Slice of Testing Life

Every Tuesday, Two Writing Teachers blog hosts a place to post a slice of life . Join in as a contributor or just read more slices  here. Thank you  TaraAnnaDanaStacey,  Betsy  and Beth for providing this space for our writing.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday was one of those days. I had so much I wanted to do, planned to do. But, the expected unexpected happened.

I got to class early.

Got vocabulary ready.

The iPads were charged for students to take pictures of their favorite spots on the playground (thank you Tara for this inspiration).

I started to work out the sequence of the day on the board, when an administrator walked in. Now I love this administrator. She is the sweetest person, but she is the bearer of testing news. I saw her and I knew. I gave her a dirty look. I’m sure my tone was surly. That was extremely wrong of me, and I think I apologized. I just couldn’t help it. When I saw her, I knew the day I had planned was doomed..

You might be thinking right now, Why was this a surprise?

Let me explain my seemingly out of touch behavior. We have 70 iPads to conduct testing among approximately 360 students. Because of this. we take turns and we sort of guess  at the timing based on where you are in line and how much time you think the classes before you might take. Crazy? Yes. So when I was planning the week, I decided to simply not worry because I couldn’t control it.

When this administrator walked in I knew my fate was sealed and there was no getting around it. The test was today, and my dismay showed on my face. My students were destined to a day behind the iPads, reading Smarter Balanced passages, and writing their performance assessment.

My students were tougher than me. They walked in and they did it. They worked hard. Took notes, planned, read and wrote. They made out loud comments, asked questions (that I couldn’t answer), and continued to work hard.

Student: This is hard.

Me: I think, I’m sorry, I know it is. I say, But you are working harder, you’re showing what it takes.

Student: I don’t understand this question.

Me: I think, I can’t help. I say, do your best.

Student:  I am writing an amazing essay.

Me: I say, Wow! I think, what an attitude.

By the end of the day they (we) were spent.

After school, kids said they nailed the writing.

I’ll never know how they did because we won’t see the results. It’s a dry run for all involved. Next year counts.

While it’s nice not to worry about scores, I’d like to see what they wrote.  I’m curious. The fact is I’ll never be able to see what they write on these standardized tests, even when it counts. All I’ll see is a number. Which makes me sad. I just would like to see what they have to say.

As I watched students tap their screens, enlarge the font, and type madly away, I thought: If it were me, I’d like the reading on paper; something I could mark up and easily flip back and forth. If I was doing this test, I’d like to respond on the computer, but to read, write notes on, and refer back to text on paper.

Reading and writing on the same screen seemed difficult. I wonder if the designers of  the Common Core intended this additional challenge.  I wonder if those who make testing decisions ever  really consider what students have to do. If they put themselves in the students’ seats and took this test on those devices, would they achieve proficiency?