Tuesday, September 11, 2007
The third week of school is under way. In other words, it's time to start testing.
In the Austin school district, some teachers must start giving benchmark tests, which measures students' strengths and weaknesses heading into the new year.
Education Austin, which represents 4,000 district employees, marked the occasion Monday by launching a campaign to push district officials to reduce the time spent on such tests.
"Testing is eating up everything else," Education Austin President Louis Malfaro said.
Education Austin and its statewide parent group, the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, are calling on teachers to document the amount of time they spend practicing for and giving tests. Teacher groups in other cities launched similar campaigns.
Malfaro said the group wants teachers to make sure schools are complying with a new state law that says schools cannot spend more than 10 percent of their instructional days giving district-required tests.
The statewide Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills is the favorite punching bag of teachers and parents who say schools are too focused on tests. But Malfaro said that much of the testing burden in Austin comes not from the state but from district officials who require teachers to give district-produced tests throughout the year.
Ann Smisko, the Austin school district's associate superintendent for curriculum, said the district, like most, "regularly assesses students for one main reason: to ensure that children receive better, more focused classroom instruction."
Smisko said the district uses benchmark tests at the start of school to see where students are, in the middle of the year to measure progress and at the end to see whether students need extra help before moving to the next grade.
District officials said the number of days per year that a class spends on testing varies by grade and campus.
Ken Zarifis, who teaches eighth-grade language arts at Burnet Middle School in North Austin, said he and colleagues spend more than 40 of the 180 instructional days in a school year giving tests that they do not write themselves.
Those tests include state-written exams such as the TAKS and district-produced tests, such as six-week exams and the three-times-a-year benchmark tests.
"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972
. . .a pupil attitude factor, which appears to have a stronger relationship to achievement than do all the “school” factors together, is the extent to which an individual feels that he has some control over his own destiny. James Coleman, 1966
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
40 School Days Divided by 180 School Days = 22% of School Days Devoted to Testing
Let the anti-thought begin. From the Austin American-Statesman: