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Hey Hey, Ho Ho: Testing and Teacher Strikes...

It's Tuesday and the Chicago teachers are on strike, which I felt couldn't go by without a mention. One of my students asked today why the NYC teachers weren't striking, and suggested we ought to--however, he also suggested that we should have a day off for September 11th and that more Jewish holidays should be added to the calendar (NYC public schools are closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), so I think his interest was more geared towards added vacation time than education reform.

So, one of the issues that the Chicago teachers are striking about is the proportion of teacher evaluations that is tied to student test scores. There's a lot I want to say about this, much of which probably needs to go in a blog post solely devoted to the topic of standardized tests (which I dislike intensely as an educational or evaluative tool.) In brief, I strongly oppose tethering teacher evaluations to students test scores for the following reasons: Standardized tests are culturally biased, penalize creative thinking, feature misleading/unclearly worded questions, feature questions that are not in any way tied to the information kids are supposed to learn in state-mandated curricula, put English Language Learners and kids with learning differences at a major disadvantage, and are generally so dependent on YEARS of learning before the date at which they're taken by students that they simply cannot be accurate indicators of a single teacher's efficacy.

But above and beyond all those things, standardized tests are boring--unremittingly, horrendously, mind-numbingly so. The kids hate standardized tests even more than I do. Every single year, in compliance with the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), our school must give a series of "periodic assessments." In the past year, these have moved from paper and pencil to online databases of questions. The switch to electronic testing hasn't improved the experience for the students: The times I tested the kids in the computer lab last year, they'd either cut class on the day of the test, or race through the questions, answering them at random; then they'd spend the remainder of the period summoning me to their computer consoles under a pretense of urgency ("Ms. Garon! I need you to look at this NOW!") only to show me pictures of kittens on Google Images.

The first period of 2012-2013 CCLS-mandated assessment is this week. So I've diligently compiled different types of reading and listening questions using this database, and electronically assigned them to my students. And when I told a few kids today that they were going to have a short "bench-mark assessment," they gave me this look like ARE YOU KIDDING US? One said, "Do we really have to do this?" And another said, "What's the point? We're not learning anything from it!"

Anyway, that's all for now. Thanks for reading.

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