Another One Down...
"I'm another one down. Thankful for all you that continue to persevere."
—Kara Reeves, 5th Grade Math Teacher
I’m not going to be the messenger that tells my students that they have to take another test. I am not going to spend another class period telling them I cannot help them get through a test they don’t understand. They can get someone else to do that. It will kill my teaching soul to do it even one more time. Like all teachers, I have kids that read below grade level. I can’t help them though. I also have students that have only been in the country a few months. I can’t help them though. I even have students who don’t know our alphabet because their language is different than ours. I can’t help them though. And bless their hearts, they do it because I ask them to. Most of them would do absolutely anything I asked. They trust me and believe that what I am asking them to do is what is best for them.
Our last blog revealed how students with learning disabilities have to fight for the text-to-speech accommodation on the new TNReady test. But they are not the only ones who struggle to read and are forced to take tests they don't understand. TNReady is a test that will be administered in English only to all students including English Language Learners (ELL) and English as a Second Language (ESL) students.
Accessing Students Who Don't Understand English
According to TNDOE's website: "Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, the department will transition from the ELDA assessment for EL students to the ACCESS for ELs assessment in order to determine English Language Proficiency Levels. This move will provide valuable results that serve as one criterion to aid in determining language proficiency for ELs. WIDA results will help guide decisions regarding student participation in content area classrooms without program support and state academic content assessments without accommodations. This assessment will also provide districts with information to aid in evaluating the effectiveness of EL programs."
Like the SBAC and PARCC common core assessments, ACCESS was created by a consortium of states and is now administered in multiple states. It is also an online assessment that requires 4th and 5th graders to type their answers for the writing assessment. Imagine third world refugee children who have been relocated to Tennessee and enrolled in public schools. These children may not even be literate in their native language. Yet, we expect them to take a test in English that requires them to use a computer and type on a keyboard?
If that were not bad enough, ACCESS is merely a precursor for even more testing. Scores on ACCESS determine whether an EL student is allowed to have any accommodations on TNReady. With this constant demand to test our most vulnerable students, no wonder Kara Reeves quit testing (er…we mean quit teaching). Teachers no longer get to decide if their students understand English well enough to meet the same expectations as other students. Now, we have state mandated tests to make that decision.
In the comment section of Diane Ravitch's blog, Deb Sherett says, "More power to you, Mary. You have my admiration and respect. These invalid tests measure nothing and help no one. They only serve to create a toxic environment for both students and teachers. The WIDA ACCESS test is one of the worst. When I taught ESL I was required to end services for an entire month in order to administer this travesty of a test. Hang in there, Mary and stay strong. If we stick together perhaps we can end this destructive malicious cycle of testing."
But we have access to secret information that is not suppose to be posted on public websites or forums.