Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Testing Trap for Teachers

I am definitely not an advocate for all the testing our students endure each year.  I am a firm believer that testing does not reflect a student's true ability or what they are learning.  Maybe that is because I was never great at test taking.  I would truly shine if I had the opportunity to show my learning through other means besides a multiple choice test.

Initially, when I started to write this post I was going to focus on the huge gains my students made on the MAP testing they took. I have the privilege of being a 1:1 classroom where I have the opportunity to individualize and differentiate instruction using technology as a learning tool.  I am sure this is one of the factors that  made a significant difference. Then day two of testing rolled around and I opened my eyes to what was happening in my classroom.

Test scores weigh heavily for our students more than ever.  It often determines whether they are high ability learners or need special services in math and reading or in any other area.  As teachers, we know our learners best. I try to instill in each of my students that they are a genius and have a gift to share with the world.  Most importantly they have a PASSION for school and learning. Then test day rolls around and it all changes! Not only for my students, but for me as their teacher!

Our students are setting goals on specific learning areas from the MAP test so their scores improve.  So fall came and my 4th graders took the MAP Test.  I printed off their goal sheets and even did it on my color printer so students could really visualize the improvements they needed to make.  

Winter testing came upon our classroom quickly.  Yes, I was actually a little nervous, which is not like me when it comes to testing.  I know my students more than any test they take. Day one of testing was reading and today they took the math test. On the first day of  testing my fourth graders came in the room, and when they saw MAP testing with a huge smiley face on the marker board, moaning and groaning broke out from around the classroom.  I just smiled, and told them they love taking tests and will do awesome.  I had them get out their goal sheets to review what they have been working on and the score they are striving to achieve.  

As a team we came up with a MAP chant, and my fourth graders decided they would do Miraculous on the Test, they would Achieve, and they would Persevere!  We moved, we stretched and woke up both sides of our brains.  Our team also brought healthy snacks to enjoy during the testing, okay we actually have snacks every day in our classroom! 

Then, complete silence feel upon the classroom.  As I watched, I wish I could say they looked happy and excited about the testing, but what I saw was a lot of anxious, nervous,  and stressed fourth graders.  The passion they have each day for school vanished.  I saw my students fidgeting, looking around the room, and a few almost in tears. Yes, it broke my heart!

Several students finished quickly, most took a lot of time to complete the test.  As each student finished, they got out their goal setting sheet to record their scores and set new goals.  Believe me I couldn't be prouder of each and every one of them.  

Students beamed with pride and celebrated the growth they made on their test.  Most of them met their goal and many exceeded.  Some missed by a few points,  and a couple didn't meet their goal, which as a teacher I knew why.  Others viewing the scores of my students don't always realize that I know my students best.  

Yes, I plotted scores as well as skills that were mastered, which I have never done to the extent as I did this year. I emailed parents of successes and also emailed parents whose children were extremely disappointed.  Yes, ten of my students already met their end of the year MAP goal in math, and eleven met it in reading.

What does this actually mean and prove?  Absolutely Nothing! I realized that I fell into the Testing Trap!

 It broke my heart for the few who didn't meet the magical number on their goal sheet. As I looked at their faces and body posture,  it changed completely.  Yes, I did see tears too. One student tried to hide them.  She were disappointed in herself.  The ones who didn't meet their goal looked around the room and watched their classmates beam with pride. As their teacher, I know it is my fault! I congratulated the students who achieved their goals and consoled and encouraged the ones who didn't. 

To be honest, I am not sure why I am writing this post!  Maybe it is because I am sad for the few students in my class who feel like they failed even though I know they didn't.  I know my feelings on testing, and yes, I know my students best.  The sad truth is every time the testing period rolls around, I feel an added pressure, and I know my students do as well with all the expectations put upon us.

So, do I feel like I let some of my student down -YES!

Peter Reynolds

Yes, we had a GoNoodle Party after our "high-stake tests"! My fourth graders did decide that I should bring donuts in the morning to celebrate!  Most of them wanted chocolate with sprinkles! Not the healthiest, but they are excited to get back to our normal routine until our next "big" test comes upon us, which will be sooner than later.

As for tomorrow, I can't wait! Donuts and Dancing to Begin a New Day of Learning!

Peter Reynolds sums it up perfectly!

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