State Tests

Discussion in 'General Education' started by TheChampion, Oct 15, 2011.

  1. TheChampion

    TheChampion New Member

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    Oct 15, 2011

    Hi everyone, Lately I've had an interest in elementary education (I think it would be sweet to be able to teach and integrate sustainability into my curriculum), but one thing that really bothers me about the teaching profession is state testing. The thing is that i don't want to just be doing test prep all year long, so I have a few questions concerning state testing for any teachers out there:

    1. What percentage of the stuff you teach over the school year would you say is strictly in order to prepare students for state tests (versus creative exercises, reading to the students, etc)?

    2. Do some districts focus more on state tests than others?

    Thank you for your time!
     
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  3. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Oct 15, 2011

    There's definitely a difference in how districts, schools, etc approach testing. I am a 4th grade teacher. That means I give the high stakes LEAP. Even if a child makes straight As - if they fail LEAP, they fail 4th grade. However, we don't do test prep. We teach. We follow the state curriculum and let that guide us. Our principal believes that if we teach what we are supposed to teach, and we teach it well, then our kids will do ok. When I changed schools I had the choice of 4th or 5th. 5th grade tests, but it's not high stakes. Even with that, I chose 4th. LEAP is just a test. I bust my butt to get my kids ready for life. That gets them ready for LEAP. Personally, I think elementary (esp. 4th :D) is the best age range there is.
     
  4. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Oct 15, 2011

    I agree with Christy that some schools emphasize it more than others. We hear a lot about not teaching to the test at our school, but teaching authentically. However, it's not what is really put into practice. It's like they know that's the best thing to do, but it's not practical to run things that way.

    Our school rating is based on test scores. Our admin's jobs are based on test scores. Now our evaluations in our district we be based half on student test scores-so if your kids don't score well, there is a good possibility you may be out of a job. As much as I don't agree with teaching to the test, I do understand why some teachers do it. I find the whole issue very frustrating.
     
  5. teacherfan

    teacherfan Cohort

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    Oct 16, 2011

    My school is very much test centered. We have been told to "teach to the test" and are encouraged to do a lot of test prep. Nothing matters as much as the test, unfortunately...
     
  6. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oct 16, 2011

    My state test focuses on literacy and math. So while I'm not teaching TO THE TEST, everything I teach gets my students ready for the test....as good readers, proficient writers, and critical math thinkers.
     
  7. GoldenPoppy

    GoldenPoppy Habitué

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    Oct 16, 2011

    I never think about our standardized testing until I have the testing materials in my hands. I've spent the year teaching my students critical thinking, reading comprehension, mathematical knowledge, and writing skills. They have the knowledge to perform well.

    As a private school we have our students compared to other private schools both locally and nationally. We always do well. I don't stress about it.

    That said, I know that I am in a special situation. I know that others are in pressure situations that depend upon the results of these tests. It's very sad that so much teaching is focused on those test scores.
     
  8. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Oct 16, 2011

    Everything I do is preparing the kids for the state tests as they are tested on our state standards.

    I don't teach test strategies except for seat stretches and deep breathing breaks.
     
  9. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    Oct 16, 2011

    Very similar situation for me--we do occasionally (as in a handful of times a year) do a practice page, comprehension story, or writing prompt that is formatted like the state test, just so they can get used to it, but otherwise we don't worry too much about it. If they have a strong grasp of the third grade standards, they will do fine on the test. I read to my students every day, and we do a lot of interesting activities.
     
  10. Youngteacher226

    Youngteacher226 Enthusiast

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    Unfortunately, because our state tests (reading & math) are in April this year, our school will be spending February & March "preparing for the test". I hate that time of year because we literally have to throw Social Studies & Science out of the window and do double reading and math daily. I can say though I am confident that if every teacher teaches authentically during the rest of the months, then their students will at least be prepared to tackle it. We have a good reading curriculum (Lucy Calkins) and with a little elbow grease, the kids know their stuff by test day. Our math curriculum is great but still, we supplement throughout the year and "clean up as we go" meaning not wait for crunch time, but use math intervention for the kids who need it.
     
  11. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Oct 16, 2011

    I think it really depends on the school. I think the schools that traditionally have gotten low scores (typically low ses schools) focus on the test the most to try to bring those up. I did a practicum in a 3rd grade classroom my junior year of college where the percentage of proficient students the year before was 6% in reading and 8% in math. It was an extremely low SES school- the school provided uniforms at the beginning of the year because the students literally wouldn't have anything to wear to school otherwise. They did nothing but test, test, test all day. In reading, every single day they did a test practice with a relased reading section and practice test questions. Same for math. They followed an extremely scripted program meant for students two years behind or more that was all test based. I hated it- it literally told you word for word what to say and you couldn't deviate from the script, and like I said it was all test all the time. The one valuable thing I got from that experience was the knowledge that I could not teach under that program- I knew that if I was ever offered a job at a school that used it I would need to turn it down. I did practicums at a lot of other schools in that district that weren't quite as low as this school, and although they didn't use that program, they did test, test, test all day every day. It must have been horrible for the students. I attended an elementary school that did test, test, test all day every day and as a student I HATED it. I can honestly say I did more games and hands-on-activities in class in middle school and high school then I did in 3rd grade. There is something wrong with that!

    My school does some test prep, but not anything near what I'd seen in my home state. We try to integrate talking about test-taking strategies into lessons, but we don't teach to the test or use any sort of practice test taking materials whatsoever. I am sort of lucky in that my admin assumes the kids in special ed won't pass, so there isn't much pressure on me. On the one hand, it's sad that they have low expectations for our IEP students, but on the other hand I don't do a single test prep thing at all (I am a firm believer that test practice is not an intervention) and no one says anything about it.
     
  12. TheChampion

    TheChampion New Member

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    Oct 18, 2011

    Awesome! Thank you for your input everyone, its been very helpful! That makes sense about schools with lower test scores being obligated to focus more attention to test prep. I think many of you agree with me when I say that hopefully the NCLB Act at least gets some changes made to it in the near future.

    Anyways, as I said earlier, I appreciate everyone's input, and I know everyone has busy lives (especially as a teacher), but I have one thing im curious about:

    Technically the state tests can be considered federal tests, due to the purpose of them being to aid state schools with federal money. Therefore, do the state tests test students primarily on state curriculum material, or does the federal government tack on more specific/additional material that they want the states to test students on? If the federal government asks for specifics, does this further restrict you as a teacher, hence taking away some of your creativity?

    Thank you all very much for your time!
     

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