Unfortunately, and I mean unfortunately, I am going to have to give a MIST test for three hours to each of my 4 regular language arts classes this week. I say "unfortunately" because it is a lot of time that can be used for reading, instruction, and learning, and it means a changed and altered schedule for the entire week. MIST is a writing assessment in which my students will have to compare and contrast two nonfiction articles. The entire examination is computerized, for it will be all typed. None of my students are proficient at typing. Their scores will not determine a grade, average, or placement for next year. Right after this MIST test, my students will have to take another DEA (Discovery Education) test and a TCAP soon after that. Can you say "over testing"? However, despite my negative views, I have confidence in my kids and have assured my students that they will rise to the occasion as always, do their best, and help get me through the week.
While we're not on the computers, we are going to attempt to finish our "Arachne" questions and finish up our compare and contrast essays on "Arachne" and "The Stone." I have been so impressed with the beginning of those essays. Not often do most of my classes over exceed my expectations, but they have so far on this writing activity. They have started really well. It amazes me how much our writing has already improved since August. I am very happy with them.
We were supposed to begin reading The Clay Marble, a novel taking place during the civil war in Cambodia in the late 1970's, but because of the testing and interrupted schedule I don't think we'd finish it before spring break. I don't want to have an entire week off in the middle of a book. I'll keep you informed. Have a nice President's Day and week.
He's fed up with state and district testing. He just wants to teach.
Even more frustrating: a big chunk of his yearly evaluation score is based on the test results of his students that he doesn't have time to teach.
And even more frustrating that that: other teachers at his school are evaluated based on the test results of HIS students (even though those students may never be in that teacher's class) because some subjects are not tested with standardized tests.
You can thank these people for this asinine TVAAS evaluation system:
- TN Board of Education (appointed by Gov. Haslam)
- TN Commissioner Kevin Huffman (appointed by Gov. Haslam)
- Governor Haslam (who sent his kids to private schools that didn't excessively test or rate teachers by test scores)
- William Sanders (the statistician who came up with this awful system to rate agricultural growth and somehow it is now it is being used to abuse teachers)
Teachers in his district (Shelby County, TN) tell us that 2 to 3 months of the school year are spent on such testing, pre-testing, post-testing, and assessments. That's a LOT of time that could be spent teaching. A LOT. Add it up over a child's education, and that's several years devoted to filling in bubbles!!!
In Tennessee, money spent with Pearson, the creator of these tests, has TRIPLED since 2010 when Tennessee "won" a Race to the Top grant. Since then, class sizes have increased and support staff in the school buildings has been cut to afford these testing materials. (Click HERE to watch a very enlightening presentation about it)
What happens if a child fails a test, such as Discovery Education (DEA)? Like a slot machine that hits jackpot in Tunica, that child is labeled as needing "intervention". (Note: this isn't the kind of intervention that Dr. Phil used to do on his show, not at all). Intervention means that the student who failed Pearson's test, now gets to sit in front of a Pearson computer program for hours each week instead of being taught by a live teacher.
- Some materials on these tests haven't been taught to students, yet. One 3rd grade teacher said that 19 of 32 test questions on Discovery Assessment probe she was forced to give students mid-year were on material they had not even covered yet. DUH! Of course they are going to fail it if they haven't been taught it, yet! (Note: this teacher is following the TN Department of Education's pacing guide for the Common Core standards, so her students are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing)
- Parents aren't told their children are being given these tests and surveys. Honestly, tests can be a good thing. Parents support teacher-generated tests that fairly assess what was taught that week or semester (like chapter tests, weekly spelling tests, math fact tests, etc.). Of course, parents know some testing is necessary, but at what point does it become excessive and abusive? What if a doctor kept giving x-rays to healthy bones every few weeks? Either you or your insurance company would question it and put a stop to it. When parents aren't told these tests and surveys are being given and when the teachers cannot tell parents that these tests are excessive and wrong (because they might get in big trouble from administration and lose their jobs), parents should be worried. Very worried.
- Nobody gets to see the test questions on the TCAP or PARCC, not even the teachers. How do we know what questions the students got wrong? How do we know there aren't errors on the tests? How do we know the questions aren't biased? or have inappropriate content like these Pearson PARCC questions did last year in NY? Momma Bears say: "If you're giving it to my kid, I have a right to see it. Period."
- Even if teachers know a student has mastered a subject, the student is still required to do the computerized intervention. The teacher's opinion from working with that child every day is trumped by the score generated by a computer program. (Note: this is a school/district based decision, so it may be different in your child's school)
- Surveys and demographic questions have been attached to these computerized assessments without parents knowing about it (Click HERE to read our blogs about the demographic info students are asked without parental consent or knowledge)
- Pearson acquired a major ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder) company last year. So, guess who profits from diagnosing kids with ADHD because they can't sit still and focus on Pearson's tests? Yep. (Click HERE to read it yourself)
- Consider running for Governor. Seriously, we need a pro-public school Governor in TN... Someone who realizes that our public schools are invaluable... Someone who realizes our children's teachers are priceless and deserve to be respected for their hard work and dedication... Someone who respects the rights of parents and puts our children above profit... Someone who doesn't act like Pearson's lobbyists are hot Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders selling Girl Scout cookies every time they show up at the capitol with Pearson products to sell in TN. (No offense to the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders or to the Girl Scouts, both are awesome organizations.)
- Contact your legislators. Seriously, they DO listen. Tell them how your children are affected by all this testing. Here's a great website with Tennessee legislator's email addresses and even some tips on how to get your voice heard. It works.
- Say "not with my child!" and refuse testing for your children. www.unitedoptout.com has a great guide for each State on how to refuse testing for your children with sample letters and even has a Get-Tough guide if your principals or district give you the run-around. If you are in Tennessee, www.stoptntesting.com is a terrific website for parents (and their facebook group is pretty awesome, too).
Here is what one Dad sent to his child's school this week:
This was NOT on the school testing calendar! I wonder why they didn't want parents to know?" - Dad in Franklin County, TN
It is going to take YOU speaking up to make it better...
...Teachers can't do it.
...Principals can't to it.
...Administrators can't do it.
They all want and need to keep their jobs to provide for their families. Parents, your voice is important! Make it count for your kids!!!