As we all know, last week was the dreaded State ELA exam. My observations were as follows:
*Students were completely whacked out right before the test. It was a challenge to calm them down. Pancakes seems to be the popular test-breakfast this year.
*As I was attempting to reassure and quiet these poor souls, getting them to take a nice deeeeep breath, an unfamiliar woman wearing a visitor's tag and a puss on her face peered unabashedly into my classroom. I said, "Can I help you?" and she said, "I'm just here checking on things." (Oh, she must have been one of those teacher-checkers. Right.) This sent the kiddies into hysterics. Becuase, that's how they are. Things I find infuriating, they find funny. "Man, Miss! You told her!" Screech, screech.
*Kiddies are finally calm. I hand out the answer sheets. Ali's is missing. What do I do? The test is timed. We all have to begin together, otherwise, Bubble Test Law #417-1330 will be violated and I may be incarcerated for Altering of Official Torture Documents. I call the testing office to let them know of Ali's missing Torture Sheet, and the kiddies see I am distracted by the phone so they start babbling again. In my head, I become convinced that my class is the only one in the school that has not yet begun.
*In a few minutes, someone comes in with a blank answer sheet and directs me to direct the unfortunate Ali into bubbling her name, birthday, astrological sign, shoe size, head circumfrence, and Student ID# onto the sheet. I have to provide this number and look it up, so this takes a few minutes. The rest of the class is anxiously waiting to get started. Buzz, buzz. Tick, tock.
*Finally, finally, I am able to hand out the booklets and allow the students to begin. They have 70 long minutes and 7 passages and 42 multiple-choice questions, and 42 little round bubbles.
*Five minutes into it, someone comes in and hands me Ali's answer sheet that has her name actually printed on it. She sighs loudly and rolls her eyes. Twenty-eight pairs of eyes tear themselves away from the first passage and watch, distracted, as she recieves the correct answer sheet. The sheet she so carefully filled in herself is promptly discarded.
*There are exactly enough test booklets for the amount of students in my class. Fortunately for me, one of the kiddies is absent, so I have access to the booklet with the passages and questions, out of pure default. If I did not have an absent student that day, I would not have been able to actually see the test I was forced to teach to all year. The second day, for the writing portion, I did not have a booklet to look at. I peered over my kids' shoulders. What a slap in the face.
On to the passages and questions:
-The questions were clearly written to trick and misguide the kiddies. There were at least one or two questions per passage that were very difficult or almost impossible to answer.
Now, I am obviously a good reader, otherwise I wouldn't be an English teacher. I blow through at least 3-4 books a week every summer. But, so help me Jesus, I could not answer some of these questions myself. There is something really wrong with that. I know tested, mind-numbing reading "strategies" inside and out. I've been shoving it in between their ears all year long, and have had plenty of professional development to guide me in doing so.
-Some of the questions were negative: "Which one is not the answer?" I saw more of these types of torture devices than I had ever seen before. There were none in the test prep book.
-The passages were extremely male-centered. It was actually my principal that pointed that out. All of the fiction and nonfiction passages had protagonists who were males. The nonfiction passages were about basketball and lawn mowers. The illustrations were all of males. Even the personification in the poetry was male-centered. It must have been extremely difficult for my girls to relate to the texts and activate any prior knowledge on those subjects. Sheesh. Or should I say, Balls.
-The last "passage" was a blank volunteer application. Although the directions stated for the students not to fill it out, many had never seen an application before and were completely thrown off, and wasted their time trying to fill it out before realizing they only had to answer four questions about it. Mind you, nowhere in the school's curriculum, test prep books, or on any previous state tests was there any sort of application. How is an 11-year old supposed to successfully answer questions about something they've never seen before?
-Finally, the timing. They had only seventy minutes to finish the test. That's ten minutes per passage. This does not encourage the students to read slowly and carefully. One of my boys is a very slow reader, however is reading on grade level, and when given the appropriate amount of time, can be very successful. When I passed his desk about 45 minutes into it, he had barely finished half of the questions. He had also completely stopped working. I quietly encouraged him to move on. He looked at me and said, "No. I don't want to take this stupid test, and I'm not finishing it." I was powerless to help him because, well, we're not supposed to be talking during the test. Ooooh-kay.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is proof, again, that the Education "Reformers" are setting up students and the teachers who devote their lives to education, to fail miserably. It is nauseating, infuriating, frustrating, demoralizing, and a completely backwards way of educating America's Future. I feel powerless to stop it and the only way I am maintaining any semblance of sanity regarding this matter is by continuing to write this blog. I am so relieved there are others who share my views who are willing to expose the truth as well. We need to continue this fight for the sake of our children's rights as American Citizens. Not a single day goes by that I don't fret about the disgracefully poor quality of education my son and my students are exposed to as a result of these ignorant, clueless, racist, sexist, filthy-rich policy makers.