Saturday, April 18, 2009

Testing Is Upon Us

Many years ago, Texas, in its infinite wisdom, voted to have state mandated testing. It was TABS first, Texas Assessment of Basic Skills. Then TEAMS came along, Texas Assessment of Minimal Skills. Not good enough, so they came up with TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. And still they change it, changing the grade levels that are tested, changing what is tested, changing how and how often things are tested.

March third was the official "start" of testing season, beginning with 8th grade reading and 7th grade writing. Testing continues for various grade levels on different days through the month of April. Not sure if the change is a good thing or not for the kids. In the past we just had the tests on consecutive days. For 8th graders that meant 4 consectuive days of tests, 2 all day and 2 half days. By the end they were ready to burst at the seams, but we got them all out of the way. Now the tests are spread out, less stress all at once, instead it is spread out over 2 months.

I had my summative conference this week, also. Overall my principal is very happy with the way the 8th grade science team is coming together and we both have high expectations for the science department as a whole. He asked me if I thought we were going to improve on our 8th grade science scores from last year. I hate those kind of questions! There is so much out of my control, I feel like it is a crap shoot right now. We (8th grade teachers) set a goal of 75% of the econ disadvantaged kids passing. I am not sure we will get there. The kids are tired of hearing about the test, and the fact that it covers 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science is stressing the teachers out! We can't teach all 3 years in one, and once again I feel like the concepts I taught were developed a mile wide and an inch deep instead of the other way around.

So I control what I can control - what I do in my classroom - and hope that the kids come through. Have I done enough? I don't ever think I have. I always find one more thing I could have done, or should have done differently. But I can say that, once again, I did give it 110% and if my students give just 100% on the test I think we can do it. We shall see. Test day is April 30, t minus 8 school days and counting.

I am looking forward though, and want to work more on making the whole science team a model PLC (professional learning community). We can't get the 8th grade students proficient at anything unless they have a solid foundation to start with. Right now they do not have that. I want the teams to be vertically aligned yesterday. We are still working on aligning just within our own teams (6th and 7th), so vertical alignment is a long term goal. Sigh. Well, it makes Jose happy - I am there for a few years more, since I now feel my work is not done there yet.

Oh and there are only six and a half weeks of school left. Where has the year gone! It seems like only last month we were recovering from Ike. Here we are looking at May!

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