Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Standardized Testing Can Bite Me


Ella left very excited to start her three days of state math testing this morning.  I guess I should be happy about that.  At least she's hopeful.  She really enjoys math and finds it much easier than writing.  I hope her enthusiasm persists for the entire three days.

I suspect that New York is having a particularly hard time with the shift in the pressures of standardized testing (some argue due to the Common Core, others say it's not CC's fault).  When I've talked with friends in California, they don't seem to be feeling the effects of the testing as much as we are here.  I believe that's because California hasn't fully adopted all the requirements needed to receive Race to the Top money from the government to improve schools.  So far New York has been awarded $700 million in Race to the Top funding whereas California hasn't received any.  According to my teacher friends, California hasn't implemented tying teacher's evaluations and pay increases with their students' test scores (nor should they).

Also, where I lived in California, when it's time for middle school you just register at your neighborhood middle school.  There's no applying to middle school (unless you want a magnet, charter or private school).  In New York City, the kids with the good standardized test grades go to the good middle schools (of which there are few) and the kids with bad grades go to the bad schools.  So all the smart kids (or at least, good test takers) are in a couple schools and all the struggling kids are lumped into the same schools.  Doesn't make any sense to me.  So New York teachers are forced to teach to the test to save their paychecks and New York parents are forced to play the game to ensure that their kid gets into a decent middle school (and then play the game all over again for high school).  The stakes are really high here for both the teachers and the students.  It's a crazy system that I am slowly making sense of and slowly figuring out how we can opt out until we move back to California.  I never would have thought that I'd be looking forward to getting back to California schools (ranked 47th in the nation in math and reading)!

Even comedians like Louis C.K. are frustrated.  Here's his Twitter rant while trying to help his third grader prepare for this week's tests.  Not only are the teachers teaching to the test, but the tests are very poorly written.  After the English tests earlier this month, protests of both parents and teachers alike broke out all over New York City when teachers spread the news of the terribly written and confusing questions they witnessed when administering the tests.  While Kevin and I don't care at all about these tests, nor do we care how Ella scores on them (she won't be going to middle school here), we do worry about what will happen if she goes into these math tests over the next three days with a high confidence level in math and then sees questions that are so poorly written that she can't answer them.  What will happen to her already fragile self-confidence?  It's not a risk we're willing to take for much longer.

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