Monday, March 18, 2013

The Teacher Gets Tested and POISON


Last week, I read about POISON by Bridget Zinn, on Lydia Kang’s blog. And I promptly bought it – not just because I was touched by the story of how Hyperion managed to get this book to publication after the author’s untimely death and how the writing community has stepped up to promote it on Bridget’s behalf, but because it truly looked like a story my students would enjoy.  “Princesses, poisoners, perfumers, and pigs.” What’s not to like?

I was right, as it turns out. POISON is already in demand among my students, with more than one reader lining up for it.

In other events last week, I was required to take a test to see if I’m qualified to administer the same standardized test I’ve been giving for the last dozen years. (More than a dozen, actually. I’ve lost count.) The state of Pennsylvania has produced an online tutorial on Test Security, and I was required to pass the tutorial before giving the Reading and Math PSSA tests next month.

(I know what you’re thinking, and no … If teachers fail the test, they don’t get to go have coffee in the teacher’s lounge during the PSSAs. They have to re-take the tutorial on their own time.)

I won't even discuss how ridiculous it is that testing elementary students has practically become a matter of Homeland Security. But as a taxpayer in a state that has already slashed the education budget to the bone, I wonder how much money it took to produce this tutorial. I am especially angry because the tutorial didn’t contain any information not already printed in the Teacher’s Test Manual. I suppose the assumption is teachers can’t read? Or that we're too dumb to absorb the information unless it's presented in a visual and auditory format?

Anyway, I passed. Phew.

I don’t teach to the PSSA, although I do have to teach students how to take it. Testing the teacher on the administration of the test seems like going over the top to me. Supposedly, the testing frenzy of No Child Left Behind is on its way out, but I have yet to see any indication of that. As far as I can tell, Obama has been just as bad as Bush when it comes to education.

16 comments:

  1. Every time I hear about Poison my heart lurches--very cool that you bought it for your students.

    And don't even get me started on standardized testing. I no longer teach but I am a parent and the effect is still far reacting.

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  2. I want to read Poison too. It sounds awesome. Glad it's popular with your students.

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  3. My kids have MCAS which is the Mass. version of that test coming up in the next few weeks. One of my daughters loves taking tests so she's excited but the other one is nervous.
    I'm glad you passed being able to read directions--how ridiculous!

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  4. I have family members who work in TED and they alwso feel that testing has gotten way out of hand.

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  5. I was saddened when I heard of Bridget Zinn's death, but I'm glad she'll live on through her book.

    Re your test: Is there no end to the testing lunacy? Sheesh. Makes me glad I'm not teaching anymore.

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  6. I'm glad you're enjoying POISON and that your students will, too!

    I'm not really sure about the testing teachers thing, but I've think I've read somewhere that certain schools allowed rule-breakings that ended up giving students unfair advantage and a consequently far higher percentile success rates at the schools, so maybe state boards are trying to protect their federal funding by dotting i's and crossing t's.

    Well, at least you passed! :-)

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  7. I won't even start on how stupid I think the education system in our country is. And I'm sorry that Obama hasn't done jack to change anything. On the bright side, just think how many kids we're producing that know how to take a test that doesn't really measure whether they'll ever be able to think for themselves.

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  8. Dianne, it was the "red tape" of the system that caused me not to continue pursuing my teaching credentials. However, looking back, I wish I had ignored all that and become a teacher. My hat's off to you.

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  9. I'm sort of tempted to go off on a rant about the state of education and the way that No Child Left Behind misses the mark in so many ways, chilling effect on creativity, testing as unreliable and biased predictor of what children are learning...but I won't. Deep breath! Won't at all!!

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  10. oh, man. I was hearing about the school closures in PA on the radio last week, and it was just heartbreaking. Hate that you're dealing w/that.

    And somehow I missed out on the Poison project. But I think it's awesome how that book is coming out and being promoted. Awesome~ :o) <3

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  11. It's on my TBR list. =)

    And I won't even start on what I think about the educational system.

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  12. Oh, don't even get me going on some of the things they try and do with education.

    I've heard such great things about poison. It's been on my to-read list since it came out.

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  13. It's so lovely what everyone is doing for Bridget's book. I still need to read it, but it sounds like a cool story.

    And I hear you about these ridiculous state tests. I really hope No Child Left Behind gets left behind soon. "I suppose the assumption is teachers can't read?" Ha! Good one.

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  14. Georgia generally wallows near the bottom in education, and still the state politicos continue to slash money from the public school system. I don't know how much of it made national news, but we've had some major scandals here over teachers systematically changing answers on those tests so their students would pass. The thing is, when so much emphasis is placed on a test rather than on teaching a basic quality education, everybody loses in the long run.

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  15. It brought tears to my eyes to hear the story behind POISON. I think it's so terrific that bloggers and writers are banding together to make sure the book gets its due and that people hear about it. I can't wait to get my own copy! So glad your students are liking it :)

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  16. I finished POISON last night and loved it-the world building, the magic, the characters, and Rosie (the pig).

    I bought it, like you, not only because of Bridget's story, but also because it looked like the perfect read for me. And I was right.

    Sorry about all that standardized testing silliness. I'm glad you don't teach to the test (unfortunately, it's the focus of my school district)



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