Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Equivalent of Gettin' Somethin' Done

I am a happy English teacher.

Of course, we all have our theories about standardized tests being reliable/non-reliable methods of assessment. They have a few advantages, and they have some major disadvantages. Most people in education agree they shouldn't be used as a sole means of assessing what your kiddos know or don't know. Yet we continue to use them year after year, and we tie all kinds of life altering things to them... funding, jobs, advancement to the next grade, graduating, etc. We abhor the idea of "teaching the test", yet we all know in the back of our minds, it's the one big thing our kids HAVE to do well on. They're held to the all-important standard, and their scores reflect our success as teachers and their success as intelligent individuals in this world. (Bleh.)

So we do what we can. At least I do. I try to teach my kids to THINK. And along the way, I hope that helps them reason their way into better scores on the big test. Apparently other teachers at my school had the same idea. And it worked.

I teach at the 2nd largest high school in the state of Texas. Almost 5,000 9-12th graders. There are twenty some-odd high schools in our district and the majority of them are "low-performing" and dangerously close to being seriously "reorganized" or even being shut down completely. Everything hangs on the test scores. Our high school is half magnet, half comprehensive. And last year, after a long and fierce battle with the school board, we lost three of our magnet clusters because we had to alleviate overcrowding at the school. So we moved three programs filled with hundreds of our best students to another high school in the district-- who subsequently disbanded the programs and did away with them altogether. We were sure with the loss of so many of our best students, test scores would go down. We were in danger of going from an "academically acceptable" rating (mediocre at best, but still a big deal, comparatively speaking in the district) to being a "low performing" school. Nobody thought the "neighborhood kids" could carry the load. So we buckled down, made the most of our class time, and hoped for the best.

Test scores came back two days ago. Not only did our test scores not go down, they actually went up across the board from last year. I personally had five kids who spectacularly failed the reading test last year that raised their scores by more than 100 points and passed the test this year. It must have been happening in everyone's classes. It's encouraging to see. Some people didn't have faith in our kids. Even some of us had our doubts. But some how we compensated. We made them believe they could do it. And they did.


Kuenys said...

awesome for you! i always loved when my test scores came back like that!!! it makes you feel like you are doing some worthwhile and good:) i am so happy for you (and your kids!)