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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sleepless Babies, Standardized Tests, and other Nonsense

Ugh. Exhaustion. I haven't felt this tired since Little Man was 3 months old and waking up twice each night to eat. Maybe that's because Little Man is, once again, waking up twice each night to eat. I'm assuming it's a growth spurt, as he's due for one, but SERIOUSLY. Brian and I have worked out a great system to catch up on our sleep on the weekends, though, which involves me getting up with the baby on Saturday mornings so he can sleep in, then he allows me to enjoy a few extra hours on Sunday. Of course, Monday morning always comes too soon…

Adding to my stress right now is the upcoming TAKS test for 8th graders. My students take their state-mandated standardized test on Tuesday and, well, my ass is on the line. My students typically score well, but I'm just not as confident in their performance this year for two reasons: 1) this group is lazy as all get-out and 2) the laziness is typically a result of low skills. If a student struggles long enough in school, he loses interest by the 8th grade. On an average year, I have 4 or 5 students that fit this criteria; this year, it's more like 15.

Let me be clear on one thing, though: I think the TAKS test is utter bullshit. It's a terribly ineffective way of measuring student progress, with far too much stock placed on its results. For most administrators, it's education's version of the Super Bowl. In other words, successful results are the main goal for the year and little else matters. This is especially true on campuses that have a history of poor performance, as district and state representatives (most of whom are trying to justify their jobs) come observe teachers and breathe down the neck of principals preaching the need for success on the all-mighty test. I could go on and on about the ridiculous things I've been asked to do in my classroom to "prove" to the drive-by education experts that I'm properly teaching (i.e., preparing my kids for the test), but I'm pretty sure this blog has length restrictions. Instead, I'll mention that most of them involve what my room looks like instead of what my lessons look like (word walls, objectives and standards posted in 65 different ways, desks arranged just-so), as well as my documentation of parent communication, special education accommodations, proof of assisting those with low benchmark scores, and other paperwork that prevents me from doing any real teaching. The most frustrating part is that these so-called experts observe my class for no more than 5 minutes and make a prediction as to whether my students will pass the test. According to their professional opinion, my kids are doomed. And people wonder why 33% of teachers leave the profession in the first 3 years?

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