As our instructional coach has been telling us for weeks, it’s the most wonderful time of year. If this blog were a pasture, I just forced you step in a cow pie. Sorry. Next time wear galoshes.
The reason for my overt cynicism is the annual CSAP test–Colorado’s attempt to keep the politicians who think they have a clue what goes on in classrooms happy. The idea isn’t all bad in itself. In this grand old age of information, Data is the new Baal. Or Zeus. Or Ra. Teachers are forced to sacrifice their children to the god of data so that every child can be tested and stamped with a grade-level approval. I have issue with our particular for two reasons: it takes considerable time away from actual learning and it’s a bad test.
Fortunately, our school has a strong enough curriculum with a solid faculty that views this process as hoop-jumping for the suits. In actuality, we only miss one entire day of instruction each week for a total of two days. All in all, not too bad but when we’re crunched for time as it is with getting through all of our curriculum, two days is huge.
So the biggest problem is the test itself. It doesn’t do a good job of assessing grade-level knowledge. Good test takers do well regardless of intelligence. Here’s a great example. Several years ago, I had a sixth grade student whose brain was operating on the level of a first grader. He could write thoughts on paper, but sentences rarely flowed together elegantly. I would put him on around a 3rd grade writing level. He scored proficient on the CSAP writing test. Maybe he got lucky, but I don’t think so.
The state legislature is currently engaged in discussions as to whether or not CSAP should continue or be trashed. I read one statistic that stated the state spends close to $325 million on the stinkin test each year. How successful could schools be if they were getting that money directly? That pays for teachers, technology (especially since Microsoft has its meat hooks in the school system resulting in super bloated costs), and building maintenance. Tests provide tons of data, but I’m not sure data is always the answer. We have a problem when data transcends the needs of children. Some argue that data allows us to know how to help children. In many cases this is correct. But a month into the school year and most teachers (worth their weight in gold) will be able to identify most areas of opportunities and most strengths with most students.
Here’s the greatest irony. The largest school district in Colorado has aligned its entire curriculum district wide based on CSAP. Let’s hope this political baby gets thrown out with the bureaucratic bath water.