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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Angst of Standardized Test Prep in our House

My 10 year-old daughter is really enjoying 5th grade this year. She has loved her teachers all through elementary school and so have I. It means a lot when your child comes home happy, excited, and feels respected, appreciated, and valued. And my daughter does. I couldn't ask for more qualified, knowledgeable, intuitive, and caring teachers than the ones at her school.

What I can ask is for our state to get rid of the high stakes testing, so her teachers can have the autonomy that all professional educators need to teach kids that learning is one of the most natural and satisfying experiences in life... not formulaic essays that will be assigned approximately 25 times before the spring tests. The test prep is taking a toll on us around here.

Above is a Pennsylvania State Writing Rubric, much like the ones used to score standardized tests across the county. I blogged about how non-standardized the scoring really is here, in my review of Todd Farley's book, Making the Grades; My Misadventures in the Standardized Testing Industry. After tonight's homework, I got a really clear picture of the subjectivity.


The Teaching & Learning Company, in Carthage, IL thinks the essay above is an exemplar for 5th grade writing. I love my cat, but I would never expect him to watch the same shows I do... no matter how long my day was. Come on, Teaching and Learning Company, keep it real!



Many English teachers I know, including myself, have printed out state writing item samplers. We are trying to show our students what "the highest score possible," a "4", looks like. With much respect for all the hard work our kids put into these essays... what ever happened to creative writing? This type of writing must be as boring for the kids to write as it can be for us to read.




This speaks for itself...






This is what a 5th grade test prep looks like in our home.  Fifth grade is the first year that a written component of our state test is given. And right here is where the corporate reformers hope we parents will break. I am not pulling my child out of our outstanding school district. I am, however, telling my daughter the truth about standardized tests.... We are discussing opting out.

I really hope my district carefully considers how much weight test prep work should have on a child's report card grades (a more accurate measure of academic success). What we must keep in mind is   the ever important, but non-measurable, impact test preps can have on fostering a love of learning.

Don't worry, we don't need test scores to know our schools are great. What we need are parents who know there is little value in the data derived from this ridiculous process.

If private school kids don't need it, then my kids don't need it.
Period.

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