I Am Chilled To The Bone

All right y’all.  As I have said many times before on this blog, I am not ready to get into a conversation about unions.  I have my opinions, but, for now and for ONCE, I’m going to keep them to myself.  REGARDLESS, I saw this recent petition and seriously felt chilled to the very core of my being.  Maybe because I taught first and second grade friends for years and my heart belongs with the little guys or maybe because every fiber in my being knows that this scary reality will destroy any wonder we have left in the primary grades. 

According to this petition, Bloomberg and Klein are proposing that children in grades K-2 in NYC be subjected to a battery of standardized tests.  In addition to ALL THE TESTS AND RAMPANT DATA COLLECTION that is already in place! 

And I’m sure we’re not talking about data collection to drive instruction – because that would make too much sense – I bet we’re talking data collection for the sake of having lots of numbers and graphs that evidently give the Powers That Be a sense of accomplishment or superiority (or hard ons, for all I know). 

As if things aren’t bad enough as primary grade teachers run around like crazy people trying to “progress monitor” in a timely fashion (read every two weeks for children who are deemed “at risk”) instead of actually teaching.  (Check out this sad but brutally honest piece I found over at Edwize about the toll testing and test prep can take on a classroom and our friends’ perception of learning.)

I mean, just turn on the news and you will see that many school districts don’t have two nickels to rub together, but we’re going to spend ho-jillions of dollars developing standardized tests for babies?!?!  Can we say “misappropriation of funds”??  Anyone?  Sound it out with me.  “Mis-a-….”

Whatever.  Just give me the money and I’ll get some teachers together and show you what real improvement looks like.  Boo-yah!

Now, we’ve been threatened with this reality before, but somehow, in this horribly punitive, finger pointing happy, numbers hungry, be damned with real improvement for the sake of appearances climate, this latest threat feels a little more, well, threatening. 

A little moment from my memories of data collection for the sake of having numbers on a chart that I never used, looked at, or thought about when planning instruction not because I’m lazy, but because those numbers were freaking meaningless. 

Setting: My fabulous classroom.  Although on this day, instead of sitting at desks arranged in collaborative groups, my friends sat in single rows.  Rows I had to waste precious instructional time teaching them how to form because of an administrative demand that insisted on the Re-Creation Of The Testing Environment.  (Insert the Powers That Be drooling over visions of me in a white lab coat, laughing maniacally as I hold my clipboard and prod at children at regular intervals…all mad scientist style.) 
Scene: I have just passed out a literacy assessment, in which I have to ask my second grade friends (whose reading levels span mid-first grade all the way through mid-third grade) to read forty FORTY! paragraphs about the most boring and mundane un-relatable shit known to man and then answer a multiple choice question on that paragraph.  They then have to successfully transfer their answer to a separate bubble sheet which, at the start of second grade, can feel like asking them to climb Mount Everest in flip flops.  Yes, they are that prepared. Oh, the best part?  EACH child has to finish.  Which means that I have to make some of them sit there for OVER AN HOUR while those who are finished (and those who simply think they are finished) must sit in silence as their opportunity for real learning ticks away.

Sounds like a party, no?

Don’t tell anyone, but I used to just call it quits after a while.  I mean, enough is enough, right? 

Me: (noticing that one friend, a friend who struggles in reading… I mean STRUGGLES) (kneeling down and whispering) Are you okay?
Friend: (tears streaming down face) (STREAMING!) I just can’t do it anymore. (Is your heart breaking yet?)
Me: I know it’s hard, sweetie, but you just have to do your best. 
Friend: The words are just too hard.  I’m not smart enough.
Me: (trying not to let tears stream down my face because I have to get this kid to try and finish) Just try a few more and then we’ll stop.
Friend: And we’ll go back to learning?
Me: (choking back sob) Yes, honey, we’ll go back to learning.

I mean COME ON! 

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  • In the district I work in, our KINDERGARTNERS (as well as first – fifth graders) are subject to standardized tests like this four times a year by the district, plus weekly reading assessments and unit tests. We have to test them constantly to have data available for anyone who wants to see it (in binders, organized by child, by type of test, with graphs created on our own to show growth). And starting next year, our pay will be tied directly to the results of these tests. Our kids are already overtested in the name of "data" and now teachers will teach to the test, instead of teaching what kids need to know and helping them (OMG) learn to think for themselves and solve problems and..wait for it..make connections to concepts and information in their own ways.

    Happily, I am leaving to go to a school that honors where kids are, encourages them to learn, and recognizes the need for periodic assessments (not necessarily standardized ones) to drive instruction instead of collecting data for the sake of having it.

    We became teachers to help kids learn to love learning…I keep telling myself that 🙂

    April 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm
  • My state has mandated that all 3rd year high schoolers take the SAT. Those second graders who cry that they are not smart enough grow up to be juniors in high school who believe the same thing: and since we've proven it to them every year, there's no chance they'll believe otherwise.

    April 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm
  • This is one of the BIG reasons I left 2nd grade and moved to kindergarten… thankfully (at least so far anyway) most of the assessments in K are one on one and the kids still believe they're playing a game with me rather than being assessed. I fear this might change in time, but for now, K is the only place safe against rampant testing.

    April 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm
  • Mrs. Mimi, I am bawling over your post today. I can see my child being one of those kids that raises his hand frustrated over reading. In fact, I know he does this with his handwriting. 🙁

    I read the paper and discussions over important issues are haulted so that other "important" issues can be discussed. The budget this year is behind…and you know what made the discussions lag more.

    But for every teacher that continues to fight the good fight and do whatever they can to make children like mine love learning, THANK YOU!

    April 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm
  • On Monday I have to stop teaching to give inappropriate tests to kids with learning disabilities. They get accommodations for some of it…I can read the questions on the math, or social studies, or science, for example, but…

    But…and here's the crime in all this…they are required to take the "Reading/Language Arts" portion of the test…at (what the state defines as) grade level with no help.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't a disability mean that a child has trouble in a particular area…and that area is usually reading (though not always)?

    I'm not against assessment and accountability, but this is not assessment, it's torture and educational malpractice. It's not accountability, it's cruelty.

    Mimi's story of her friend wanting to "go back to learning" is, unfortunately, not isolated. There are many stories of kids falling apart emotionally, vomiting from nervousness, acting out in disturbing and pathetic ways…

    The indifference (or is it outright antagonism) towards the needs of our children is telling…and disheartening.

    April 21, 2010 at 1:07 pm
  • Preach it, Sista!! Thanks for letting the "outsiders" know what kind of bull we have to deal with instead of just being able to TEACH! Argh!

    April 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm
  • Ugh, you made me cry with this one! I have a 2nd grade son who HATES school and if he had to do more testing, I think he'd run away. Thankfully we aren't in NYC. We are, however, too close for comfort. I hope this doesn't pass…the government is ruining our educational system!

    April 21, 2010 at 2:55 pm
  • I love how you tried to make the assessment a game for your students. Seriously. They don't need to know anything about these assessments other than it's to show what they've learned and how they've improved.

    April 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm
  • My heart is absolutely breaking. I am so grateful I teach in a school where we have much less stress over and prep for standardized tests; in our world, they're just a nuisance. But the fact that little people all over the country are subjected to meaningless tests… it's sickening.

    April 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm
  • It pains me to see the testing being pushed down farther and farther too. My middle daughter is in 2nd grade and struggles with reading so much. It's harder for her, I think, having a mom whose a teacher and both an older and younger sister who can read circles around her 🙁 I am already panicking about how she is going to react next year when THE TEST becomes her reality. 🙁

    April 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm
  • GA already gives standardized test to 1st and 2nd graders. There is actually a lot trying to be passed to get rid of it.

    April 21, 2010 at 7:26 pm
  • All students K-6 at our school have to complete computerized MAP testing. Now tell me how a kindergarten student can come in August and not only READ the questions but use a mouse to click on the correct answer. Then we the K teachers are supposed to use the results to drive instruction? Sounds like information on fine motor skills more than academic progress

    April 22, 2010 at 12:04 am
  • Omg Mrs. Mimi,
    This post really hits the nail on the head. The end made me cry. 🙁 I have multiple students who fit into that students category. I wouldn't be able to hold back the tears.

    April 22, 2010 at 12:42 am
  • Our end of the year "Assessment Calendar" is ridiculous.

    In the next few weeks in 2nd grade:
    DIBELS (multiple tests)
    mClass Math
    Text Reading Comprehension
    Terra Nova

    And that doesn't even include normal spelling tests, reading tests, and the assessments we have to give at the end of each 3 weeks over the standards in our curriculum map.

    April 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm
  • Oh my goodness! You'll have to excuse any typo you see because I am writing this through TEARS!

    So much for fostering that sense of agency within a child…

    You know, the world of teaching wasn't perfect when I was growing up, but I think I turned out pretty darn good and I didn't have to test, test, test! Can we find a happy medium?

    April 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm
  • Okay…tears streaming down my face as I envision your little friend's face. We just finished a week-long battery of standardized tests in K-2. It was AGONY! For everyone. We rewarded the kids with a movie party, complete with popcorn, drinks and a candy bar! I think those in suits should have to see the tears and explain to our friends why they have to take these tests. We also give quarterly standardized reading and phonics assessments. It's such a joy. And for what??? Precious data to make fancy charts with.

    April 22, 2010 at 2:30 pm
  • I just gave my 2nd graders their standardized comprehension test today. It's called BEAR, I told them it means "Bery Excellent At Reading." 🙂 I teach the most intensive readers and it's hard to give them the test BUT they are amazing! They try SO hard, and give it their best. This year I only had 5 unsats (out of 20), which amazed me, in a good way! I am so proud of these little ones for trying so, so hard.

    April 22, 2010 at 11:24 pm
  • Whatever happened to teachers knowing what book would be good for a child and what math the child is ready for BASED ON WHAT TEACHERS KNOW??? Did we not all go to school to learn about child development? Do we all (hopefully all) keep records, notes, kids work, etc, etc, to show the progress they are making, to ASSESS WHERE THE STUDENTS ARE?

    Along with all the other comments posted that are breaking teachers down everywhere and making parents miserable (not to mention the CHILDREN) what infuriates me is that all these tests assume that good teachers DON'T ALREADY KNOW THIS ABOUT THEIR STUDENTS! Shoot, I'll take the tests for the kids. I know what they'll answer. Testing is just another way for the public to continue to deface teachers. It's disgusting.

    April 23, 2010 at 1:04 am
  • In Florida a bill was just vetoed by the governor that would tie teacher pay directly to test scores, by nearly 50% in the original language. We were all sitting on pins and needles and clutching our purses for a few weeks. Thank God this legislative session is almost over and there isn't enough time for a revision of the bill. All this done, of course, in the hopes of earning Race to the Top funds.

    April 23, 2010 at 10:51 am

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