When they can’t read the test

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I just ran the average grade level for the students that I teach. In math, that level is 4.06, meaning that students are scoring at the beginning of the fourth grade on the MAP test. In reading, they are scoring at 3.04, or the beginning of the third grade. I lumped both my groups together. If I separate them, the results are more problematic. One class is substantially below the other. Technically, these kids are in the seventh grade.

What books are at the third grade lexile level? The Captain Underpants series qualifies, along with the Berenstain Bears and the Zack Files.

Here’s the first page from tomorrow’s test:

page one CFA 7

I did not write this test. No one in my school did. The required outside consultants that came with our government grant wrote the test. Overall, the test looks decent enough, but I’d like to ask readers to think about reading that test if they read at a first or second grade level. If the mean average for reading in my student group falls at the beginning of third grade, that means the group has a fair number of first and second grade readers. The range actually runs from first grade to fifth grade. Only one student scored as high as fifth grade.

I have to give this test tomorrow. I expect an epic fail despite the time we spent working on the relevant vocabulary and concepts, even if I take time to tell the class what land conservation laws are and how this might relate to hiking. One reason I expect my fail is simpler than vocabulary, though. I’ll ask readers to try to solve the second question on this test. That question’s far from a no-brainer and, honestly, while it may have a “best sample,” every one of those answers is half-daft. Unfortunately, this is question number two, setting the tone for the whole test. At this early point, I expect a number of kids to enter that deer-in-the-headlights state of despair that leads to panic and random guesses.

I’ve had a week to work on this material. It’s not enough. They need more time. But we are all supposed to give the same tests at about the same time and I am already one day late. The train never stops. The train will not stop for me. I have to give this test tomorrow. Then I expect I will “lose” a day going over what went wrong so we can get ready for the retake that fits nowhere in my time budget. But 100% of these kids’ grades are based on these tests so the retake will be a necessity.

Week after week after week, I have been giving these tests and picking people up after they fell. How much resilience can I demand of these kids? How much resilience can I demand of myself? But when I tried to talk to my Assistant Principal about this issue — more than once — I ended up being told that he found my lack of faith in my students disturbing. (I can hear Lord Vader.) The implication was always that I must not know how to do my job and I’d say he’s right. I don’t know how to do this job anyway.

I find my Assistant Principal’s lack of faith in the copious quantities of data that he and the administration have been amassing all year to be simply… inexplicable. How does he expect first grade readers to do this test? What kind of scaffolding/remediation/tutoring does he expect to fill in the gaps? I have been tutoring and sending kids to others for more tutoring. But at the end of the day, that tutoring and scaffolding might as well be Band-Aids on third degree burns.

Eduhonesty: I have been told that I must use the materials provided to me. Almost none of my students can read those materials. I have been told I must keep up with the regular population. I can only do that at the expense of repetition. Without that repetition, I believe retention will be scant, and test scores appear to be bearing me out as the year progresses. I can tell when my students are learning and I’ve never seen a year where so little actual learning occurred, even when I can laser in and get students ready for that weekly test.

To use a metaphor that explains why I have to retire: I feel as if I have been forced to open a puppy mill filled with lost, sad puppies trapped in cages. Those windows to the world in an earlier post today? My puppy mill has no windows. Only endless chances to get beat on the head with test papers for failing to do the right puppy thing, a thing that no one has properly modeled, taught or explained. I am so sorry for the puppies I will be leaving behind, but I can’t do this.

I don’t think they can find anyone who can, frankly. But some corporation is running this operation and they want us to use the same materials and present the same material at the same time. No one will let me go to the library or the internet to find the right materials or let me take the time to do the needed remedial training. Oh, I can go to the library or internet to get those materials to share, but I don’t have close to enough time now so extra materials do me no good — and I am not allowed to substitute, only supplement during blocks of nonexistent time.

Eduhonesty; I understand that next year the corporation and district administration will allow bilingual and special education to adapt materials. Anyone looking at this year’s data can see that one-size-fits-all surely did not fit the bilingual and special education students. No one should have needed to gather a year’s data to find that out, either.