Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 04 2011

Testing, Round 9 of my career

I wonder if I’ll ever just become immune to the stress of standardized testing. My level of concern has definitely decreased dramatically over the last few years (remember when I used to not sleep before district benchmark tests?) but I still have that old feeling lingering somewhere. That awful dread over being judged on the results of a test that I don’t actually get to take.

This year, the feeling is a lot less like anxiety and a lot more just like uncomfortable uncertainty. The district testing happened without me ever getting worked up about it, but then I think about it and realize how many doubts I actually have. Watch how worked up I can make myself get when I actually start writing all my suppressed thoughts down:

Let’s start with last year, when I was a dramatically better teacher on all counts. If you remember what happened next, my test scores actually dropped from my Terrible Awful First Year. What if they keep dropping forever? What if I just don’t know how to teach kids what they need for a test? What if I’m actually a much worse teacher than I think I am?

Or take this year, where I’m at a High Performing Charter Network with an obsession over test scores. We have a reputation to uphold. We have lots of data that says we’re awesome, and I’m really not supposed to screw that up. What if our other schools all have great 6th grade math scores, and mine end up being the kind that make everyone cringe and wish they hadn’t hired me? I wouldn’t be able to scoot by on just being good in the classroom, since the very existence of this school depends on the scores we put up.

Sigh. Maybe I won’t even look at my scores when they come back, and just save us all some agony. :-)

One Response

  1. Michael Cashin

    Test scores can be very stressful! I believe the professor in one of my statistical classes had a valid way of analyzing our grades. He would actually do an item analysis on the questions of the test to determine if there were any questions that were invalid. He would remove these from the test as his analysis provided evidence that they should not have been on the test. However, I have never seen these actions done on any other tests. I think it would be interesting to do this type of analysis on the items for these tests. Is it possible that there are a few items that have too much power and too much control of the variance so that the passing of the test has to do with how you perform on a few items instead of on the whole test? Until we know the answer to this question I believe you have to continue teaching to the best of your ability because that is all you can do. As I have learned from looking at the subjects of my thesis, just because a bad grade is obtained, it doesn’t guarantee that the test taker is bad, it could be the test. My whole thesis is focused on testing a test, not testing a student/subject. I think this is one of the things we need to focus on as teachers; when a child does not perform well on a test, do they not know the information, did they not understand the test, or was the test not a valid measure of the variable? We need to make sure intelligence is not overlooked just because of a test score.

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