Sunday, March 22, 2009

Scoring is Time Consuming and Expensive . . Oh, Really?!

The ND State Standards and I have a love/hate relationship. I was part of the team that helped to establish standards for grade ten soon after No Child Left Behind was developed. I went to the our state capital with the hope of creating standards that would hold North Dakota students accountable for the curriculum that North Dakota teachers found profoundly important.

I did that, sort of.

I then went to the state capital to help choose a vendor to write the state assessment that our students would take yearly to see if they met those standards.

I did that too, sort of.

The truth is, we did a good job writing standards, but we were plagued by many questions that went unanswered by the 'powers that be.' We wondered how our students were going to be tested. We wondered what a question would look like that would test standards that expected students to 'use appropriate body language' or 'edit for meaning.' We really wondered how our students would be asked to show proficiency in writing on a test that was almost completely multiple choice. Hmmmm.

I know most of the answers now from helping to align the CTB test to our standards, and most of them do not make me happy. The truth is that our students are tested on 'using' or 'editing' or 'writing' by choosing the correct answer from a list of four. Choosing answers written by someone else really is not 'using' or 'editing' at all. In fact, on any given day, our students have at minimum a 25% chance of 'using' or 'editing' or 'writing' correctly. I think everyone can see the lack of logic here.

So why? Money. It costs money to score a test that actually has students carrying out real writing tasks. They complain that it is time consuming to score so many writing samples. Hmmm.

The test is only given one time a year, and the state thinks it will be too time consuming and costly to score our students' writings. Maybe they should take a look at their own logic. Teachers all over the state score countless essays and papers in the course of a year. We know that the only way for a student to become proficient at writing is to practice, practice, practice. In addition to the practice, they need educated, understandable, individualized feedback. How time consuming does the state think that is?

North Dakota pays its teachers one of the very lowest salaries in the country. Yet, I know that I would have to look very, very hard to find a teacher who would stoop low enough to score their students' writing ability with a multiple choice test.

It is time consuming to score hundred and hundreds of essays and papers. I know. I teach ELA. I do it for next to nothing every day. I know when my students are proficient in writing because I actually have them write. And I do not appreciate being told by a state that cannot part with its surplus to provide an adequate test, let alone teachers' salaries even within range of the national average, whether my students are proficient or not.

I know if they are proficient. I am their teacher. I will do whatever I can to make each and every one proficient, if it is at all possible. Will North Dakota ever do the same?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this post. I've written time and time again about how we ARE the experts. State mandate gets a little tricky when we are the ones in the trenches every day teaching our subjects and assessing our students. I love that you were part of making the standards for your state though, that shows real dedication to getting it right.