I remember taking the TAAS test in 2001, as a senior, huddled at a brown table in the chilly, silent auditorium. The silence was only broken by the sound of turning pages and scratching pencils. Much to our surprise, it was only the beginning at that point.
My younger brother was the group who was beta testing the TAKS as a Freshman and soon after became one of the first groups required to pass in order to graduate. Since 2004, the TAKS test has seen a few changes including its name.
TAAS to TAKS to STAAR to the now endearing EOC’s which includes five tests.
Testing, to say the least, has always been a part of Texas school culture.
What I have learned is that there needs to be a balance between teaching the skills needed for the test while simultaneously teaching what they need to learn in their core areas. It is a delicate balance. One, that is hard to do when you have been away from teaching as long as I have. I was in for quite a surprise when I came back to the classroom. I didn’t realize how much emphasis was being placed on passing the test. I had heard about it but experiencing it in the trenches is eye opening.
The one thing that made me eye raise was how intense the pressure was for educators to collect quantitative data.
About mid-November we begin the Race for Test Results, we test..test…test. There are Summatives, Formatives, and Benchmarks all in hopes that we can have that edge when it comes to the “real thing in April”. We put the students into inaccurate testing models and then are expected to use the data collected to formulate our lessons. We do mini-review sessions hoping to cram just a little bit more into their minds.
Just a little bit more so we can keep our funding.
Just a little bit more so we can keep our schools open.
It is always just a little bit more.
The fight for our classrooms is very real and it can be daunting to those who are just starting in the field. As newbies, we want to be perfect so we continue to teach the way they “want us to” sometimes forgoing best practices in order to reach the prescribed goals set for us.
I am here to tell you not all is lost.
We can still make a difference. We have our guiding TEKS and they are open ended enough that we still have ample opportunities to create authentic learning. We can still have the freedom to teach.
We just have to keep pushing forward to create authentic writing and reading opportunities for our students. But, we have to be cautious that we are not regurgitating outdated teaching in a bright, shiny new package because believe me even I love a pretty handout.
As I end my first year back in the classroom, I’ve learned that the C-Scope packaged curriculum is my guide (my framework) but I can fill it in with whatever I choose. It allows me to manipulate my TEKS in a manageable way.
In my classroom, we have created procedural texts, done a shark tank style presentation,wrote a 1500 fiction piece, created a power point presentation, used google docs, did journaling, and even interviewed teachers. What I floundered in was using anchor texts to help me teach literary elements except poetry.
I killed the poetry unit.
I will be honest it isn’t easy to get back your classroom. It is a fight. You have to be able to prove that your lessons are adequately teaching the TEKS needed in our curriculum units. Keep book lists, prove that you (the professional) knows current pedagogy, and always be ready to elevator pitch your ideas to your administrator.
We can teach, inspire, and lead but apathy has no room in the equation. We must constantly be willing to change, to learn, to adapt to the ever changing landscape of our classrooms.
This is just step one of creating authentic writing and reading opportunities. My next post will focus on Creating Reasons to Write in the secondary classroom.