Tuesday, April 29, 2014

UnCommon Education

My students had their fourth Common Core testing session today.

Because my school is four times as large as many elementary schools (we have eight 4th grade classrooms), and a limited number of computers, the students at my school must test in sessions. For example, today, my students tested from 10:15 to 11:20 a.m., 65 minutes.

Because my school has lots of wonderful weekly offerings (science lab, library, art, singing, chorus, and orchestra), as well as three morning recess periods and three lunch periods, scheduling is difficult.

As a result, most teachers signed up to bring students to one of the two computer classrooms for testing one time per week, with testing taking a month. (Prior to Common Core, when we still used paper and pencils, we were able to get testing done in a week.)

Fourth graders takes three tests (math, language arts, and a language arts performance task). The performance task involves reading multiple loosely-related nonfiction passages, then synthesizing the material to answer three questions. To sufficiently answer the questions, students must type a short paragraph for each of the three questions, citing their sources.

But that's not the worst of it.

After spending 45 minutes answering three questions, many of my students clicked to go on to question #4.

Unbeknownst to the teachers, question #4 involved using multiple loosely-related sources to write a multi-paragraph story or informative essay. (Some students were assigned narratives, some were assigned essays.)

They had less than 20 minutes to read instructions, criteria, and source material, plan, type a multi-paragraph paper, revise, and edit. (Did I mention, they don't know how to type?)

A student can't review previously viewed questions during subsequent sessions. Fair enough. However, the test is supposed to be untimed.

I can't help but imagine Charlotte Mason standing in the corner of the Tech Lab, shaking her head at the absurdity of it all.