Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Are our tests really CCSS approved?

Today my class took a district benchmark test in math.  Yesterday we took one in English Language Arts.  They both took up half the day of instruction time.  I have very mixed feelings about this test.  I am a Common Core Demonstration Teacher for the district and part of my job is to spread joy and positivity towards anything Common Core.  The problem is that I truly am joyful and positive about anything Common Core so when other educators bad mouth it, I vehemently disagree.  For so long I had to go through the hoops and obstacles presented to me by the phonics only era, then Balanced Literacy, and finally the  scripted teaching period.  I was so happy when along came a philosophy that I believed in.

So they, and they are the people who told us to teach in scripted vocabulary, tell us we must formally test the students on Common Core Standards every trimester.  We must do this to prepare for the CAASPP test that comes next spring.  They also tell us this is the "Common Core" way.  The problem for me is that I don't get all giddy for taking this test the way I get giddy for teaching Common Core Standards.   I actually do feel like testing is good.  I have worked really hard this first two months of school and I do expect my students to show what they know.  I know that some will excel and some need a lot more practice in order to get it.  If this test were valid, I believe that it would show me those very results, and I would actually not be surprised.  For example, "Fernanda" who reads very fluently, and can answer questions by referring to text and inferring should really have no problem on test questions that deal with inferencing.  While, "Julie" who cannot yet read grade level text should not even remotely pass the test.  Well, today I was surprised when both "Fernanda" and "Julie" both scored the same on the inferencing portion of the test.  They both scored at far below basic.

Of  course I won't use these test results for anything of importance.  I can't use it for future differentiation strategies or small group instruction because the whole class did poorly.  I won't use it for grades because I don't believe in its validity.  Maybe it has a little importance because it get the students familiar with technology and test taking strategies.  Maybe.   But the problem I have is because I am a Common Core Demonstration Teacher, representing CCSS, do I have to support this benchmark test that I don't agree with?  It makes me wonder if the district/state/country may be unsure of what CCSSs really are.

When I look at the State Framework I don't see any mention of extremely difficult tests.  When I review the CCSS for my grade level, I also don't see mandates that say that teacher must give tests that are super hard and make students (and teachers) doubt themselves and their skills and hard work they put into learning the skills.  I also don't see any reference to multiple choice tests when discussing the importance of real world application in the College and Career Ready (CCR) section of the standards.  So why are we still giving these tests?

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