Life. Now in Multiple Choice

I am getting fed up with these exams. Each day we remind the kids that there are only x number of days left until the exam! As if building up the pressure for the test will help the kids do well on it. More likely, it will feed into a sense of learned helplessness. "There's no way I can pass this test, why even bother?" I imagine my students thinking.

There is this myth that we don't need to teach to the test. But when the day comes and the students take the test, it's impossible not to feel like the whole thing's not some big trap. Today we took the interim ELA assessment, a midpoint assessment before the real test in January. I counted at least 8 questions out of roughly 30 that had no clear answer. One asked which of the following best explains why the passage is a story:
a) It has characters
b) It has a plot
c) It has a setting
d) It has a title

Does this have anything to do with academic achievement or really understanding and appreciating literature? What exactly are we preparing our students for? Meanwhile I've learned that next week there will be three days of practice exams at my school. So much for not teaching to the test. I guess that's just a luxury that schools like mine and others in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem and inner cities across the U.S. just don't have.


asdfuiop said…
Another noxious effect of the mandatory assessments is how they are often used to determine which students get extra help in the form of tutoring. There's not enough money for tutors for all the students who need it, so they handpick the ones who test on the cusp between "basic" and "proficient" because they are the ones judged most likely to bring their scores up. The ones who are solidly "basic" or "below basic" get nothing.

The whole NCLB thing is such a lie. It seems apparent to me that more experienced teachers (the ones who started before 2002 or so) find the idea of bringing all students up to grade level laughable. Having less experience, I often feel like I'm burdening myself with insane expectations. Of course, walking into a 4/5 split the last week of October was pretty insane in and of itself...

At least testing is somewhat less stressful than having to plan and deliver actual lessons - that's about the best thing I can think to say about it!

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