Here’s why standardized testing doesn’t work

original-1First things first:  I’m pretty convinced there’s not gonna be school tomorrow.  Again. The prediction for tomorrow morning between five and seven AM has windchill temperatures in between twenty and twenty-five degrees below zero.  It’s supposed to warm up quickly after about nine or ten o’clock, and be almost civilized by the end of the day, but I just don’t see any way that they’re making kids walk to school/wait for buses in that kind of wind chill.  Twenty below has been the trigger for the last several school closings and there’s no good reason to assume tomorrow will be any different.

I had tests planned for today for both of my seventh grade groups but the eighth grade test was scheduled for tomorrow.  I spent most of my time in the gym before school grabbing my algebra kids and saying things like “Hey, remember how I said there was a test tomorrow?  I lied.  It’s today.”  It is either a sign that my kids really like me or that they just don’t care that much about their grades that none of them bothered to gripe about not having time to study.

My seventh graders, though, knew that there was a test today.  We’ve been talking about it for a week and reviewing for a couple of days. And for both of my goddamn groups today they knew what slope was and how it worked during the first class period and then bombed the shit out of what should have been a pretty easy test during the second.  And I have no idea why.  I bet if I give it to them again tomorrow or Monday they’ll do goddamn fine.  But not today, for whatever reason, even though I was getting correct answers to everything I threw at them during the first period of class when we were reviewing.

Lesson is: sometimes kids don’t know shit, even if they knew shit before, and you can’t always predict when those days will happen.  My first and second hour kids got the worst results I have ever seen as a math teacher on their window test today.  And again: it was not a hard test.  That record lasted an hour and forty minutes, until my third and fourth hour kids took the same test and did even worse.  If today had been ISTEP day they’d have fired me already.  And the next test we take they might get the highest scores in the seventh grade.  What happened?  Hell if I know.  They knew it and then they didn’t.  And that’s just the fuck how it works sometimes.

We’ll post-mortem it on Monday, I guess. Er… well, maybe tomorrow.  But I kinda doubt it.

27 thoughts on “Here’s why standardized testing doesn’t work

  1. Sometimes I wonder what we would do if we actually didn’t lose instructional days to test our kids to see if they were ready for the test! And you’re exactly right: some days the kids are fine, and some days they just aren’t. Testing doesn’t account for that. Best of luck surviving such cold temps!

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  2. Standardized testing especially doesn’t work for teenagers. Studies have found that their brains are literally restructuring (getting rid of “unneeded” neural connections, strengthening others) at this time of their lives, and that makes for some pretty damn inconsistent thinking. They’re not (usually) being deliberately difficult; they truly don’t know things that they knew just fine the day before, and will now again sometime later.

    My own time as a teacher was brief, and years ago, but I saw enough of the nonsense that teachers have to go through that I do not envy you one bit.

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  3. I gave a mini-project…colored pencils, produce a product, etc…all you had to do was graph three equations on 1 graph and then compare the lines and tell which of the three had the greatest slope and which had the greatest y-intercept. The f#%!#$g equations were in SLOPE INTERCEPT Form. We’ve been doing this for weeks. How could they fail that??? But many did..only about 9 out of all my 3 sections were A papers

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  4. HA! Been there, done that. They continually exceed my low expectations some times, and then the next day will astound me with their incisive insights. I think it is the hormones. Hey, that’s what they used to say about ME.

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    1. I’d found something like that but while I was adjunct teaching in the county college. I’d love to know why it is some days the students are in the groove and some days they’re just dead.

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  5. I love your posts about teaching. My mother is a math teacher, and I’m always hearing similar stories from her…only with fewer f-bombs lol. Your versions are much more entertaining.

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  6. You have to emphasize definitions in mathematics, and quiz them on definitions frequently. If you can drill it in their heads that slope is rise over run, and have them all memorize the formula, then the only accounting for their poor scores would be poor arithmetic skills, assuming they’ve all mastered the definition and formula.

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      1. Look bud, I was a math department chair for many years, and if I saw results like you’ve produced, I’d be concerned at the least and would likely tell the principal not to rehire you…digest that before your next smartass comment.

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        1. PS: Teacher of the Year twice in the last four years. Best standardized test score improvements in my building two years ago, second-best last year. I’m better at my job than you are at yours. And this is my blog. I’ll smartass however the hell I want, thanks.

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          1. ” I’m better at my job than you are at yours.” LMAO…if you only knew how many students I’ve taught REAL math to, not just slope, but stuff you don’t know how to do, like, say, integrate the square of cosine…but, yes, be proud of your 1/2 best of the building award.

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    1. I do, and so do the students I’ve successfully taught…thanks for making me your enemy when I was simply offering some good advice…you’re a class act.

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      1. “Teach them the definition” is not good advice. “Teach them the definition” is simplistic and insulting. And if you’re elevating this to “making me your enemy,” I suspect you have bigger problems than me posting a snarky comment with a smiley face on the end of it on my blog. But, again: enjoy your money and your scary real math. I’ll keep teaching the fake stuff.

        (Wait. Your students enjoy your money, too? Now I want to take your class…)

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        1. “teach them the definition” is extremely important and overlooked advice. Definitions in mathematics are everything…and if you knew anything about mathematics, you’d know that the more “SCARY” math you know, the more money you will “enjoy.” Seriously, quiz your kids on the definitions, it will pay off for you and them.

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  7. You need to realize that you hold their futures in your hands. The harder you work to ensure they know certain things, the better off they will be. If a student doesn’t understand slope, she will have a harder time in algebra, and if so, may not be able to go on to PreCalculus and Calculus in high school, which means she has to compete much more with students who did learn these things…please keep this in mind the next time you say “derp” or whatever your students are teaching YOU.

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              1. So how does one integrate the square of cosine? “Derp”
                Ah, yes, and how does one teach the unit circle? “Derp”
                Right! And how does one square a binomail? “Derp”
                Yes, but why is my student not understanding slope? “Derp”
                You’re lucky you’re Canadian.

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