Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Exams and Shavuot: Let the confusion begin

If it's May it must be testing time,  and in North Carolina that has become a time of confusion and stress.  The tests,  the grading and the way the results are used seem to change like the weather.

Parent Amy Wlodyka sent me the testing schedule she got from Providence High,  accompanied by a note from the principal:   "It is different than in previous years due to NC testing requirements and how much time has to be given for each individual exam.  You will notice that A/B day exams are being given the week of Memorial Day.  You will also notice there are 2 days in the middle of exam week which are regular school days.  June 4 and 5 are Religious Holidays recognized by CMS and exams are not permitted to be given.  Since those are regular school days, all classes will meet and attendance will be taken in each class."

She and I had the same reaction:  What religious holiday?  Thank goodness for the internet:  It's apparently the Jewish celebration of Shavuot,  which marks the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and is also linked to harvest season.




The real question,  of course,  is how teachers and students are going to handle an exam schedule broken up by two days of regular classes.


"Teachers will NOT be allowed to review since testing has begun,"  emailed recently retired teacher George Walker.  "What will teachers do for two days? What impact will it have on scores since two extra days have passed since review?  To teachers this is two days wasted at a time of the year where a lot is at stake.  ...  It seems silly and hypocritical to have class during a supposed religious observation but not allow the schools to operate once the kids arrive."

What else are you hearing about this year's exams?

We know,  of course,  that this is the year North Carolina plans to break with its longstanding four-point scale for state exams,  with Levels 1 and 2 failing and Levels 3 and 4 passing.  On the new five-point scale,  a Level 3  (passing)  covers what used to be a high level 2,  increasing the number who will be labeled on grade level and reducing the number of  third-graders will be forced to take summer school or face retention under the Read to Achieve act.

I've heard some questions about whether the state will bring back mandatory retesting.  As you may recall,  for a couple of years the state required that students who earned Level 2s on their first try take a new version of the exam a few days later.  That ended last year because scoring was delayed on new exams.  This year,  I'm told that there will be no retesting except for third-graders who fail reading.

30 comments:

Pamela Grundy said...

The problem is not with CMS. It is with the whole, rotten system. If the stakes were not so high on these exams (A-F grading, teacher evaluation, promotion to fourth grade, etc.) then it wouldn't matter when they were taken. Our elected officials need to stop listening to "experts" with close ties to testing companies and start listening to parents and teachers.

Anonymous said...

This is yet another unintended consequence of legislation that had a good intent (having all 3rd graders on grade level), but was poorly implemented.

Having testing on the Friday before and Tuesday after Memorial day will likely impact student performance. As a kid (or still as an adult), where was your mind the Friday before a holiday weekend?

I hope the legislature or state education department makes some modifications of the requirements of testing so that our kids aren't put in a disadvantage due to tight timelines.

Wiley Coyote said...

A better title would have been "Do-overs and Religious Intolerance...

Anonymous said...

Not specifically about testing, but as a result of the break the general noise from the Hough kids is teachers aren't going to teach so the kids are lobbying their parents to stay home.

Though, it did get us looking at differing religions and their holidays. Attempting to find one or two per week in May and June to push this testing back into the end of April. Thus, allowing 6 weeks for teachers to go with off the wall lesson plans with no consequences.

Shamash said...

"It seems silly and hypocritical to have class during a supposed religious observation but not allow the schools to operate once the kids arrive."

Yes, but it's politically correct.

And that's what apparently counts most in "education" today.

Anonymous said...

I bet if the kids didn't have to get up so early, this wouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Hough kids. It would be more beneficial to stay home and review since review will be banned at school. What a waste of valuable class time.....

Anonymous said...

standardized testing is out of control in this state and once more, as a parent I find this trend to be very concerning, test taking is not learning and it is very expensive. Perhaps both the Governor and Lt Governor can have a positive impact with this issue and reverse this trend.

Anonymous said...

How about elementary school EOG's being split over the Memorial Day weekend? Not sure whose bright idea that was, but it should produce some interesting results. A normal Friday wouldn't be an ideal high stakes testing day, but the Friday before a 3 day weekend, at the end of May? And the Tuesday after a 3 day weekend? I have no clue why CMS couldn't have used T, W, Th of the week before Memorial Day instead of breaking it up across the weekend??

Anonymous said...

Fine this is the schedule. But why are those two days "wasted days". Those two days can be used to teach something that is not in the testing and is in the teachers heart as something to teach. Like teach what exactly E=MC2 means, teach about the teachers favorite book and why, there are a million things to teach the children.

Maybe it will be mentally refreshing for the kids to have a day of learning that has nothing to do with testing. Imagine that.

Anonymous said...

Hough kids are not the only ones lobbying their parents to stay home. It's happening in Southern Mecklenburg as well.

Shamash said...

Anon 6:32am...

"As a kid (or still as an adult), where was your mind the Friday before a holiday weekend?"

Or the Monday after, for that matter.

Funny, but we all just got a note from our kid's teacher this week saying all parents should expect lower grades this six weeks because most of the kids are basically goofing off now that most of the year is over and final grades are pretty much set.

It seems that I remember school being a lot like this when I was a kid, too.

In training rats for my old Psychology class, we used to call this the "post-reinforcement pause".

Just after getting their "reward", the rats just wouldn't push those little bars for nothing.



Shamash said...

"It would be more beneficial to stay home and review since review will be banned at school. "

Actually, I think review is a waste of time at the end of the year.

I remember staying home the last week of school in 8th grade because ALL my classes were "review".

I already learned the material, and had all A's.

What was the point of "review".

Teach something new.

Even if it's not on the syllabus. Give the kids a peek at the next grade level work or discuss "career" opportunities (a great chance to steer the weaker-willed students away from teaching, BTW)

Do SOMETHING of value.

Anonymous said...

We keep hearing about third graders, but my understanding was: all students must pass the required tests to move on. Is that correct? Do we know if it applies this year? Last year, that rule did not apply because the tests came back late. I am interested in knowing how this will apply to other elementary students (4th and 5th) this year.

Pamela Grundy said...

In North Carolina, third grade is the only grade where passing a standardized test (or an equivalent) is required for promotion. It's in fact not legal to hold a student back based on a single test score, and has been for some time. There used to be "gateway" years in which passing the test was required, but that's no longer the case, which is a fine thing because high-stakes decisions shouldn't be made on the basis of standardized test scores, and retention does more harm than good.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't they have pajama day, or movie day, or Silly sock day? My point is that the last few weeks of school are a total waste for everyone. It is unfortunate, because there is so much wonderful information and fun activities that could be taught the last few weeks of class. What a waste.

Wiley Coyote said...

Just pass everyone.

They already get a 50 for writing their name on paper and turning it in.

That way, we'll have nearly 100% graduation rate every year.

Sounds like a great plan and will save millions in tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see what the big problem is with having the two day break. Sure teachers can't review, but I'm sure there are other educational things they can do. If the students really know the material, then skipping two days doesn't make them unlearn it. If they've only memorized it long enough to regurgitate it to a test, then they don't have true understanding of the content. And that is what is part of the huge education problem. Students memorize it long enough to test, and then quickly forget it. That doesn't happen if they reach the point of true understanding, and two days won't matter.

Shamash said...

Anon 9:22am.

"test taking is not learning and it is very expensive"

Unfortunately, they tried learning WITHOUT "high stakes" test taking and it was a miserable failure.

Unless you think illiterate HS students are a sign of success in education.

So now, they try to hash that problem out before the end of third grade.

And look at all the resistance.

We could just take Wiley's advice and pass everyone, making school a "low stakes" experience for all.

I'd suggest passing and awarding HS diplomas to those who don't even bother coming to school as well.

Then we'd really save some bucks.

But, heck, it's only two days, it's not gonna matter much either way.

If nothing else, teach them what the heck Shavuot is and how difficult (or not) it was to lobby the state into getting that honored as a "test-free" holiday.

At least they will learn something useful.

I doubt that this holiday is even celebrated in schools in Mississippi, so it's a learning experience.

Shavuot: The Zeppo Marx of Jewish Holidays

http://forward.com/articles/127963/shavuot-the-zeppo-marx-of-jewish-holidays/

I mean, damn, I'm feeling all politically correct now that I've been properly schooled in this important holiday.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the Jewish students have a better, quieter environment to think about their religion if taking an exam than having movies and other non-curriculum activities? Or perhaps allow each religion to have an excused day or two during the year. What I don't get is how making Jewish students go to school and having a regular day is more respectful than taking an exam......

Anonymous said...

Not all schools have high stakes testing. Providence day and country day, don't even know what Common Core is. All this crap is for political correctness. To help the children is hustle. Testing companies make a buck. Advocacy groups make a buck. Reformers make a buck. Anything for a buck.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me how much kids and parents think a calendar is fluid. It's been the published calendar for two years that school ends JUNE 10. These observances were also on the calendar...APPLY LOGIC...given the State's policies, exams/tests can't be given on religious observances. Why was this a mystery to everyone. OK, the Hough kids and the S. Charlotte kids are "lobbying" to stay home. How is this any different from kids lobbying for anything else...of course they want to stay home, it's almost summer and they are already climbing the walls I'm sure...Again, there are only two options, stay home or don't. It is tiresome that the assumption is that teachers can't figure out what to do for those two days...sure, you can't "formally" "review", but that doesn't mean that teaching and learning can't occur outside the boundaries of a test...or are you saying that testing is the "end" goal of all education? You can't have it both ways. Teachers are professionals in their fields...I am planning a session of Philosophical Chairs based on current events issues that are curricular-ly linked with the topics we have covered all year. We will watch a Ted talk or two that provide background and development on the topics and then have time to write thoughtful ideas about the topic and then take sides and discuss and share and question. That's my plan and anyone with a clean criminal record and a CMS volunteer clearance is welcome to join us...bring snacks... It's really not the end of the world, Chicken Little...seriously...it's an exam schedule.

Anonymous said...

To 10:17...CMS didn't use the days before Memorial Day because the state set the dates for testing. No one was permitted to begin prior to May 23. That's not on CMS.

Carol S. said...

8:19 Well apparently the jewish holiday was news to CMS as well and the testing dates were recently changed. People aren't upset at the teachers about this situation, it's just the ridiculous political correctness of it all. Of course any responsible teacher would be prepared to fill those 2 days with valuable, relevant information. Do you think that will be happening in all the classrooms? Thankfully it will be happening in yours.

Anonymous said...

Why?

Anonymous said...

People will still blame the teachers. The Jeb Bushes, Bill Gates and Obama's of the world have made it all the rage.

Anonymous said...

Some wrong information here. Counties are given a window of time to do testing. Cms dropped the ball by setting exam dates then finding out about the Jewish observance. Secondly, other counties are giving the exams on the 4th and 5th. The state iS allowing testing on the dates. It is like the fall when cms does football on Thursday nights during other Jewish holidays while other counties play Friday. Some CMS teams get around this by playing away games outside the county. Lastly, teachers will be afraid to do anything with curriculum since that could be a testing irregularity.

Anonymous said...

Yet another consequence of tying the teachers performance to the exams. Does the teacher take the risk of new material and the edge students doing poorly. Since there is no reward for the risk, the average person will avoid the risk. Therefore, nothing will be done on those two days.

Anonymous said...

My only issue with your blog is the use of "supposed holiday". This is not the fist year that CMS has allowed jewish children to observe this Holiday. Perhaps, the Observer reporters should take a quick primer on religious holidays and their significance.

Ann Doss Helms said...

I admit to not being familiar with Shavuot and having to look it up, 8:23, but I would not have personally referred to it as a "supposed holiday." That was a quote from a teacher, not my words.