As I look back on this week, I feel like my fun teacher spirit was dumped off in Timbuktu. We have tested EVERY day this week during our reading block. No small group. No center activities. No hands-on learning.
You see, the official countdown to THE BIG TEST began a few weeks ago. Our state test (Florida Standards Assessment, FSA) is in 22 days. So you may ask, “Why in the world are you testing now?”
In third grade, students are retained if they do not pass the FSA assessment. There are many other ways to promote to fourth grade, so it’s not black and white. Still, we have to follow the protocol. One important piece of the protocol is the Portfolio testing. This test consists of a series of passages and questions. We assess students on one passage each day. Then after like 2-3 weeks of testing all the different passages, we basically do an item analysis of each standard to see which ones they passed. If the student has “Mastered” all the standards with 70% accuracy, they can be promoted. If they don’t, we continue the process that the county provides (Summer School, alternative testing, etc.).
It is sad, really, to think about the amount of time the kids are staring at passages that are extremely too high for our struggling readers. They use all the strategies we’ve taught them. They reread, underline, number paragraphs, and show their evidence. But, let’s face it, some students do not pass.
Testing is not a horrible thing. It definitely gives me data that is valuable to my day to day life as a teacher. Testing shows me what my students are retaining and what needs to be retaught. But testing for so many days is another story.
I know there is nothing I can do to switch the system around immediately. Testing is not going to disappear. But, I do feel that there are many teachers out there who feel the same way. How are we suppose to teach and remediate skills when we have to test, test, test? Shouldn’t there be a happy medium?
…For now, I will keep plugging away. I will expose students to engaging activities that align with our standards. I will help them to master concepts and skills. And in 22 days, I will hand them a pack of paper, and urge them to do their best.
Because at the end of the day, they are 8 and 9 years old, and I will remember that each and every day.