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Over a Barrel: Project 180, Day 118

In a little over a month, my 88 sophomores will sit down to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA).  It is the most current manifestation of the “state test” that kids will have to pass in order to graduate. It began with the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL),  and then it changed to the High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE). Interestingly, each–including the current test–has been touted as a valid, reliable measure of student achievement–until it wasn’t. And so, this leads me to believe that we haven’t yet “arrived” in regards to finding “the measure” of student achievement.

With the SBA’s predecessors I went all in. Oh, not because I thought that these tests were the promised panacea they claimed to be, but because they were part of my kids’ realities. And as such, my attitude, as with most things that I do, set the stage for how the kids would approach the test. I even created “cheer teams” in the form of WASL Wonders and HSPE Heroes to motivate and inspire the kids to do their best. But as time got on, my energy and enthusiasm for such things began to wane. And now, even if I wanted, I don’t think I could muster the strength, for I am no longer buying what’s being sold. I am no longer all in. Heck, I’ve not even a toe in the ring if I am honest. I am done. But it’s not that simple. And before I get too crazy with my anti-test, tough-guy talk, I have to check myself. There’s still the kids. And those in power know this. And as long as that’s a factor, they have me over a barrel. I will do what I have to do to help my kids pass, even if it means selling out.

Recently, our attention was directed to what are called “interim assessments,” practice assessments put out by the same company who makes the tests, practice assessments that teach to the test, practice assessments that take precious class time. Practice assessments that if I do not put my kids in front of, then I am guilty of not putting them in front of the practice, which may or may not help them pass. And thus the barrel; it is especially the barrel when such things are presented as, “It’s your professional responsibility to give these practice tests. Well, when it’s put that way, then I guess I have to do it, else I am not a professional. I am neglecting my kids. I am hurting their chances on the test. Of course, we are not being required to give them, but we are being reminded of our professional responsibility. Barrel.

And so, a dilemma. It vexes me that I have to put so much time and energy into something that will likely “expire” once the new, more valid and more reliable measure presents itself. It vexes me that even yesterday, my conferences with kids ended up steering us to how they will perform on the upcoming test. It vexes me that I have to sell what I would not buy. It vexes me that I will have to be disingenuous with my kids, as I put on my rah-rah hat and pick up my pom-poms, checking my attitude at the door, putting on a happy face for something in which I find little value. But I will. For my students. But not for my own child. My seventh-grade son Finn will not be taking the SBA this spring. We are opting him out. Opting out because we can. Not sure what we will do in  high school, when it “counts,” but for now, we will choose not to participate in this mad era of standardized testing.

Happy Wednesday, all.

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