Thursday, April 3, 2014


Seven of my twenty-eight sixth graders took the ELA this week. Of the seven, six come from families where a language other than English is spoken at home. They have made their way here from El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Mexico… They are so proud of the fact that they learned English and enjoy reading and studying a variety of authors. The seventh student is homeless. I attribute their forced participation to parents who have placed an inarguably high level of trust in our public schools. And by forcing four and a half hours of work, for no return, we have failed them.
Each morning this week, they looked at me and in a variety of ways asked, “What happens if I don’t pass.”
“Nothing” I say with a smile, “Just try your best honey, that’s all we ask.” I watch them work. They do everything I taught them. Read carefully. Take your time. Interact with the text. Underline key words. Use the context to define unfamiliar words. These are skills prevalent throughout Common Core Standards. Especially time. Students should spend time deeply analyzing text.
Guess what happens every day, when they do what I have taught them? They run out of time. The “test” designed to measure student progress toward Common Core Standards requires them to race through the text – the very opposite of Common Core Reading standards. Few of my seven finish each day. And again, I tell them, “its okay.”
As I take their tests at the end of the sessions, I hand them a bag of treats and a personal note that lets them know how proud of them I am. How proud I am that they took the instruction they received this year and used it.
They are deflated at best, and livid at their worst. My boy who is homeless is so angry, he makes a hole in his test and doesn’t want to give it to me. He is embarrassed. He reads many years above grade level. His vocabulary supersedes most adult vocabularies. Yet, because he took his time to analyze the text, he does not finish, and he is thus considered “a failure”.
With their “tests” back in the envelope, all I can contemplate is the fact that none of us will ever know what they did well, and what they did not. A single 1,2,3,or 4 will define three days, and four and a half hours worth of work. Those who did not finish will be in the 1-2 range. And unlike any test I would ever give, they will get no feedback… Oh honey, you did x really well! I am so proud of your progress. This assessment shows that we still need to work on y, and I am here to do that with you. And I get no information that tells me whether my instruction supported our learning goals or not.
I left work today feeling deflated and angry too. But I also was proud of my decision to not permit my three children who are in testing grades to take the test.
My job as both mother and teacher is to protect children. These assessments are wrong because they:
1. Do not measure the standards that are taught in school.
2. Are far lengthier than what is necessary to determine whether a child is making annual progress. Nine hours for reading, writing and math for a ten year old, when an adult applying to medical school takes the MCAT’s to assess verbal reasoning (ELA), biological sciences and physical sciences (including math) in four hours is abusive.
3. Provide no feedback that can be used to guide instruction in a classroom.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for your care and concern in the classroom. it speaks volumes that your own kids did not take the common core tests. if there was ever a time of needed parent involvement, it is now. i am a senior citizen who remembers stories my mother told about attending a one room school house. she told about her well respected teacher (one teacher for grades 1 through 8 with about 20 students). the teacher was small women who commanded the class. many of the male students towered over her. The students respected the teacher and did their best to learn the material. Now it is almost 100 years later and much in the world has changed, but we need the government out of the school picture.
    although much has changed you and my mother's teacher have something in common, you want to help children in the right direction in spite of obstacles. thank you for your caring and professional attitude.


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