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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

AOGB Classic: All The Rest Have 31, Except For February

Unfortunately I didn't have time to do my homework and prepare a new post for all you AOGB readers out there. For that, I'm truly sorry. Between initial wedding planning and big day NJ Ask test prep, among other things, my head has been swimming. On the flip side, once I do finally get the chance to write, I should have lots of interesting things to say! I hope you don't feel like I'm neglecting any of your blogs. If you do, just remember I've been neglecting mine as well.

In lieu of a new post I decided to repost an old classic that rehashes a fraction of the stress I'll be under over the next few weeks. I'm going to try and get a new post up by Friday but I make no promises. If not this week, next week. Definitely. I thank you in advance for your patience.:)

I can't speak for other states, but here in NJ we love to assess the hell out of our students. At my school, we even go as far as formally doing this every 9 weeks. This is a new thing this year and so far, the results have been quite disastrous. But you know what they say about assessments. They make an ass out of u and me. Oh wait, that's assuming. Whatever.

As if 9 week "assessments" weren't enough, my poor little third graders spend the entire year eating, sleeping and breathing the same mantra, "THE TEST IS COMING! THE TEST IS COMING!" Meanwhile, us teachers feel like the little engine that could's engineers repeating, "I THINK THEY CAN, I THINK THEY CAN..."

The test I am speaking of is the NJ Ask. It's this huge standardized test a la, the SAT's for eight year olds. So, before they even know how to write in cursive, these kids know all about anxiety. The NJ Ask is supposed to be a formal assessment of all skills the average third grader should be, at the very least, proficient in. It covers everything from from multiplication and division, to decoding and writing to a prompt. I think they might even ask kids for a recipe for how to make a good gumbo, I'm not really sure.

Basically, it's an all encompassing event, spanning a few days and a year's worth of material. This in itself wouldn't be a problem. If the test was given AT THE END OF A YEAR. But that, would of course, make sense.

No, here in NJ we give this test in March, cause you see, March is only three months shy of a school year and really, what's three months in the developmental stages of the average eight year old? I mean really, how much changes? Sure they reach new milestones every day, but wouldn't you rather waste the last three months of school and cram like hell the other seven to fit everything in? See! I thought so!

Now as most of you already know, this is my first full year with my own classroom. They say that teachers who are assigned test taking grades should feel honored that the powers that be saw something in them and not only hired them, but placed them in such a high pressure environment. They hand you the tools you need to suceed and then they say it: "Go. Turn the water into wine."

Some might see this as some sort of cleverly witted exaggeration. To those people I say, you haven't seen my group NOR have you seen the test. In fact, I haven't seen THE TEST either, but I have seen practice problems. I've also seen the disasters that occur when you show said problems to my bunch.

In a nutshell, this test is HARD. Hell, I don't always even know what the questions are asking. Right now the buzz revolves around open ended questions, hands on investigations and the three little words all my third graders repeatedly ignore: EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER.

I knew I was in for trouble when questions on HW went a little something like this:

Question: Looking at the graph, do you think more rain fell in March or in April? Explain.
Answer: Yes

Oh, and it gets worse.

The other day a teacher asked some of my students about how tall they thought the doorway was. One student estimated it to be about 7 gallons.

Then there's this latest classic:

During a lesson on making tree diagrams, my pullout teacher did three, THREE examples of all the combinations you could make by making a tree diagram. It was going pretty well. Until she said the dreaded words, "Now, YOU are going to try this one, ON YOUR OWN." 25 minutes of tree diagrams and the kids went solo. Two kids DREW ACTUAL TREES.

I so wish I was kidding right now.

What kills me is that my principal, come report cards, is very accepting of the fact that not all students will be A students. Infact, she just might be too accepting. Because if you are like her and accept that "most might actually be D students" then how in the hell can you turn around and expect THAT VERY SAME GROUP to be proficient or advanced proficient on a standardized test? This to me, does not compute.

Now, with a mere three weeks before the test, it's down to the wire. Short of a miracle, all teachers can do is cross their fingers and hope for the best. I know God has granted me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference. Now, if only my principal and the other bigwigs would grant me that same pardon.



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