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Saturday, April 25, 2009

What are we really testing here?

I don't know how upper grade teachers can stand it.

TAKS is stressful enough to prepare for at the 3rd grade level, and our kids at least can get reading assistance on the math test! There has been a little bit of debate over exactly what that means, but at least it is specified that, on an individual basis, a student may ask to have a word or a question read aloud. This helps immensely, especially with a child who is a struggling reader and/or an English Language Learner.

However, after 3rd grade, the kids are completely on their own for every TAKS test -- excepting those kids with special modifications, of course. The vast majority of kids taking these tests every year cannot ask to have a word read, cannot ask for clarification on a question, cannot ask ANYTHING except a question about the directions, and the directions are usually "Pick the best answer."

So what it comes down to is that these kids are taking a series of reading tests. Some of them are ABOUT math or ABOUT science, but they don't strictly assess those subject areas as much as they assess whether or not the child can read the questions, some of which are highly complicated.

This is really a sore point for me, because I find it ludicrous. It is an outright farce to call the 5th grade science TAKS a science test but not give the kids reading assistance. Any tester at any level should be able to ask to have a word or a question read to them.

Are we trying to see if little Johnny truly knows what photosynthesis is , or are we trying to see if little Johnny recognizes this vocabulary word and then can describe it?

Imagine going to live in Russia for a year and taking a math class. After 3 months, you are given a math test in Russian, consisting of word problems and lengthy questions. I don't know about you, but I would fail that test miserably. Would ANYONE in their right mind think that that means I don't know math?? Or that that test accurately gauged my knowledge??

That's pretty much how it is for struggling readers or kids new to the language, but even for kids who read English fluently, there should still be reading assistance offered.

Only then will we TRULY have an assessment of a child's ability in math, science, or any OTHER skill than reading.

If I taught a grade higher than 3rd, I would be fuming every year about this very matter. Thankfully, I don't, so I can just vent instead of fume...


Melissa B. said...

Our statewide tests are coming up. I'm not sure I completely see the point of this exercise. The DOE keeps dumbing down the tests so everyone will pass. Ah, me! An exercise in futility, I'd say...But please, cheer me up: Don't forget today's Silly Sunday Sweepstakes!

Val said...

It's an extremely frustrating situation. I teach reading and I don't see that the test administered has any relevance on what I teach in a year. You're exactly right-it tests test taking skills and vocabulary, and God forbid if you aren't strong in those areas. GRRRRRRR!

kherbert said...

What I would love to see is the legislators, Governor, and state School Board Members have to take each TAKS test have have their scores published.

Given the idiots on the State School Board total lack of any science knowledge - I bet they fail 5th grade science.

Mister Teacher said...

Scribe, I think there will always be kids that are just too low to pass on grade level, no matter how "dumbed down" they've been.

Val, it's ridiculous

K, even better, have them take the science test in French, and then tell them they've failed the 5th grade science test...