"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ripples from the Carl Chew Splash

This appeared on a discussion group today from a Washington teacher responding to Carl Chew's decision to refuse administering the WASL:
You know what's great about this...my students here in eastern Washington, as we take the WASL, asked, "why do we have to take this?" My lame response was, "because OSPI, the legislature, and the govt. want you to." But, as they began to ask more specific questions, "what happens if we don't?" "What are the effects on our chances in college?" "What are the effects on the schools?"

I decided to answer more honestly. I told them about federal funding, NCLB, the accountability movement. They looked at me, some laughed, and finally one stated (one of my brightest and hardest working students), "that's retarded (his words). Do you know how many of us don't care? Do they know how many of just fill in the bubbles?"

So began a conversation (taking time away from their WASL testing time) about why there are high stakes tests, what's really at stake and how they, as students, could change things. It was pretty cool, if I do say so myself. This happened last week. This week, today, on the first day of returning to the WASL, I brought up Mr. Chew. Some students had heard of it, others had not. I told them about his actions. Most students then began shouting that I should do the same. Then I told them to clear their desks to take the test.

What is interesting is that these students are more aware of the inaccuracy, in-authentic, high-stress, and overall uselessness of the test than I think most administrators and legislators are. They were able to articulate in so many ways, in their own voices, why high stakes testing is obsolete. Giving them the rest of the puzzle, they were able to understand the ridiculousness of this process. They can also recognize that their own education is impacted by it (a couple students stated that it sucked having to do so much prep work for the test, that they didn't get to do any "real" work [their words]).

But, I, as their good teacher, administered the test, and they, as the good obedient students they are, took the test. Who knows, maybe they did a little bit better because they now know what's really at stake. All I know is, I can't wait for that wonderful PowerPoint next year to tell us all how smart our kids are!

What am I talking about? I already know--I teach them everyday. I love my 7th graders!

RA

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