As many of you know, I am a full time teacher. Most of the time it is a career that brings me some amount of joy. I enjoy working with the students. I love getting to know their likes and dislikes, their goals and their fears. All of that inspires me. However, government regulations keep encroaching on that tiny sliver of joy that remains for me. This coming week marks the start of Testing Week. This is the week that separates the men from the boys. Except, we’re talking about eight and ten-year-olds here, so in essence it just separates the “proficient” from the “basic”.
This year my state has instituted a wonderful new rule! (Can you hear the sarcasm, yet?) This year, those students who do not score “proficient” or above on the third grade standardized test win a prize! Yep, that’s right! “What do they win?” you ask. Well, they win another year in third grade!
Yes. You read that right. The students who don’t pass will be subjected to yet another year of third grade. You might be thinking, “Well, that’s good right? It gives them another opportunity to understand the material. After all, if they didn’t pass the test, then they must not be ready for fourth grade.”
I understand that logic, but let’s look at a case study, shall we? Little Johnny came in to third grade reading at a level E (that’s early first grade, for those of you who are not familiar with the leveling system). He is now reading at a level L. Good for Johnny! He’s made more than a year’s worth of progress! But, he’s still only reading at a mid second grade level. This week he will sit down to take a test that he must read and comprehend without any help from his teacher. The informational text sample selection I downloaded this morning (out of sheer curiosity and to check the readability level), is written at a 7th grade reading level.
Take a moment… Let that sink in…
So little Johnny, who has worked his little hiney off this school year will be expected to read and comprehend a selection that is meant for a 7th grade reader.
Oh, yes, Mr. Governor… this test is a fair representation of the skills our students possess.
Give me a break!
How can we encourage our students to enjoy learning when we penalize those who have the misfortune of being a struggling reader? We are setting these students up for a lifetime of feeling inadequate. I shudder to think what the dropout rate will be across my great state once these students reach the ripe old age of 18. Evidently foresight is not a quality inherent in politicians.
I am a reading specialist. I work with struggling readers on a daily basis. Many, like Johnny, have made huge growth this year. But will it be enough to help them pass a test meant for a 7th grader? I’d like to be optimistic, but I have to face the fact that even if Johnny does struggle his way through the selection without giving up, he will never be able to synthesize the information enough to answer higher order questions pertaining to it.
So here we are… Number 2 pencils sharpened, ready for the praise that comes from “proficient” or the shame that will accompany anything less. If only the policy makers realized that these numbers are children.
*End of rant…* Thanks for listening.