There are things I love about my job and other things…well, hate is a strong word. But I’ll get to that in a minute. Yesterday I had an extra spring in my step. Not even a polar plunge on the old temperature gauge could make me feel glum on a Monday morning. As I pulled my little one’s third pair of pants on in preparation for the voyage to daycare I mentally began checking items off my list. My pre NCTE14 list! That’s right, PREPARE FOR NCTE14! Attending conferences is one of my favorite things about teaching. Connecting with other educators, exploring new ideas, and long nights of great discussion are just the thing the doctor ordered during an early November cold snap. It’s a time of discovery, renewal, and sometimes it’s nice to just get away. That’s the love part of my post.
Sadly, by 10:20 I had a dark cloud over my head. You see at 10:20 am today I saw the practice test for the PARCC exams for the first time. I know, I know I should have looked at them earlier. (Or maybe not at all.) It was just about the most depressing thing I’ve seen in a long time.
I push my students to engage in deep thinking around great texts every day. They read, view, write, and more. I didn’t really think the Common Core would change that, and to be honest it really hasn’t changed it that much. There are certainly things that we look at more closely and I’ve used it as a opportunity to explore and freshen our learning up, but it’s not night and day. As my old Principle said, “good teaching is good teaching.” But these tests…these tests are something entirely different.
I sat staring at the computer screen with my brow furrowing deeper and deeper by the minute as I looked at the test from a student’s view. The strange layout, the confusing questions, the multiple answers to questions, the dragging and dropping, the tiny box for an “essay,” and on and on. I felt hopeless, and I could see how many students will also feel hopeless, and then just start clicking. And even though this year the value added results won’t be tied to our performance (we still have NWEA for that) soon they will be and maybe my pay as well.
I don’t know what that test measures but it’s not good teaching and there will be no added value to my classroom because of it.
For now, I’ll push that dark cloud aside and head off to NCTE in hopes of connecting with like minded people and finding the renewal and energy that I so love about my profession. Perhaps together we can help forge a common path, one that honors our students and pushes them to be their best in an authentic and inspiring way.