Monday, March 25, 2013

I hate STAAR - Week 25, March 18-22, 2013

So, yes I know, the title to this post is very negative.  But it's very true.  STAAR (or the state-exam for Texas) is crazy.  Now, honestly I'm all for testing.  I think our students should be tested for what they know and have learned that school year, but WAY too much emphasis is put on the STAAR test and it's results.

Here's why I say that...

This year I've turned my Flipped Classroom into a completely Project Based Learning environment.  My students are learning at a much deeper level than ever before, and we're having a blast!  My scores have increased, and remained very competitive with the other five elementary schools in my district.  My entire team (I only teach math and social studies) have discussed the huge difference we've noticed across the board in our students' understanding as we've all began to move to PBL.

BUT regardless of all the work I've done, I was still informed that I HAD to teach test formatted questions to make sure my students were prepared for the STAAR test.  Now that drives me insane.  Why should I have to teach formatted test questions when my students are performing fine on all exams by NOT teaching formatted test questions.  I'm teaching my state standards, and that's what I should be doing.  But, on the other hand, I kind of understand.  Scores are very important to my district (as they are with most districts).  We were a recognized school district last year.  But me not teaching test formatted questions makes my district nervous, cause they want to be guaranteed good scores, which in turn means I have to teach a test for a few weeks.

So this week, that's exactly what I did.  And it was HELL.  I hated it, the students hated it, and no one could understand why we were doing this.  But I did as I was asked.  What I find even more humorous is the fact that I was told to use a Pearson book to get all my Questions out of, because Pearson wrote the test, so the Pearson book is a good indication of what we'll see on the test.

Well that's what I did.  And half of the questions I found in this Pearson book WEREN'T EVEN ON GRADE LEVEL (they were a grade, sometimes two grade levels, higher).  It's kind of hard to teach test formatted questions when they questions I'm being asked to pull have math that the students won't be introduced to until 6th or 7th grade.

I guess we all forget that Pearson is a very large company, and a very large company whose only concern is to make money.  So yes our State paid them millions of dollars for our State Exam, but they are a large company who makes the same review book for all the states but just changes the state standard wording.  It is beyond frustrating.

So I guess I'm done venting.  I taught the way I used to teach, last week.  The style of teaching that almost made me quit my career last year.  I taught a test.  The kids hated it.  I hated it, and I was quickly reminded why so many of our students are "checking out" mentally from school.  Because it's not fun, and it's become an environment that isn't preparing them for a future where standardized tests are not part of a career.  I can't wait til next week when we take the test and then I can get back to teaching them their state standards by doing different projects and hands on activities where the knowledge will stick in more than just to bubble in the correct answer.

Feel free to leave comments below!