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08 Mar 2006 - 23:14
Christopher is upstairs screaming and crying — I have also heard the f-word — because I've missed my train to the city and thus will be home tonight & able to make him STUDY FOR THE STATE TEST. This is occasion for screaming, crying, and f-wording because he is the ONLY child in the ENTIRE SCHOOL who is being FORCED to STUDY FOR THE STATE TEST. That, I believe. There's no reason a parent should do what I'm doing unless he or she wants to. [update 6-16-06: wrong] Even if he or she did want to, I'm not sure most parents could, on short notice, put together a STUDY FOR THE STATE TEST PROGRAM. The reason I can do it is that I've spent the past 4 months of my life a) figuring out what 'pre-algebra' is, and b) assembling a superb collection of 'pre-algebra' worksheets, if I do say so myself. (Most of them are linked on the Our Favorite Math Supplements for Kids page on the sidebar.)* From there it was a reasonably short hop to figuring out the state test. My point: I'm possibly the only parent in all of Irvington — apart from the 6th grade parent who actually is a math teacher in real life — who's in a position to do what I'm doing. You can be a genius at math, you can work in a math-related profession; that doesn't mean you're going to know what's in 'pre-algebra' or what's going to be covered in a brand-new, never-before-administered, annual 6th grade state assessment.
do you see steam coming out of my ears? The reason I missed my train is that I had to take Christopher & his friend M. to tennis. In the car they both went nuts over the fact that Christopher is being FORCED TO STUDY FOR THE STATE TEST. They were horrid. Both boys say, and I believe them, that virtually every single teacher they have — they named names — has told them they shouldn't study for the state test because they don't know what will be on it. I'm furious. I'm so furious I'm going to be writing a non-furious email to the principal when I calm down. [update 6-16-06: nope, didn't do it] The message being given to Christopher, which directly contradicts the message we are giving him at home, is:
let's start with 'we don't know what's going to be on the test' 4 problems:
'the only reason to study for a test is to get a good grade' Appalling. Is the content being tested on the state test worth knowing or not? If it's worth knowing, it's worth studying.
'there is no intrinsic value in study and learning' Ditto.
paying the school to make my job harder Ed and I are bookish people. Two Ph.D.s, 5 published books between us, etc. We believe in study and learning. We are the 'lifelong learners' it is the mission of IUFSD to create (SEE: 4th paragraph from the bottom). At home we are trying to teach Christopher that hard work is good, going above and beyond what's called for is good, learning is good. Why are we studying for the state test when nobody else is studying for the state test? Because we can. Because we have an opportunity. Because we believe 6th grade mathematics is important and we want Christopher to master it. That's what we tell Christopher. Then he goes to school and the grownups there tell him not to study for the test because he doesn't know what will be on it. And after that we have screaming, we have the F-word, we have eye-rolling and hectoring even from Christopher's friends.
vignette "People think you're crazy, Mom. Do you know that?"* Won't be the first time.
update from Carolyn This is the truth:
I think what you're seeing here echoes a general sentiment among teachers (here at least) that the CSAPs (the CO state equivalent) are capricious if not malevolent, and that they have no clear control over the test's outcome for kids, either as individual or in groups. I think they feel the whole exercise is doomed to failure.
and from Doug!
Yeah. Of course it's always the same schools that get the good scores and the same schools that get the bad scores. (Bar a few schools getting better or worse each year.) Perhaps the tests are delivered in a Chevrolet Caprice?
It took me a couple of minutes to get that one —
* I've got the two most important resources at this particular link, but do a search on the entire page if you're looking for material; I'm afraid some of the stuff may be scattered around in various categories.
*'crazy' meaning: crazy math-tutoring mom, crazy math-test-studying mom, etc. In the same vein as homework Nazi
don't study for the test
news from nowhere (placement in accelerated science)
don't study for the test part 2
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Catherine, Is this test going to keep him from passing into the 7th grade? Is this test going to assess the curriculum that the school is using? Is this test going to assess the effectiveness of his teacher's teaching? If the answer to the first question is "no" -- then I can see why no one is studying for the test. Why mask a lousy curriculum and or teacher? -- NicksMama - 08 Mar 2006
Why mask a lousy curriculum and or teacher? Good point. do some sentence combining instead. I typed out some from the middle school book and cut them up. My writing hating son actually enjoyed it. Quite a bit. It was a bear of a sentence by Sherwood Anderson. -- SusanS - 08 Mar 2006
I think what you're seeing here echoes a general sentiment among teachers (here at least) that the CSAPs (the CO state equivalent) are capricious if not malevolent, and that they have no clear control over the test's outcome for kids, either as individual or in groups. I think they feel the whole exercise is doomed to failure. I see no reason to think that CO is special in this way, either. -- CarolynJohnston - 08 Mar 2006
"...a general sentiment among teachers ... that the CSAPs ... are capricious...." Yeah. Of course it's always the same schools that get the good scores and the same schools that get the bad scores. (Bar a few schools getting better or worse each year.) Perhaps the tests are delivered in a Chevrolet Caprice? -- DougSundseth - 09 Mar 2006
Is this test going to keep him from passing into the 7th grade? Is this test going to assess the curriculum that the school is using? Is this test going to assess the effectiveness of his teacher's teaching? I don't care about any of that. I care that he master this material. The school's curriculum is lousy; the teaching is bad. He needs to learn this material anyway. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Susan! I found a great sentence combining sheet! Let me find it....I was going to post it. (Just one so far, but it looked cool.) -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I think what you're seeing here echoes a general sentiment among teachers (here at least) that the CSAPs (the CO state equivalent) are capricious if not malevolent, and that they have no clear control over the test's outcome for kids, either as individual or in groups. I think they feel the whole exercise is doomed to failure. Absolutely. In fact, I'm ADDING THAT TO MY POST! -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
That's of course why the teacher is putting up 'inspirational' quotes about crashing into walls and not thinking about what you've lost on the blackboard. Excuse me. White board. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
free sentence combining sheet! I found one of the links: Scrambled Sentences from Schoolhouse Teach (pdf file) -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
oops — here's the answer key -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Yeah,this is the de rigeur response to mandated standardized testing. Don't make an effort. Hopefully, enough schools will eventually fail and the whole idea of testing will be scrapped. Then its back to business as usual. I don't think they quite realize that the tide is turning and parents are learning more and more about what is going on in the schools and they don't like what they see. Couple that with the ever increasing taxes schools are gobbling up and its clear there will be a general taxpayer revolt sooner (I think) rather than later. -- KDeRosa - 09 Mar 2006
oh heck I have another one, but I don't have the link. I'll email it to you. It looks like teachers tend to call these things 'scrambled sentences,' so I'm going to do some more Googling to see what's out there... -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Ken I'm going to have to spend some time thinking my way out of the bag before I say anything. The alliance amongst teachers, administrators, parents, and students here is profound. Our entire community is As One. The kids' behavior in the car today was borderline shocking, even for middle-schoolers. Christopher's friend M., who is a great kid, was close to being furious at me. The adults don't like it, either. Even the 'Homework Nazi,' the mom who's tanning my hide on homework & her kids' grades, allowed one of her kids to call Christopher last night, in the middle of what she knew would be my study session with Christopher, to ask him to come spend the night Saturday. An overnight on Saturday would, of course, wipe out both weekend days forstudy, since he'd be gone on Saturday and sleep-deprived on Sunday. When I said no, the mom herself got on the phone with Christopher and began pushing and bargaining. 'Tell your mom I'll bring you right home, first thing in the morning; tell your mom you can come over after basketball and I'll bring you right home,' etc. This is a parent! Bargaining with somebody else's kid! This went on and on until finally I snatched the phone away from Christopher mid-sentence and told the mom, 'We can't do anything this weekend, would you like the kids to have a sleep-over the weekend after?' Deer in the headlights. I learned today that in ALL THREE OF MS. KAHL'S 'ACCELERATED' MATH CLASSES, only two of the kids got 4s - 'exceeds state standards' - on the practice test. Two kids out of 60 exceed state standards. I don't know how many of the other parents are aware of this, but some of them have to be. The big problem last year was that Ms. Kahl's grades reflected the quality of her teaching. Kids were getting 20s and 30s on tests. This year kids are gettings 80s and 90s, so the parents think everything's fine. Nothing is fine. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
It's incredible to think that a SCHOOL could be helpless in the face of a standardized test. How do Kaplan and Princeton Review stay in business? How do they manage to raise SAT scores an average of — is it 200 points? (100?) That's not a small gain. Yet somehow they do it. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Speaking of capricious and malevalent testing, did you catch this article in the NY Times today? "About 4,000 students who took the SAT last October received test scores that were lower than they should have been — some by as much as 100 points — because of technical problems in the scoring process, the College Board said yesterday." The only way these technical problems were caught is that some students complained about low scores. Otherwise, the company would have gotten away with it!! -- AnneDwyer - 09 Mar 2006
whoa good grief thanks for the tip! -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I'm in a state of active suspense about the new grade 6 math test. How can only TWO kids out of 60 in the ACCELERATED MATH CLASS be scoring 4s on the practice test? (And I think this practice test comes from the state, though I don't know that for sure....) -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
All I know is they gave them a practice test and told them their scores. Two kids got 4s. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Tomorrow I'll post the story problems the kids came home with today. Amazing. Algebra problems when they've been taught no algebra. So we go the whole year with no story problems and suddenly, ojne week before the test, they get 7 algebra problems dumped in their laps. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Well, I'm going to jump in late and probably get yelled at. Ideally, students shouldn't study for this test because they shouldn't have to. These tests are to assess the school. For the purpose of assessing the school, the results will be more accurate if there's no special preparation. (Which also means there shouldn't have been any week-before cram sessions, and no top-secret workbooks, either.) NicksMama?'s question is a valid one: "Why mask a lousy curriculum and or teacher?" IF the curriculum matches the state requirements, and IF the school is teaching to mastery, THEN the students should be prepared for anything the test throws at them! (It's obvious that the school doesn't think they're prepared, otherwise why a week worth of cram sessions?) But assessing the school does nothing for Christopher. He can't wait around for the state to discover and take action on the deficiencies in his school. The practices revealed some holes in Christopher's skill set. Test or no, these need to be addressed. So he's not really studying "for the test." He's studying skills he'll need to learn, sooner or later. Sensible to make it "sooner" and get it over with! -- OldGrouch - 09 Mar 2006
"I think what you're seeing here echoes a general sentiment among teachers (here at least) that the CSAPs (the CO state equivalent) are capricious if not malevolent, and that they have no clear control over the test's outcome for kids, either as individual or in groups. I think they feel the whole exercise is doomed to failure." Let's kill the messenger. So, public school is doomed. Perhaps teachers think that the problem is defined only by what they see walking in the classroom each day. Unfortunately, teachers tend to see the problem as what they see, not what parents see. Teachers see a time-slice problem (How can I get these kids ready to take the test this year?); parents see a longitudinal problem (How can the school expect so little year after year?). Teachers see their own personal teaching problems; parents see systemic problems. This is not rocket science. This is basic arithmetic. Schools and teachers should laugh at these tests. There should be little or no time spent on preparing for these tests. If a school has to go into panic mode before the tests, then there is something seriously wrong. It's not about more money. It's not about lower student-teacher ratios. It's not even about more training for teachers. There is a fundamental philosophical problem with content, skills, mastery, setting specific expectations, and year-to-year testing. -- SteveH - 09 Mar 2006
Don Killgallon's site on sentence composing. No worksheets, but it does give you instructions on how to create your own. -- SmartestTractor - 09 Mar 2006
This is not rocket science. This is basic arithmetic. Schools and teachers should laugh at these tests. There should be little or no time spent on preparing for these tests. If a school has to go into panic mode before the tests, then there is something seriously wrong. It's not about more money. It's not about lower student-teacher ratios. It's not even about more training for teachers. There is a fundamental philosophical problem with content, skills, mastery, setting specific expectations, and year-to-year testing. I agree with you Steve, except...as far as I can tell, the general fuzziness of math ed pervades the tests. These stupid extended response type questions are an artificial requirement of the standardized tests. I think you would agree that it is fine for teachers to discuss with students how they solved their problems. I think it's stupid, though, how they expect paragraphs for extended response explanations. I am happy that that is not part of the regular curriculum, but the state test requires it. I'm old enough that I had never heard of test prep classes when I took the SAT and ACT. And I'm stubborn enough to think that's still the way it should be. I just wish that today's standardized math tests just accepted right answers as enough explanation of a student's ability. -- DanK - 09 Mar 2006
"..as far as I can tell, the general fuzziness of math ed pervades the tests." Yes, that is a problem. In our state, the Department of Education took a proactive approach to the problem of testing. They adopted the very fuzzy New Standards Reference Exam (NSRE from the U. of Pittsburgh). They are now moving to something else - perhaps a little bit better, but I can't tell - no sample tests to look at. (There goes the longitudinal data.) In addition to being fuzzy, the tests set very low expectations. However, the schools and the state are very happy when they achieve a "High Performing" rating. I see this as the biggest problem of standardized testing. The low expectations on the tests become the maximum that will be achieved. Parents are putting their kids into private schools not because they can give a detailed explanation of why the math curriculum is poor, but because of low expectations - not just in math, but in all subjects. I do notice, however, that most schools and teachers do not complain so much about what is on the test or the type of test, but that there is a test; that there is accountability. This is understandable. If I were a sixth grade teacher, I would not like the prospect of getting kids, who barely know their times table, ready for any kind of sixth grade math test. The answer is not to make the test and accountability go away. On one hand, I like standardized testing because it forces at least some minimal level of accountabiity, but on the other hand, they use it as a maximum level to be achieved, not a minimum level. Worst of all, these tests are used to DEFINE local curricula. In that sense, I am against NCLB and standardized testing because it gives schools something to hide behind. It gives them an excuse for not doing more. Ironically, many schools can't even meet these self-imposed (by the state DOE) low expectations. They select the curricula, they select the tests, they set the standards, and still many can't meet them. Without standardized tests, there is no accountability. With tests, there is official acceptance of low expectations with no pressure to do more. -- SteveH - 09 Mar 2006
Old Grouch These tests are to assess the school. For the purpose of assessing the school, the results will be more accurate if there's no special preparation. (Which also means there shouldn't have been any week-before cram sessions, and no top-secret workbooks, either.) Yes, this is absolutely true. The purpose of the test is to ASSESS THE SCHOOL. However, not one of the kids has been told this by any of the teachers as far as I can see. A friend of mine has told her kids exactly this and I salute her. I've told Christopher that the purpose of the test is to assess the school, which naturally he's turned into a weapon to use against me.....which is fine. Shows good logic, in any case. I want him to study for the test for several reasons: a) tests crank up the competitive juices. This really is an 'opportunity' for me to get him to do more serious work than he would otherwise b) tests help you focus: this test has been incredibly good for me because it's finally helped me bring 'pre-algebra' into focus. The Glencoe book is fantastically helpful, as a matter of fact. Because of the pressure of this test, I've gotten organized. (I realize this item is about me, not him. On the other hand, it's not bad for him to get a 'Big Picture' sense of pre-algebra.) c) the open-ended questions are critically important, and basically NONE of the kids at the school can do them. They can only do the multiple choice items. The Glencoe test prep booklet is the first decent set of grade-level word problems we've had to do, and we've done every single one of them. d) I want him to know that we take tests seriously. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
oh! wait! Those aren't my only reasons. I have two more. ONE: I don't trust the school when they tell the kids not to study. Ms. Kahl has told her class that if they get 1s or 2s (a distinct possibility, from the sound of it) they'll get demoted to Phase 3. Are these scores being entered in their permanent records? Yes. Are these scores used for purposes other than to assess the school? No one's told me what they do with them. I do know, IIRC, that the Johns Hopkins program accepts a 4 on our tests as sufficient to enroll a kid in one of their gifted programs. That tells me.....these scores don't just assess the school. They become part of what is 'known' about the child. TWO: These tests may assess the school, but the individual scores are branded onto the kids' foreheads. They all know their scores, and they all talk about their scores. I want Christopher to get a '4' and to be seen by the teachers & kids as 'a 4.' Two years ago the guidance counselor told me Christopher was a 3. Those were his exact words: HE'S A THREE. People think that way whether they're supposed to or not. Christopher is getting Bs and Cs in middle school. He's seen as an average, bummy boy. In constrast, 'X,' a boy in Christopher's class, is seen as extremely bright, headed for great things academically, etc. They've already separated the kids out into the brains and the also-rans. Christopher seems to be an also-ran. (I could be wrong about this.) Expectations always affect behavior, and a 4 would be a big help right about now. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I really can't express how unpleasant the scene in the car was last night. There is intense pressure out there to 'stay in your place.' My place, apparently, is mother-of-a-B-student. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Old Grouch The practices revealed some holes in Christopher's skill set. Test or no, these need to be addressed. So he's not really studying "for the test." He's studying skills he'll need to learn, sooner or later. Sensible to make it "sooner" and get it over with! WOW! THANK YOU! I'm tongue-tied, trying to explain why we're 'studying for the test.' We ARE studying for the test; if I can swing it, I want a 4 entered in his permanent record instead of a 3. HOWEVER, far more important is exactly what you say here. The GLENCOE 'Diagnose - Prescribe - Practice' workbook has been a huge help; it really does let me diagnose - prescribe - practice. Not being a teacher myself, and not being especially proficient in math, it's extremely hard for me to see the holes in Christopher's knowledge. And, as you say, if we don't teach him this stuff now, when do we do it? The State standards, as far as I understand them, are completely reasonable. HE SHOULD KNOW THIS STUFF - AND HE SHOULD BE ABLE TO APPLY IT IN SIMPLE WORD PROBLEMS -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
STEVE This is not rocket science. This is basic arithmetic. Schools and teachers should laugh at these tests. There should be little or no time spent on preparing for these tests. If a school has to go into panic mode before the tests, then there is something seriously wrong. That's where I am. Obviously the math teacher is so panicked she's writing inspirational sayings on the blackboard. She's hoping for a miracle; she's hoping the kids will pull it out of the fire in the end. Or else she's hoping they won't completely panic themselves and just give up in the middle of the test. WHY CAN'T THEY DO THESE PROBLEMS?????? And in this case, none of them can. The smartest kid in the class did 19 out of 24. This kid is way out in front of the pack, and that's the best she could do. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Our test doesn't seem to be terrible on the 'explain your answer' business. I'll have to post some of the open-answer questions. They do, sometimes, ask students to 'explain' and I've found that confusing. But the questions themselves are problems these kids should absolutely be able to do. AND REMEMBER: THESE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE BRAINY, GIFTED, MATH-BRAIN KIDS. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Here's a sample problem from the practice test posted on the state Department of Ed website:
-- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I see this as the biggest problem of standardized testing. The low expectations on the tests become the maximum that will be achieved. AND AS YOU POINT OUT, THEY CAN'T EVEN MEET THESE STANDARDS. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I could be wrong about this, but my sense is that in our case the math department isn't even thinking intelligently about what to do to get kids ready for this test. Ms. Kahl, teaching accelerated math, has spent the entire year teaching rote memorization of formulas and procedures - and slapping them with the occasional 'Extended Response' problem they can't do. How does that make sense? Our state test is no mystery; there's a sample posted online. That test contains precisely ZERO extended response problems requiring the use of modular arithmetic to solve. So why did the class focus on Extended Response problems? The state test DOES require a full day of testing on open-ended applications, AKA word problems. Why weren't the kids doing simple-to-intermediate-to-complex word problems throughout the entire school year? -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I don't know how you've been teaching these problems, but the way that I'd try for that wildflower problem is something like this: 1) What is the whole? (20) 2) What is the part we want to know about? (A: 12, B: 6) 3) What is the fraction -- the ratio of the part to the whole? (A: 12/20, B: 6/20) 4) Reduce the fraction to lowest terms. The method should be pretty easy to extend to other problems of the same sort. And understanding the concept of "the whole" seems broadly valuable to me. It will be used again many times. -- DougSundseth - 09 Mar 2006
THANK YOU!! I have GOT to 'harvest' all these approaches and get them organized into one post - and put on the math lessons page... -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
OK, at least I've recorded the URL for this Thread; I'll get the others.... -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
The state requires a FULL DAY OF TESTING? For what by my calculations are 12 year olds? Now I've done two three hour exams in a day, and that was tiring but doable at 15 or older. But there's a big difference in maturity between 12 and 15. What on earth is the marginal information you could get by a full day of testing versus a 50 minute test? Or perhaps, two 50 minute tests? How do they handle toilet stops? Lunch? Exercise? -- TracyW - 09 Mar 2006
I'm not sure how they're broken down, but it actually goes on for a week, or nearly. That's just for the state. -- SusanS - 09 Mar 2006
You know, I love Americans. You are great, friendly, kind people. But I am becoming more and more convinced there's something about the culture that drives people to extremes. Your restaurants either serve enough food per meal to last a week, or three snow peas and a strip of beef very artistically arranged. The state doesn't just test, they test for a WEEK? -- TracyW - 09 Mar 2006
Ah well, you probably think Kiwis are just as funny. Or, at least the Americans who have lived here. -- TracyW - 09 Mar 2006
Kiwis are pretty funny. But I agree, we Americans are nuts in our own special way. -- CarolynJohnston - 09 Mar 2006
For what by my calculations are 12 year olds? CHRISTOPHER IS 11 1/2! -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
IT'S TWO DAYS OF TESTING -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Actually, it's two days of an hour or two of testing. They spread it out. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I thought ours was longer. It may be different for different years. I'll have to find out. I know they like to test in the morning, for obvious reasons. -- SusanS - 09 Mar 2006
wait! a week? a week of testing? for real? -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
they must do all the tests the same week..... -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
Tracy I thought western cultures tended to go to extremes.....(I know NOTHING about 'western cultures' write large btw) I was assuming that because of Nisbett's book on Asian versus Western cultures & the 'logic of noncontradiction' How Asians and Westerners Think Differently How Asians and Westerners Think Differently, part 2 It's interesting stuff, and it would certainly contribute to 'going to extremes.' One of the things Nisbett finds is that Asians, when they disagree, will instantly look for consensus. Westerners will polarize. But he's talking about 'Westerners,' not just Americans. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
I just asked Christopher about the test. It's fine, I think. It's one hour each day. I think they do multiple choice the first day, then 'open answer' or 'open response' (where you have to work the problem, show your work, etc.) the second day. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
It's fine, I think. It's one hour each day. Phew! Much more civilised. I thought western cultures tended to go to extremes..... I don't know enough about eastern cultures, but they seem to go to extremes too. E.g. the overseas-Chinese work ethic makes the Protestant work ethic look like lazing around in bed with a glass of wine. Or, on a more serious level, facism in Japan was as nasty as that in Germany, and communism even more lethal. An extreme which the USA has never gone to. That the tests don't go on for a whole week is leading me to modify my original conclusion though. Perhaps Americans only go to extremes when it comes to food and exercise. (Weirdly, when I was living in the USA, I wound up eating much more healthily than I do in NZ. The supermarkets seemed split between health food, fruit, veges, heavily wholemeal bread, etc, and food very high in sugar and fats. I couldn't tolerate the sugar and fats, so I wound up eating like a health nut. Actually lost weight, though that was probably because my job had me on my feet each day every day.) -- TracyW - 09 Mar 2006
I'll have to find out the specifics. I could have sworn there were years where it went all week, but maybe it just felt that way. I do know that some have been over 2 days, for sure. It's different for the different grades, depending on what they're testing for. -- SusanS - 09 Mar 2006
I don't know enough about eastern cultures, but they seem to go to extremes too. E.g. the overseas-Chinese work ethic makes the Protestant work ethic look like lazing around in bed with a glass of wine. I'm so out of my depth here it's ridiculous. The one thing I do 'know' is that, universally, historians (& I think poli sci types) speak of Asian cultures as 'consensus cultures.' oh, that's interesting....do you know any of Cass Sunstein's work on 'group polarization'? I think the paper is easily findable. He has a whole analysis of groups going to extremes. It's exactly what you'd expect. Any time people speak only to other people they already agree with their position becomes more extreme. He's shown this in juries, in particular. -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
oh, this is great! Sunstein has a short post about an experiment on group polarization in CO: deliberation leading to polarization -- CatherineJohnson - 09 Mar 2006
This phenomenon is one reason I have a bit of a 'contrarian rule' for myself (apart from the fact that I'm a natural born contrarian...) I always force myself to contemplate what aspects of constructivism might be right, or might be things I already agree with without realizing it, or might be 'wrong for the right reason' (i.e. motivated by the same problems I'm motivated by).....etc., etc. Also: what aspects have I failed to understand or turned into a straw man? It's actually possible to be opinionated (CHECK) and carry on asking yourself these questions.... -- CatherineJohnson - 10 Mar 2006
Okay Tracy and Catherine, I did my homework. This year, fifth grade in IL, students start the ISATs this Monday. Testing Monday and Tuesday is for "much of the day," followed by more testing Wednesday and Thursday mornings (shorter). I do believe that there has been more expected on certain years. I shall continue my undercover work as I run into hapless teachers. In IL certain years have only one subject while others cover more. I have no idea about NCLB. I just remember getting these notices home telling us to make sure the kids were well-rested and fed before they came to school. I have been told by teachers that they never know what the state will have on the test because they change it in some way almost yearly. For instance, after including a pretty strenuous writing section they up and decided not to have it in anymore. This, after many districts frantically put in pricey writing programs to get by such tests. After taking it out for a year or so, they up and put it back in, so the schools are now scrambling again to create third grade essayists. -- SusanS - 10 Mar 2006
wow that's a lot of testing is it all the subjects? omg that sounds like a nightmare what's going on there???? my sense is that NY isn't so changeable......but it's entirely possible teachers & administrators would see it differently Still, I think I would have heard more about it if they did. There's angst over math, and aggravation that the math standards are being changed back again. I think when Carolyn & Rudbeckia went through high school (no, maybe when Carolyn did) there was a traditional Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 arrangement. Then they changed it to two 1 1/2-year long integrated courses. The awkwardness of the 1 1/2 year structure seems to have driven everyone nuts, so this year (I think) they're going back to the old structure AND they've been influenced by Singapore Math & are trying to reduce the number of topics and teach in more depth.....(I can't say that I see that's happened given the insane content level in Christopher's course, but that's been the goal). So, is that a lot of changes? I'm not sure. The other thing is that math continues to be a headache, in spite of efforts at reform, and everyone knows it. I get the sense that teachers aren't enthusiastic about more changes, but at the same time aren't thrilled with the structure we have had But I could be wrong. -- CatherineJohnson - 10 Mar 2006
One of the things I find interesting about teacher anger over testing is how easily they complain about NCLB (much ire around here), but in general, only grumble over the state stuff. I find the state testing more aggravating due to the various things we've talked about here. NCLB certainly has some problems where LD and transferees are involved, but in general it is less demanding in a lot of ways. I could be wrong, though. Like you've noted, parents don't seem to have a clue as to what is really on these tests. Charles might have more to say about this. In IL, there are big years for state testing. I believe third grade was one of the big ones because of the writing (6 paragraph essay when my first son went through. It got shrunk to 4 later. I have no idea what it is now.) Part of the state standards for teachers here also include social and emotional growth, and it is spelled out in detail for them. I have asked teacher friends at times why they are more aggravated with the federal government than the state legislature, who I think is causing them more grief. I don't usually get an answer. -- SusanS - 10 Mar 2006
Susan, My daughter starts fourth grade ISAT on Tuesday. I'm pretty sure it runs through Friday, but I've already recycled the letter the teachers sent home, so I can't check. I realize that it is a big change of routine for the class, but I think the teachers make too big a deal of it. Last year, the teachers gave every thrid grader a t-shirt that said "I survived the ISAT." It seems that they are constantly sending the kids the message that the ISAT is torture. I can't remember how the Iowa Tests went when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure they ran at least two days--perhaps more. We didn't follow it up with any celebration of survival. It is not a Hercuelan task. Just do it. -- DanK - 11 Mar 2006
Last year, the teachers gave every thrid grader a t-shirt that said "I survived the ISAT." Oh my. I'm not going to tell any of them about that. They'd have them wearing those shirts in a second. You're right, there is a lot of angst about it. I think they've spent at least 2 weeks working on it. -- SusanS - 11 Mar 2006
Part of the state standards for teachers here also include social and emotional growth, and it is spelled out in detail for them. IT'S ALWAYS WORSE THAN YOU THINK. I had NO idea this was already happening. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Last year, the teachers gave every thrid grader a t-shirt that said "I survived the ISAT." It seems that they are constantly sending the kids the message that the ISAT is torture. FUMING -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
The reason NCLB is so much worse is that it requires annual testing. That is HUGE. Previously the big tests were in 4th & 8th grades (and I think Susan's right; schools might move social studies to the off-year of 5th grade...) 4th & 8th grades were such a big stress-filled deal that it was said there were teachers who refused to teach those years I was warned, going in, that 4th grade was going to be tough, entirely because of the testing pressure. (I didn't find it especially different, probably because we had such a terrific teacher the next year, too.) Suddenly having to test every single year really is a massive change. WHO MOVED MY CHEESE????? -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
I mentioned on another thread that a friend of ours whom we don't see often told Ed that the town's ready to blow. People are furious, and at least half of them are furious about yearly testing. I can see why, to tell the truth. If I weren't the kind of person who does better with some pressure I'd probably be unhappy with what a Big Effing Deal it is. For me, the math test let me 'pull it all together' in my mind. I've been hyperfocused on math for quite a while now, but until the test I hadn't been able to develop an internal 'Map of Pre-algebra.' -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Ms. K. has spent at least two weeks straight working on the state tests — doing almost nothing new from the book — and IT'S BEEN RIDICULOUS. What's ridiculous isn't that she devoted two weeks to review. That was great; this was a terrific opportunity for the kids to PAUSE and CONSOLIDATE WHAT THEY KNOW. What was ridiculous was that she did tons of stuff that was 'off-topic.' Dimensional analysis, Challenge problems with no instruction, Math journaling — a huge, vast FWOT. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Just to be clear, obviously I'm a huge fan of teaching dimensional analysis to 6th graders. But eating up a full class period teaching them dimensional analysis FOR THE FIRST TIME ONE WEEK BEFORE THE STATE TEST is ridiculous. A lot of them will just be more confused, and not one of them will know it well enough to use it. I've done a fair amount of practice with Christopher on D.A., and he still can't use it spontaneously, and won't be using it on the test. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
I'm going to give Christopher the Iowa test this spring, on my own recognizance. Lone Ranger left info on how to do it. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Dan I can't remember how the Iowa Tests went when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure they ran at least two days--perhaps more. We didn't follow it up with any celebration of survival. It is not a Hercuelan task. Just do it. no kidding That's why I told Christopher, No more crying on math tests. I figured I better nip that one in the bud. -- CatherineJohnson - 11 Mar 2006
Okay Tracy and Catherine, I did my homework. Thanks Susan. Testing Monday and Tuesday is for "much of the day," followed by more testing Wednesday and Thursday mornings (shorter). Not as bad as I thought, but still a long time. I have been told by teachers that they never know what the state will have on the test because they change it in some way almost yearly. For instance, after including a pretty strenuous writing section they up and decided not to have it in anymore. Gosh, it sounds even worst than NZ's NZQA. You need lazier bureacrats. -- TracyW - 12 Mar 2006
Last year, the teachers gave every thrid grader a t-shirt that said "I survived the ISAT." It seems that they are constantly sending the kids the message that the ISAT is torture. Actually, it should be the teachers who wear the shirts not the kids. I also remember taking the Iowa Basic Skills Tests as a kid and no one worried about them all that much. We were to take them seriously, but no one woried about how stressed we may have gotten because the tests were low stakes. Fast forward 30 years and now that the tests are high stakes, now everyone worries about the kids' ability to cope. -- KDeRosa - 13 Mar 2006
You need lazier bureacrats. LOL!!!! -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Mar 2006
Ken Actually, it should be the teachers who wear the shirts not the kids. I see this all the time, and it distresses me. Adults projecting their own feelings onto kids. These kids don't give a hoot about the state tests, let me tell you. But once they've spent 3 days journaling about failure..... Let's just say that strikes me as a Bad Idea. -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Mar 2006
I don't know what tests we took in Virginia 30 years ago, but I seem to recall that they were SRAs. Also nobody made a big fuss over them, and some students enjoyed getting out of a class lecture. I do remember that that was my first exposure to percentiles. -- GoogleMaster - 13 Mar 2006
You need lazier bureacrats. LOL!!!! I am seducing you to a regulatory economists' way of thinking. The key idea is that policy makers stuff up making policy so often that anything that distracts policy makers from making policy is a good idea. Most of the time. -- TracyW - 13 Mar 2006
The best argument I can imagine for a bicameral legislature, super-majority requirements for legislation, and an executive branch run by a different party. Nothing gets done unless it's so obvious even political enemies agree that it needs doing. And, as you note, nothing is usually better than something. It does require vaguely honorable politicians, though. Not that this is a new concept -- see Aesop's fable about King Log and King Stork. -- DougSundseth - 14 Mar 2006
We just got back the results for our MEAP tests. The kids usually take them at the end of the year. This year they took them in Oct. For math, here are my elementary school results: Grade 3: 89.2 exceed standards Grade 4: 62.9% exceed standards Grade 5: 43.4% exceed standards This tells me that the kids are good in math until they hit anything above addition and subtraction. Then they hit the wall. The higher the number of skills required, the worse they do. -- AnneDwyer - 14 Mar 2006
Catherine, Check out this story from today's NY Times....I guess it does pay to study for the test. In the fall, when New York State Education Department officials distributed sample questions and answers for the annual standardized mathematics exam, they fully intended to help students study and prepare for the test. What they did not intend was to give about 400,000 seventh and eighth graders an advance peek at actual test questions. But in a gaffe that officials acknowledged was embarrassing to the state and even more humiliating to the test publisher, CTB/McGraw-Hill, three questions on the seventh-grade sample test and one question on the eighth-grade sample test reappeared on the real exams, which are being administered this week to about 200,000 students in each grade. -- AnneDwyer - 15 Mar 2006
For math, here are my elementary school results: Grade 3: 89.2 exceed standards Grade 4: 62.9% exceed standards Grade 5: 43.4% exceed standards. That's appalling! But probably not unusual. -- CarolynJohnston - 15 Mar 2006
No, it's all too typical. The real travesty is that the state standards are likely well below the actual grade level. -- KDeRosa - 15 Mar 2006
For math, here are my elementary school results: Grade 3: 89.2 exceed standards Grade 4: 62.9% exceed standards Grade 5: 43.4% exceed standards -- CatherineJohnson - 15 Mar 2006
Anne, What curriculum is your school using? -- NicksMama - 15 Mar 2006
Everyday Math, of course. We have switched every elementary school over to this curriculum. but my elementary school has been using it for about 8 years. The curriculum director assures us that everything is fine and dandy. -- AnneDwyer - 15 Mar 2006
Holy cow! Our county just adopted EM this year. Can you provide me a link to your elementary school scores. I'd love to share this information with some ps friends. Thanks -- NicksMama - 15 Mar 2006
Anne The curriculum director assures us that everything is fine and dandy. How does this happen? I mean.....how does this particular communication take place; what's its form, etc. Has the school always had a decline in Exceeds Standards? Does she convey the idea that this is a normal progression? -- CatherineJohnson - 15 Mar 2006
Also, what do you think of the state standards? Are they decent? Or too low? What's the test like? -- CatherineJohnson - 15 Mar 2006