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Monday, February 18, 2008

Stupid test

Good evening everyone, as you might gather from the title of this post, I am not too enamored with a test I took today after school. Actually, I am currently exhibiting extreme self-control not to express exactly how ticked off I am at this test.

Here in Texas, we call it the TELPAS. Don't ask me what it stands for -- I'm sure the T is for Texas, and the rest is a bunch of crap. It's a test that teachers have to take in order to be able to rate writing samples from kids of Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Teachers go online and view collections of four or five writing samples, and they have to rate them -- beginning, intermediate, advanced, or advanced high. The ratings are EXTREMELY subjective, and this is what upsets me so much.

I spent nearly 2 hours online today after school looking at example passages and then taking this stupid test. There were 15 collections to analyze. In order to pass the test, I had to rate 10 of them correctly. So of course, you can probably guess how many I got right. NINE.

So this leads me to this week's

INTERACTIVE MONDAY!!

Here's the question for the week:

Have you ever had to go through anything completely subjective like this, and what was it like? Please share your stories of frustration, triumphant, and heartbreak.

Meanwhile, I'll go take solace in some left over Valentine's Day candy.

15 comments:

Mrs. T said...

In college, mine was the last Freshman class that had to undergo the Writing Competency Exam, which was administered in a big lecture hall. We were given a choice of 3 subjects about which to write an essay and an hour or so to write. I think our essays were graded by grad students and although I passed on the first try, several classmates did not. Those that did not pass also did not receive $200. Oh, wait, that's something else. Those that did not pass had to take some kind of Writing for Dummies class and then retake the exam.

Anonymous said...

In Massachusetts we have an oral proficiency test for ELL students called the MELA-O. Anyone who assesses the kids using the MELA-O has to be trained in its use. My district wanted me to be able to train teachers to give the MELA-O. I would be a 'QMT' authorized to train 'QMAs'. (I am currently a QMA.) The state has recently revised the standards for passing the qualifying tests and anyone who is a QMT or QMA has to requalify before January 2010.

I took a two day training to become a new QMT. (Current QMT's get an abbreviated one day training.) Like the TELPAS, the MELA-O assessment is extremely subjective. One of the things they stressed during the training was that we should observe a student for a significant length of time before completing the assessment form. Of course the test we were given required us to watch only a 5 minute video of each student! Oh, the irony! During the course of the training it became incredibly clear to all of the participants that the failure rate was going to be about 65%. We pointed out the insanity of the grading scheme, but were told that that was just the way it was. The old test was far too easy to pass (agreed) and they had decided to tighten up. We had to wait almost 3 months to get our test results, and in the meantime I discovered that an absolutely incredibly fantastic ELL teacher with over 20 years experience, a doctorate in the subject, and who now trains other ELL teachers and consults with school districts on their ELL programs FAILED the QMT test. (By one point I think.) I knew I stood no chance! When I got my results it was to find that although all of my wrong answers were close (they tell you that much, but not which direction you were off by) I had failed by 5 points to qualify as a QMT, but had passed at the lower QMA level.

Several weeks later I received a letter from the state to inform me that they had changed the standards for passing the test. I had now failed to qualify as a QMT by only 1 point. (Well, at least they realized we were right when we said their standards were too high!)

Oh, and the two whole days I spent training - they won't give me ANY professional development points for them until I pass the test as a QMT!

Got any candy left?

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Teacher of the Year competitions. It's a rotten story, but let me just say that one crazy person can make it impossible.

J said...

Ugh. I once got a job doing that--grading essays from a 7th grade state exam in Tennessee or somewhere. I lasted a week before I quit. It was the worst job EVER--so subjective (and they claimed it wasn't! ack!), I kept getting repeats, they made everyone stay quiet, god, it was awful.

Mister Teacher said...

These all sound horrid, but the biggest OUCH goes to Anonymous in MA... Yikes!

Mike in Texas said...

I've taken that test.

I THINK I have to take a refresher course but I'm doing my best to forget so I'll get de-certified.

Athena said...

Thank you for reminding me I have to take the refresher course. I wish I was like Mike and could forget it and get decertified. I think they would hound me to the ends of the earth to get recertified.

Yuck! Thanks. Athena

kherbert said...

I hate Telpass. I'm surprised that you all got your passwords. Teachers at my school were told they would have their's in 48 hours - 2 weeks ago. They have spent entire conference periods on the phone to get it resolved - and never talked to a living person.

Debbie said...

This is really interesting. I just -- TODAY -- took the training and then spent a few hours taking practice tests -- all of which I failed by one or two questions each time I took them . . . I lost my nerve and didn't take the actual exam at all while at the training center surrounded by other -- I am sure more confident and competent teachers. So . . that being said -- I went home and studied some more and finally gave it my best go. Sigh. Missed it by one. While I was in the tesing mood, I wanted to test my husband's firearms out on my computer screen. He talked me out of it. Barely. You are exactly right, Mr. Teacher. It was VERY difficult to see this test as fair to all. What one believes is intermediate is semi-advanced to another. Etc... I have taught writing to students for 7 years, and felt competent. I guess it's a whole different ball game when scoring ELL writers though -- as opposed to regular English speaking kiddos. Anyway -- after seeing other teachers leave their computers with smug little smiles and catchy phrases like, "Guess I am highly qualified. See y'all later!" I am feeling a bit of a dope. Guess my Suma cum laude degree was a Suma cum Fraude.

Memah in Dallas. said...

Well I have had to take this test and it is horrible!! Something that's probably not right but I know for a fact is that the questions do NOT change year after year. So write down your answers and keep it safe. Telpas doesn't have enough $$$ to change that test every year. Those kids they use to make examples of are probably grown by now!!! Good luck and although I can't say but someone might still have their answers from last year. But you can loose your lic that way.

Anonymous said...

I took the TELPAS and bombed...
what a waste of money...

...I guess someone is getting paid
a pretty penny to make Texas teacher
take this test...

Anonymous said...

I also believe the TELPAS "training" is extremely stupid.
First of all, I have no language learners in my classes which I'm grateful for. Secondly, I was half drunk when I took the TELPAS calibration and still passed easily. I believe that this is a crock of @#$!$!

Jill Williams said...

I just wish it had more than 10 questions since the room for error is very with 70% to pass.

Cheryl said...

I took practice and did great got to first calibration and bombed it..now only have one more chance.....a little scared now
Anyone want to give answers???? LOL

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am in need of answers to calibrations for 6-8 grade, begin today and if I don't pass, since I am not a rater, not too worried...Oh well...I think these are such a waste of my time.