Category Archives: Parents and Testing

They’re HERE………….well, some of them anyway……..

I stopped by the Principal’s office today for a quick social visit. I had no big agenda or concern. His door was open and I knocked to say hello.

I noticed, lying on his table, some interesting looking books – very pretty sprial bound books with the words “3rd Grade Math Module 5” printed on them. I asked if I could take a look. They were emblazoned with “engageny” and our local BOCES logo. The engageny caught my eye and asked if I could take a look. I was told “Sure, but just so you know, it IS scripted.”

UGH………..well, I already knew that because I’ve been to the engageny website looking for Primary Grades Modules. Not that I WANT them, but I do know that they’re coming and I do know that I’ll be asked to be trained to in “unpacking” them. You can visit engageny for yourself see a Third Grade Module here

So, I flipped through the “Teacher’s Guide” to find the scripted parts:

T: What is the length of the first string shown?

S: 4 cm

T: Correct.

I am NOT kidding when I tell you that is EXACTLY what is in the Teacher’s Guide! I laughed and said “Well, you know, we need that because TFA teachers need that, and now Buffalo has fallen, so who knows where they’ll show up next.”

So, here’s the deal………..our district can buy these Teacher Guides for $14 and the Student books for about $8. Not a big deal, actually, when you consider how small we are – but there are MANY MANY Modules for each grade! And………there are MANY MANY Modules for Math AND ELA! So, it gets a little pricier.

This led to a discussion of the “PreK-12” book list that is also available at engageny. (Have I mentioned before how much I detest that website?) I have printed that list – it’s about 170 pages long! You can take a look at it for yourself:  p-12-ela-text-list The premise is that all of NYS will be on the SAME PAGE on the SAME DAY! So, who is getting rich publishing all these books that are now apparently required?  And, by the way, if our BOCES is printing these suckers up, why do they cost us anything? Plenty of RTTT money and each school’s COSERS go to BOCES now! Shouldn’t this stuff be FREE?  Additionally, BOCES has told us that they will NOT buy the multiple copies of the books that are ‘required’ even as they train us all to use them!  Wow – the cost of implementing the Common Core just skyrocketed – well beyond what we’ve spent on all the required TESTING!

My next question was “When do they expect to have any Primary Grade stuff available?” The answer: before September! Let’s get just a little more vague shall we? So, Primary Grade teachers will, in all honesty, have to be trained in the summer – something that the District cannot COMPEL me to attend and something they would have to PAY me to do since I am, after all, ONLY a 10 month employee.

I do not LIKE the CCSS – in fact, I rather despise the CCSS. I don’t believe that just by saying “Well, if we ask them to do more, read more complex texts, and expect it – they’ll do it.” This is pedaled as one of the big LIES of the CCSS – you know, we teachers just haven’t been expecting ENOUGH of our students. The truth is……….no matter what you shove at them, if they aren’t ready – they won’t be able to do it! I could have expected to have my infants talking and walking and toilet trained at 6 months – but that sort flies in the face of what we know about babies right? Same thing – if they aren’t developmentally ready, it’s not going to matter how sweetly I ask them to do something! I can tell them and their parents all I want that this is the expectation, but if they aren’t ready for the concept, it won’t matter.

So………..when your child enters PreK, K, First or Second Grade next fall………just know that his or her teacher has NOT had the ‘required’ material nor has the teacher had adequate time or training to have a CLUE! We will be “building the plane while we fly it”. Would YOU put your child on that plane? I know I wouldn’t!

About that test…………..

As a first grade teacher, I do not give NYS ELA and MATH exams. (YET!) I expect that I will be giving some sort of STATE or NATIONAL exam before I retire in 5 years.

I do give “tests” in my classroom – I have always assessed my students. But now, my first graders – some of whom were 5 years old when the year started are tested 3 times a year using the following:

STAR TESTS :They take either Early Literacy or Reading depending on how many sight words they know which means I had to assess their sight word knowledge in September. They also take the Math test.

DIBELS: Keep in mind that the DIBELS tests are timed – they have one minute for each of the following portions on which they are tested: Initial Sound Fluency, Letter Naming Fluency, Phoneme Segmentation Fluency, Oral Reading Fluency, and Oral Reading Retell.

RUNNING RECORDS: My students are expected to be reading at a LEVEL K by the end of first grade, and a LEVEL D and the start of the year. We use the Fountas and Pinnell leveling system, and got our benchmarks from Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Project.

Sight Word Knowledge: They are expected to know 75 words by November, and 175 by June.

Math Fact Fluency: They should be “fluent” in addition and subtraction to 10 by June.

This year, also for the first time, I am REQUIRED to give letter grades to my students in ELA, MATH, SOCIAL STUDIES, and SCIENCE.

I dutifully put my grades into the electronic grade book (of course, that DATA is being compiled into a state-wide and possibly nation-wide database) and the report cards are printed. Three times a year, I send home a separate report with all of the above mentioned testing DATA on it.

So, when circumstances present themselves, and I need to meet with parents, what do I talk about? Well, it’s NOT that TESTING stuff! All that data tells me is what that child did at one moment in time. When I talk to parents, we talk about the WHOLE CHILD. In fact, that’s the only time they’re going to hear about social and emotional growth and development because that is no longer included in any report I send home. We talk about our shared hopes and concerns.

I watched all three of my children take NYS exams in ELA, MATH, SCIENCE and SOCIAL STUDIES. Every summer we would wait and wait to get the test report in the mail. While my children typically scored a 3 or 4, I usually threw those reports out and told them “I’ve seen your report card, I know how you’re doing. Don’t let one or two tests define you.”

Now, I’ve watched as my two oldest have applied to and been accepted at the universities of their choice. I’ve watched them both take and retake the SAT. I once again told them “Don’t let one test define you.”  Interestingly, the NYS Regents Exams, which we’ve always been told are so important, aren’t even considered on college applications!  I’ve listened at University Open Houses and always asked “Are the SAT and ACT OPTIONAL?” For the most part, I’ve been told yes.

So, PARENTS, about that test………….it doesn’t matter!! There is no one test that should EVER EVER define your child! Your children, my children……..all children are so much MORE than a TEST SCORE!