We're supposed to be on our way to the beach, with my husband patiently stopping at every antique store we pass. (It's my anniversary present that he doesn't complain for one weekend of the year!) I planned it this way. We got married on the first Saturday of spring break, twenty-four years ago, with the sneaky intention that at least once a year I would be treated to "no whining antique shopping" and it works, most years anyway!
But, it was raining cats and dogs this morning as we were packing, and I stopped, looked at him and said, "Are we crazy??? Sloshing across the state to the beach with rain beating on the windshield does not sound like a great time. I don't even want to walk on the beach in rain gear."
Instead I called my eldest daughter and we chatted for about an hour, and then I piddled around the house for awhile, and then, I went to school. Yes, I am certifiably nutso. Yesterday I couldn't wait to get out of the building and start my spring break. I drug my rolling cart home, loaded with state testing science scenerios and math practice packets (there are only three weeks until the dreaded MSP "Measurement of Student Progress" trials and tribulations). I intended to haul some of it in the car, and make decisions on which I would use to refresh their little brains, while we were driving to the beach.
Instead, I drug it all back to school today and spent three hours sorting and planning for these next crazy weeks in the classroom.
I know, it all sounds suspiciously like, "teaching to the test" but, it truly isn't. It's called teaching the genre of "test taking" and, while it is very sad that third, fourth and fifth graders have to be taught, it can't be helped. We've been practicing with reading passages for weeks now, and I still have some of my smartest kids not filling in the damn bubble, which will cause their perfectly correct answer to be "unread" when the real deal is in front of them.
Written science responses have such exacting criteria, that most kids really flounder. (My college age daughter was aghast when she read some of the things my kids are expected to do. She said she wasn't required to know this stuff until high school!) So, we teach the concepts and "practice" all year, but hit them with a serious refresher course the last couple of weeks prior to the testing window.
All questions require a considerable amount of reading, whether they are math or science. All math questions are what we used to call in the old days, "story problems". There is very little straight math; instead they have to figure out what process the question is asking them to do, then do the math. Although there are multiple choice answers, they still need to work out the problem. All choices are "possible", meaning that the kids could conceivably come up with any of the choices, depending on how they read the problem. It's tricky; sometimes I read the problem incorrectly and I get the question wrong! I always tell the kids I do it on purpose, just to see if they're on their toes! :)
So, I teach them to read each question carefully, be sure they understand what it's asking of them, and to go back to the text to be sure the answer choices are there. Everyone breathes a collective sigh of relief when the last test is completed and we're done performing for the state once again. After the testing is over, I jump into our sadly neglected social studies curriculum, with a fun unit where the kids "live" through the Revolutionary War period and finish up with the constitution. We also have one last CBA (Curriculum Based Assessment - also required by the state) where students choose a topic to research both sides and write a persuasive paper. (This paper isn't due until the last day of school.) The school year isn't over 'til it's over!
In the meantime, I'll be spending a good chunk of my spring "break" planning, preparing, and making sure I've left no GLE (Grade Level Expectation) in reading, math or science untaught.
I love my job; I love teaching fifth graders. I conscientiously and deliberately teach my kids what fifth graders are expected to learn, but that doesn't mean they all learn it. You throw in ELL (English Language Learners) and kids in Learning Support and a host of other issues, and you can't force feed the learning. When a student is only able to read at a second or third grade level, it's pretty difficult for that child to decipher fifth grade content, not to mention answer questions. But, according to the state, they should miraculously be able to manage it. As it stands, testing is based on age, not IQ or capability. Even kids in special education are expected to meet "basic" standard at their grade level.
Education isn't one size fits all. Someday, the powers that be will figure that out . . . maybe.
Here's to Spring Break!
PS ~ I do have a fun day planned mid week with my favorite antiquing pal, Deb! The week isn't a total bummer! Also, my oldest daughter is coming home for a few days and I'm looking forward to her visit as well!