come in with all the prior knowledge necessary to understand a reading passage.

There was one passage that we were shown during training. It was an actual passage from the test (that had been retired), so we were seeing essentially what's on the test. In order to answer about half the questions and to fully understand the passage, students would need to know where flour comes from.

In poverty areas, flour comes from the Pinch-a-Penny, not a mill. It's unfair to assume that children who live in overcrowded public housing areas would know how flour is made. And those are the kids I teach.

I could go on and on (and I probably will at some point), but I'm just giving myself an ulcer. Right now I need to go to bed so I can face another long day of testing.

Tomorrow is math, then next Monday is the practice science test and Tuesday is the NRT (norm referenced test) in both reading and math. Then we're done and I can begin reading the book Hoot with the kids. Yay!

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