If the test wasn’t around the corner, I would be planning a debate for my eighth graders around the banning of books, a culmination of a great literature unit on The chocolate war and WWII. Instead, I need to give a practice reading test.

Need is relative. A debate would help my students with some of the same skills they need to do well on the test. If it were November or February, I would go with the debate but we have two weeks before April break, and when the kids get back from that break, the test is on Tuesday. I know that I’ve taught my students a lot about reading and writing this year but frankly, it’s crunch time and now I have to teach them to study for *this test.*

I am not a fan of this test for so many reasons. Luckily, at my school I also don’t feel a huge amount of pressure to “teach to the test.” There is an understanding that good teaching that gets at standards and essential academic and life skills takes precendence over “test prep.” Nonetheless, there is the lingering knowledge that our school lives and dies partly by these tests… and the idea out there that a teacher’s worth is determined by the amount his or her students grow on the test.

Mostly, I don’t think it’s right to send students into a test without some practice and a sense that they know what’s coming and that they can do it—even though my students have already made it into high school and their middle school test scores will soon become irrelevant data points.

Anyway, just taking a moment to remark on the fact that I just spent two hours inputting the test questions, answers, and standards for each question into a computer program so it can grade the multiple choice questions electronically, instead of planning a debate. Instead of allowing students to build sound evidence-based arguments on real issues, I am giving them practice choosing the best of someone else’s answers to someone else’s questions on a text with no context. Feels like a loss to me…


[image credit: en.wikipedia.org]

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