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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Testing, the way to the future?

As we are moving towards more data driven instruction and using standardized tests to create our plans, I must say that I am getting more nervous.  I have been thinking about this and reflecting on my time in Atlanta, Georgia.  The two years that I spent teaching there were the hardest and craziest 2 years of my teaching career.  Being threatened by students daily, sworn at and the constant struggle to get them to learn was nothing compared to the constant pressure and intimidation that I felt from administration to test well.  I saw teachers transferred to different grades, put on professional development plans and even fired for poor test scores.  That was around 2004.  I can't imagine what it's like now.  There were always whispers of cheating by teachers to make sure their scores were good, but it wasn't something that I listened to very hard.  I know I wasn't cheating, I was trying my  hardest to teach to the test. Especially in the 2nd year I was there, as I did not take the testing very seriously the first year.  It showed on my scores the first year.
I was trying to teach my kids what a sentence and paragraph was, where in the world the US was on a globe and how to get through a day without them punching each other.  Shame on me!  We didn't even have time to get through all the curriculum that was on the test before it was given in April.  I would cringe when we came to the Science and Social Studies questions, but was told by another staffer, that it didn't matter if they knew all that other stuff, they needed to do well in the reading and math portions of the test!
That second year, I made sure that teaching to that test was my main priority.  We practised all the time.  My kids got really good at taking tests.  Did they learn anything?  I don't know, but their scores were good enough that I didn't get any flack from the administrative team.  I was probably the first time I was ever ashamed of the education system and my part in it. 
My county has since lost accreditation because of a lot of political issues and now I am reading that the Atlanta Public Schools have been caught cheating. You can read about it here.  I went through a little of the report to the Governor and it's just sad.
What does it say about the system when teachers are risking their careers, even jail time to have their students appear to do well on tests?  Administrators erasing answers on tests after hours.  Teachers giving signals to students when they have a wrong answer.  All that for a test.  Scary.

Sorry for the long, serious post.   I promise the next one will be lighter, possibly with pictures.

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