Thursday, February 17, 2011

3rd Quarter of the Year

Our third quarter just started. We have officially entered 'Testing Season.' Be on the lookout for any free-roaming 'bubble' students.

Let me explain.

With about 2 1/2 months until we take the test, we all begin to think more specifically about it. As I've said before, I spend some time on test strategy, reading skills specific to the test, and extra work for the so-called bubble students--those who were very close to passing or just barely passed last year.

After having read the very interesting Nudge, I can't help but think about the testing season as a 'choice environment.' We make (or have made, or have had made for us) choices about how we undertake teaching, and what we think of as 'learning,' and the incentive structures that the testing season creates shape teaching and learning in a particular way.

We are, for instance, planning a little test-boosting 'extended learning opportunity' (i.e., after school help) in the next few weeks. This will be offered to these bubble students, and most won't take it. Last time we offered this, 2 of the 20 or so invitees came. We'd love to get some to do the extra preparation. Just think if we got 10 'almost passed last year' students to 'passing this year.' That would make our overall test numbers go up nicely.

Think of what's not being done, at the same time. The students who are safely in the passing zone, who could probably forego even the test prep we do in our regular language arts day, are left doing less than they probably could do. During test season, we don't really mind, though. We're not really held accountable for changes in student scores, only whether they pass or not.

The more I can get to pass, the better. It doesn't really matter if I get students to enjoy reading more, or do more of it. If I teach test strategies and those numbers go up, I'll be a hero. And believe you me, at this point, test strategies probably get as much value-added (for test scores) as anything else.

So, the question still remains, what does passing the 8th grade reading MSP prove other than the fact that you passed the 8th grade reading MSP? I'm not sure. If I can get marginal readers up over the magic bar, does that mean they're now better students, will be more successful in their pursuits, are smarter than before they passed?

It's unclear that we can say YES to any of those. But mine is not to question why, and all that good stuff.

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