Friday, January 26, 2007

Um... shoot me in the face

When I first accepted my position in Houston as a teacher, quite a few older teachers made some comments about Texas being the birthplace of high stakes testing. I didn't quite understand why they were so bitter about testing and a state they didn't even teach in. I didn't know better. Now I do.

Texas is the birthplace and proliferator of high stakes, standardized and generally mind-numbing testing. Add to Texas's general warm and fuzzy feelings towards standardized testing the fact that I am teaching at a school which is on the chopping block and you are looking at a world where I am pretty confident they should change my title to tester and not teacher. In one week I have plied my students with three separate tests. This is on top of the three tests I've already administered this semester. That brings our testing total up to six tests in three weeks (less than that if you count our ice day and MLK Jr. Day).

This testing is depressing for multiple reasons. Number one, my kids are simply over tested. They're on testing burn-out. It's like no adult in charge of any of this has ever taken a psychology class. No one seems to remember what it was like to be a kid or what constant testing pressure does to the mind of an already stressed out 12-year-old. Besides the over testing, administering tests cuts into my instructional time, both by having to give the tests and then by having to deal with the uselessness of my students after the tests. I have effectively gotten nothing done this week.

What is probably the most annoying thing about all of this testing is that it is completely unnecessary. I give my students the same types of assessments over and over again. Why is it that the same curriculum assessment data taken by the HISD English department can't be shared with the head of the North region. Why is it that we take these curriculum assessments and they don't even provide adequate data because they fail to test some objectives or fail to ask more than one question for some of the objectives? We haven't even given a writing CBA, so we administered our own. This is what is wrong with the system, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing and they're doing the same thing.

Next week we're going to try a novel approach: I'm actually going to teach the material instead of test on it.

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