I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

16 April 2011

The Other Thing about Testing.

So despite all the time the standardized tests take - two weeks of administration, usually - they aren't very long or detailed.  I believe the elementary reading CST has something like 40 questions.

Based on the standards-weighting and released test item checking that statistical testing mavens do, this means that of those forty questions, 5% (two questions) probably test one minor morphological spelling pattern in English.  For instance, a 2nd grader's mastery of 2nd grade reading over an entire school year can be measured in part by whether he or she can correctly pluralize berry and fox.

He or she may have shown remarkable depth in inferencing characters' motivations, learned how to write a persuasive paragraph for a variety of audiences and be able to read third grade books.  Standardized tests can't test any of those skills very well, though.  So if this young reader is a lousy speller, that's 5% towards failing already.

There's an argument that skills like these are easy - easy to learn, easy to teach.  In some ways I am sympathetic: I represented my county at the state spelling bee years ago.  I'm an awesome speller (although not a competitive one: I intentionally knocked myself out because the whole thing was getting just too nutty and dramatic and bright-lighted).  Spelling is easy for me.

However - an no particular offense meant - I read a variety of blogs, receive many a letter or email and used to teach undergraduates.  If spelling is such an easy thing to teach, then based on the spelling I see, it's a wonder we manage to learn and teach anything.

It's not just "We have spell-check now"; even Laura Ingalls Wilder's prairie lawyers misspelled "hero".*  We have spelling bees because spelling is interesting and hard, and kids who are good at it deserve recognition.  Yet a child's learning - and a teacher's performance - can apparently be judged by it.

That strikes me as not just ridiculous but rigged, to be honest.

In other news, my students really like drapey draped dresses, and if I wear a McQueen vintage number with little gartery/harnessy things hanging on the sides, the kids will use these as additional handholds.  Also, I got the telephone wire + sticker glue paint project to work much more easily this year.  The trick is using not just non-glare report covers but the insides of those laminating pouches for cheap laminators.  Conveniently I know someone with a broken laminator and many leftover pouches.

Sadly, the incubator I received as a gift was broken.  I ordered a new one - once you promise chickens, you have to make it happen - which will hopefully arrive next week.  This means that on the day of filing for last year's $250 educator's deduction on my federal taxes, I managed to spend the savings.

*Side note: I spell well because I read a lot and always have.  I studied linguistics at the post-graduate level and have suffered through endless SB466 Reading First trainings on spelling patterns: that only gets you something if you will actually sit there and systematically and with conscious intent apply spelling rules.  You won't.

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