Wednesday, March 05, 2008

To Take a Title from Cupcake...

That's over and probably my teaching career.....

Writing assessments for fifth graders are meaningless. I still don't know exactly what it is the State wishes to understand about our ten year olds. And remember, they are just ten. Or eleven.

They are given a writing prompt - narrative, persuasive or informational - and 120 minutes to produce a finished piece. They are not allowed to use any kind of reference materials at all. They have written for the entire year; they shouldn't be surprised because they have done this before.

Well, guess what? I only had one student fall completely apart. He got the prompt that I handed out blind and immediately asked for a different one. Since I hadn't seen them, I handed them out the way I got them. I didn't know who would get what. He became extremely unhappy and shut down. He cried. He pouted. He laid his head down. And I was his cheerleader, but I had another student with the very same prompt who was having the same trouble. This other child didn't cry, but I could see he was panicked. We were 45 minutes into the test before he picked up his pencil and started. By then, I was e-mailing the teachers next door and the principals for instructions. And their instructions were: you've done all you could.

I refused to read what they wrote. Just like the big state tests coming up, I can't stand to see if they make mistakes. I know they are going to, so I just don't want to know what they are.

Oh, and how seriously was I taking today? I didn't turn on my alarm. I woke up 30 minutes before I was supposed to be behind my desk. Can you say "Super Big State Testing Jean Day?"



Blogger cupcake said...

Oversleeping? No alarm clock? Such is the secure sleep of a veteran teacher. I had a nightmare that I misadministered the test.

It's over, sister. Ove.Ah. Onward, upward, and praise Oprah.

3/05/2008 6:45 PM  
Blogger The Virtual Teacher said...

I don't understand testing that goes against what we know about the way kids work and learn. We teach kids how to find good topics by writing about things that are meaningful to them. We teach kids to write a first draft and then leave it for the next day to get some space from it before trying to revise it. We teach them to use any resource they can in their editing process.
Then, testing rolls around and we throw it all out the window. We give a prompt (not even a choice of prompts!), a short deadline, and no resources. Then we expect that the writing they produce will be indicative of their overall writing ability. Professional writers don't perform this way, yet we expect it of children.
I am so glad that we don't have as much of this type of testing where I teach. It would drive me crazy. Very glad not to be in your shoes!

3/05/2008 8:49 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I am dying to know what that prompt was!

3/05/2008 8:56 PM  

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