Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Benchmarks. I Hate Them.

We have a thing called benchmark testing. The idea is to test the kids four times a year, and we can see areas in which they are lacking, and areas in which they are successful. In the last post you got to hear me complain about how stupidly things are run around here.

Which reminds me, here is a young woman for whom I feel a great amount of sympathy. I actually found it hard to believe she wasn't in my district. She's a little burned out on blogging, but what she did manage to post is a good look at what goes on in many schools.

Back to the testing. Any educator can tell you that it's all about fads. Someone with power over you gets a bright idea somewhere, and implements it just long enough to move to a better job in some other district. When that happens, the new guy in charge puts his bright idea in place. No matter how stupid the idea is, a teacher dedicated to a district will easily outlive it. Testing is the next big thing.

You see, we take the test, get the results back within three or four days, and review the data with our students. That way, we all win. And this is what is actually in the mind of the guy with the bright idea. He just doesn't realize he's imagining an idealized world that doesn't exist. We took our first benchmark tests on November 16. So much for ideal number one: we were supposed to take the first test on September 21. So much for ideal number two: as of today, I have results for a little less than 25% of my students. It is unclear whether or not we will be getting results for the rest of them, or when.

Would you like more? You may or may not know that a class such as American Lit or U.S. History, typically taught at the 11th grade level, can contain a number of 12th grade students, and even some 10th grade students. When I get my testing booklets, they all say 11th grade. When I get the precoded scan sheets for my students, most of them say 11th grade, but there are also a few that say Billy the 12th grade student or Sally the 10th grade student. A prudent person such as myself might ask if this will be a problem. After all, I could imagine that when Billy's bar-coded answer sheet goes through the machine, the machine will be look for 12th grade answers, when Billy actually took the test that says 11th grade. The orders from on high say if the kid is in an 11th grade class, he takes the 11th grade test. Looking at the results, I can see that some kids who should have done better based on everything I know about them and the work they do for class ended up with scores indicating below basic. I'll have to get the numbers for you later.

Today was progress reports and I'm a little fried. Definitely more to come on this topic.
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