In which my head explodes

I am deeply tempted to upload today’s entire assignment so you can see it. I thought it was going to be an easy Halloween blowoff, ten dead-simple story problems, most of which boiled down to “multiply these two numbers together,” and maybe two of which boiled down to “divide these two numbers.” Like, this is the first question:

Six spooky scary skeletons each send shivers down seven spines. How many shivers are sent?

Only 33 of the 59 students who have completed the assignment managed to figure out to multiply six and seven to get 42.

Also, I have 142 students and as of 3:15 only 59 have completed the assignment.

I don’t know how to fix middle school students who literally can’t figure out when to multiply. They actually and genuinely don’t know what the four basic operations of mathematics are for. I’ve never not had kids who were behind, but this is shockingly bad nonetheless.

One more class period today. I can do this.

(Oh, and also, one of the biggest and most obvious lies the school corporation was telling when they were talking about us returning to class was that there were somehow going to be enough subs during a pandemic, when there are never enough subs, period. There was an email every day this week begging teachers to cover for other people who were out. Today we had five teachers out. Total number of subs: zero. They just kept saying “Oh, we’ve contracted out for that,” like that was an answer that was going to matter.)

Even more standardized testing nonsense

do-not-read-400x301…because I can never, ever stop talking about this.

You may recall, if you’ve been reading for a bit, my post where I declared all grades to be arbitrary bullshit.  Yes, all grades.  Go ahead and click the link for additional explanation, or just click here to get the whole three-part series.  What is also arbitrary bullshit, always, is how we determine what is a “pass” and a “fail” on a standardized test.

Lemme back up.

I didn’t do any teaching today.  The first round of the ISTEP test is next week.  It’s what they call the “Applied Skills” portion of the test, with the multiple choice part coming in either the last week of April or the first week of May; I don’t remember.  Basically, the Applied Skills portion of ISTEP is the story problems part.  It’s still paper-based and the kids have to write everything out and show all of their work, which is why it’s so much earlier than the rest of the test– because it can’t be graded by a machine.

I spent all day today with The Hunger Games playing on my class DVD player, calling my kids back for what are called test talks— a brief three- or four-minute conference with me where we went over their ISTEP score from last year, their performance on the three Acuity tests over the course of this year, and– and this was a new wrinkle I threw in this year– their performance, specifically, on the Applied Skills portion of last year’s ISTEP.

It will not surprise you, I think, regardless of whether you teach or not, to discover that kids (not just mine) tend to have a harder time with open-ended story problems than they do with (somewhat) more objective multiple-choice problems.  For one, you can’t guess your way through an open-ended question, and just multiplying together every number you can find– the go-to “I don’t get this” reaction– is not often the right response.   I had many, many conversations today where I praised a kid on their high ISTEP score, then flipped the scoresheet over to the other side and watched their faces fall when I showed them their scores on the objective portion of the test.  My reason for doing this?  Those are the money points.  Nearly all of my kids can substantially improve their ISTEP scores just by being a little bit more conscientious on the applied skills test they take on Tuesday.  It’s literally a matter of moving some zeroes to ones.  Individual points on this test count more toward their overall score than a single question on a multiple-choice test will, so if they focus on doing their best on Tuesday they’ve got a really good chance of bringing up their overall score.

Back to arbitrary bullshit:  I discovered today, and I’d suspected this before but I hadn’t actually seen proof, that it is possible to pass the ISTEP for mathematics in seventh and eighth grade and get no points whatsoever on the entire Applied Skills portion of the test.  I have at least two kids who pulled that off– literally zero Applied Skills points, but a pass on the overall test.  No points at all for “Figure the area of a rectangle that is four feet by three feet,” but we’ll pass you if you can figure out that C, 12, is the answer if the problem is 4×3.

You tell me how useful a “pass” actually is under those circumstances.