Handing out a Wicked Instrument
by Noel, a Texas Teacher
Next week, Texas third and fifth grade students who did not pass the first reading TAKS test "opportunity" will get the "opportunity" to take this test again. These kids must pass this test in order to move on to the next grade. If they don't pass this time, they will have another "opportunity" to take the test during summer school.
These students have been preparing for this "opportunity" for 1 hour each day since we received the results of the first "opportunity." In my third grade class, 2 ESL students have been removed from my room daily for this hour of test prep. Both of these children hear very little English at home. Both are very intelligent and can make incredible connections when reading with me. Both have made wonderful progress in reading this year. Both of these children are being taken away from a classroom where group discussion is encouraged and what they have to say is valued. Both of these children, my students, kids whom I love, are being robbed of a good education.
They have spent an hour every school day reading texts that mean nothing to them. They have spent time trying to find the main idea (from 4 choices). They have spent time trying to pick the best summary (from 4 choices). They have spent time trying to find the word from the story that helped them with the meaning of another word (from 4 choices). If they grow up to love reading after all of this torture it will be nothing less than a miracle. All of this for the "opportunity" of taking another test in order to go to the next grade.
I have really struggled this year (only my fourth year of teaching) with the "opportunities" forced upon my students. I feel guilty that I am forced to obey the rules and make them go to this horrid tutoring. I feel rotten that I have a masters of education in reading and am never asked about the needs of my struggling students--only told where and when to send them. It makes me sick to be the person who hands out such a wicked wicked instrument called a TAKS test to children who are scared to death.
I look forward to the day when lawmakers can see that by forcing standardized testing "opportunities" on CHILDREN we have greatly decreased their chances of the real opportunity to love learning.
e-mail to Susan Ohanian