29 April 2010

high stakes

My kiddos did it! All day Tuesday and all day Wednesday they read, underlined, problem-solved, highlighted, reasoned, and multiplied their way to awesome results (I hope!) on their Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in reading and math. What did I do all day Tuesday and all day Wednesday? Basically, I put on my most schoolmarm-ish look and patrolled the room to make sure no students were talking to each other or looking at other students' tests. Oh, and let me not forget all the kleenex- and sharpened-pencil schlepping I did. I certainly earned my money this week!

For a task full of such drudgery, the topic of testing can sure fire up a room. Because I teach in Texas, the state that some people consider to be the stomping grounds for high-stakes testing legislation such as No Child Left Behind, I feel caught smack against that heat source at times.

Although I have mixed feelings about how high-stakes testing can play out, and even though administering tests can get pretty tedious, I appreciate the chance to watch how my students buckle down on these big days. Every year, as I pace through the rows of desks, I am so impressed by my students' intense focus on these days, and have extra time to reflect on their incredible effort throughout the year.

More importantly, I think that high-stakes testing provides a necessary source of accountability for, and within, schools. For far too long, students like mine were shut out of life's opportunities because no one was held accountable for their learning. Because they are the pobrecitos del ranchito [poor little kids from the ranch], excuses were made for their falling farther and farther behind.

I say, give them the chance to prove how smart they are. They agree. We all know they'll rock it out.

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