Saturday, October 25, 2008

Does testing equal teaching?

It's been a while! This is mostly because I spent all week grading my students' TC assessments. One month ago, they took these new Teachers College spelling assessments. We were told we would eventually get together as a grade and go over the procedure for grading them (it's not as simple as "correct" or "incorrect"; they actually get points for various word features like initial consonants and short vowel sounds).

The giant pile of assessments sat on my desk for a month, until Thursday, when we had our meeting where we learned how to grade them and were informed that our administration would like us to finish grading them by Monday so they can be plugged into the computer. Excuse me? We sat on this for a month and then we're given three days (two of which, I might add, are weekend days) to get it done? Most of the teachers I work with had fewer than 12 to grade; I have 51 students. Two lists of 25 words each equals 102 spelling tests on which I had to analyze every word and then add up the number of "feature points" per word. Plus, the grading grid is naturally microscopic, as to fit all the information in, so I was hunched over my desk all day yesterday trying to fit the numbers in my tiniest handwriting. Not to mention the fact that my students cannot spell, so I had a lot of deciphering to do to make sure they were still getting credit for all the "word features" they did include.

Allegedly, all this data is going into a computer that will spit out oodles of fascinating information about exactly what my students need to work on (I can tell you right now: most of them have their consonants down cold, but those long vowel patterns like the o-e in hope and the i-e in shine? Ouch), but what's killing me is that November is a week away and we'll be starting running records and this assessment again. Are we really going to see enough of a seismic shift in a month's time that it's worth taking away our instructional time to administer this blasted thing again, not to mention our personal sanity to grade it? I mean, we haven't even looked at the data yet, let alone made any attempt to use the data in order to drive our instruction, so it's highly unlikely that we'll see any why are we wasting our time?

Part of the assessment is sitting with one kid at a time while he or she reads eight lists of high-frequency sight words. It's easy to do -- they (hopefully) just shoot down the list, all "the a and he she it they will" without stopping to take a breath -- but it takes forever, and meanwhile no one's getting a guided reading group or a strategy lesson or an individual conference that day because I'm checking off sight words. I'm thinking it'll take at least two weeks to finish all my running records and these assessments, especially in the midst of all the other stuff that goes on that precludes reading, so that's two weeks where I'm not actually, you know, teaching reading, and then our administration wonders why our kids aren't improving, like they're supposed to learn these reading strategies by osmosis or something...unless they think that testing actually equals teaching?

1 comment:

peace in the classroom said...

I also have many students and doing the TC DYO assessment is very difficult considering we aren't given any extra preps to do it. I simply did not turn mine in in September because it wasn't finished. In fact, I'm still assessing because as you say, it takes FOREVER, especially when we didn't get the books on time and someone forgot to leave clean copies for photocopying so we don't even have the scoring sheets for the running records, not to mention the fact that we don't have enough student packets. I figure, I'll finish doing the September assessment in time to turn it in in November.