So I am sure some of you are wondering how some of my students fared on the Torture Tests this year. Five out of my fifty-seven students did not pass the ELA exam, but all seven of my hold-overs did. And what does this tell us? That I did an OK job teaching Test Prep this year.
Yay for me.
You see, one might think that I feel proud, and in a strange sense I do. I feel proud that my students showed the discipline and respect to listen to me and apply the test-taking strategies I was blackmailed into teaching this year, regardless of that fact that it bored them to tears. This really speaks to their growth as the type of students our Deformers wanted them to become: robotic, complacent little drones, learning to read by picking apart small details in a text, viewing poetry as just a bunch of similes and metaphors and imagery, and reading a nonfiction text not for the purpose of learning and applying the content to their lives, but reading it to see if they have "reading skills".
So, I guess, in that sense, I do harbor a guilty feeling of accomplishment.
When the "pass/fail" scores came in in June (We haven't received actual numbers yet, yet they can tell us who passed and who failed? Sounds fishy to me...) I had the glorious job of telling five of my students that they had to go to Summer School, and if they did not pass the re-take in August, that they would have to repeat the entire grade. No Child Left Behind, unless she fails our unfair and subpar test twice in a row.
One of the boys knew he failed because he stopped taking the test halfway through the Multiple Choice portion (See post far below: Bubble Torture for the Kiddies). His mother claimed that she sent him to school with a fever on the day of the test. He shrugged the idea of Summer School off like it was No Big Deal. OK, he was lazy all year and failed my class anyway because he hardly did a lick of work, despite the fact that I kept him for detention, called his mother twice a month, and recommended appropriate and interesting books to him. So if it had actually been my decision, the verdict would have been the same.
Two of my girls passed my class with grades in the 80s. They came into my class reading on a 4th grade level and left reading on a 6th grade level. (See explanation of Running Records: one of my earlier posts entitled, High Stakes Testing: The Measurement of our Worth....)They worked hard all year to overcome the many challenges they faced in the journey of Literacy Education. Yes, they had attitudes and their behavior sometimes left much to be desired. But on the whole, these girls deserved a nice pat on the back for persevering all year long despite the many obstacles they faced living in the inner-city. They both failed the test and have to go to Summer School, and were devastated. Never mind the grade I gave them. This sends them the message that no matter how hard they work, no matter what good grade their teacher gives them as a result, if they fail this test, they are DOOMED to spend the month of July in a sweltering classroom, faced with all the mundane tasks associated with Test Torture, which they were forced to do all year. In that case, what's the point in trying in class? "I worked hard, my teacher passed me, but I failed this impossible test. What's the point of even trying if I'm going to fail anyways?" Can you see how a twelve year old would arrive at this rationalization?
One girl's family had plans to travel to their native country this summer, and because they were not informed about this until Mid-June, I can imagine that must have compounded what was already a very difficult situation for that family. So now her parents have to choose between leaving her behind with a relative, not sending their family at all, or keeping her from Summer School and forcing her to repeat the sixth grade...WHEN I PASSED HER!!!!!
The final example of this display of mistrust for and disregard of the dedicated folks in my profession I will offer you is that of a student who did pass the test. He was a hold-over. He, too, refused to work all year. He never did his homework, failed many of my tests, and his attendance was terrible, despite my efforts to help him. His mother showed up to talk to me one week before school ended. I had never met her before that day because she never showed up to conferences, and her phone was always disconnected, so it was nearly impossible to reach out to her. I failed him for EVERY marking period. He simply did not, WOULD not earn a passing grade, despite the fact he reads ABOVE grade level. But....he passed the NYS ELA exam, so he MUST be ready to move on, right? He does not have to go to Summer School, gets to pass GO, and collect his passing test scores with no consequences.
Once again, the issue of consistency comes up. The students' test scores are not always consistent with the grades they actually EARN all year. What does this tell us about the measure of assessment that is being utilized in this system? That is is worth less than a square of toilet paper, and holds as much weight to me as the puffs of fur that fly out of my dog's tail in the summertime. It says next to NOTHING about what a child has REALLY learned all year, except that they know how to use process of elimination and fill in the bubble that McGraw-Hill claims to be the right one. And of course, these scores, the DATA has much more weight. About as much weight as a dumbell, or Andre The Giant. But it holds absolutley no value to me as a professional.
So....why am I here? Why do I write report cards? The grades my students earn on report cards are based on essays, class participation, behavior, homeowrk, quizzes, and unit tests. These grades reflect the hard work (or lack thereof) that my students put into my English class all year. If the grades that I give my students on their report cards are not taken into consideration when deciding to send them to summer school or hold them back, then why am I even WRITING REPORT CARDS?