Another Countdown To The Statewide Math Test [OMGWTFGAAAHHH]

Jose Vilson Mr. Vilson 6 Comments

Tomorrow, thousands of New York City teachers return to work from a well-deserved extended break. For me, it just felt good putting my feet up, reading novels, sipping iced coffee, and spending time with my family without having to tell them, “Alright, time’s up, I got things to do now, move along now, thank you.”

Going back to work is bittersweet at best, headache-inducing at worst.

Teaching tomorrow is the reminder that, with only 15 days left until the New York State math test, I’m coming closer to officially being able to say, “I can’t do a damn thing about it now.”

As a newer teacher, I never knew what teaching was like when I didn’t have to worry about my students performing well. I might have wanted them to perform well, but I would have wanted them to learn something far more than I would have wanted them to achieve on this state exam. Instead of cramming a bunch of topics during the mad rush at the end of a unit, I would prefer to show them why the cool relationship between angles formed by parallel lines cut by a transversal. I might have assured my kids went to high school without having to add on their fingers, or rushing to the calculator box.

I would have asked my kids to stay on that one annoying question for just one more minute.

Instead, I’m in “testing” mode. Everything we’ve learned together, we’ve covered, we’ve struggled through gets a brush-up, akin to what Sal Khan does for a living, only with higher stakes. I’m not much of a teacher, but a cobweb sweeper, still learning to balance between “What do you MEAN you don’t remember this?” and “Ohyougotitgoodletsmoveon.” Every day brings a new topic to refresh, a whole lot of scribbling, and a little bit of sweating, knowing full well the implications of not reminding students what we covered six months ago.

What’s more, people who’ve rarely been in the classroom have the audacity to have something to say about what we do. Forget what you heard. As a matter of fact, use another word besides “forget.” Testing in the age of one-sided accountability is a monster whose teeth don’t chomp, they gnaw, in a slow grind rather than a big slice.

All the while, even with some of the issues I have with some of my students, I only wish I had more time and attention to dedicate to them, not less. So maybe it’s not that I’m reaching a point where I can say, “OK, we’re done here.” It’s more like, “The current system will never give any of you the time or pleasure to learn math in a way that makes you love it. At least not now.”

Mr. Vilson

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonAnother Countdown To The Statewide Math Test [OMGWTFGAAAHHH]

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  2. Lori

    As a parent, I’m almost in the same mode. My oldest child is taking the 4th-grade test and it was over the spring break that I had her take the sample math and English questions I got from the DOE website. WTF was I thinking and where have I been? (Besides looking for more work because my freelance stint ended.) She didn’t do so hot on the math questions, so we did spend the break for a half hour a day doing drills in multiplication, reviewing fractions, etc. friggin’, etc. and preparing her for the fact that there will be extraneous info to purposely trick her, you know, like in real life. Then I take my kids to the neighborhood library and two 4th-grade classmates are studying with their parents a book from Bright Kids! Instantly, I feel like a crap parent for not hiring a tutor or enrolling her in a cram program. I thought maybe, just maybe, the DOE website would be helpful, so I click on Parent Resources. I see a video where Walcott tells parents to expect lower grades on the tests. Then there’s two videos with David Coleman, prez of the College Board, a woman from the Regents, and John King. King is acting like a television host. Coleman lectures parents on why schools are going common core so our kids think as deep as those kids in other countries. Okay, fine. But just test kids for fun to see if students are on the right track; don’t make the tests count. (Are they really going to jeopardize children on this “test” test?) Are kids being paid to be a focus group? Give teachers and kids a chance to learn the stuff and don’t expect that all parents can afford or want to hire a tutor. Give us all more help. I’m also guessing Coleman wants in on the action of the K to 12 MARKET. Maybe if Pearson bombs, the College Board can pounce.

    Anyway, you’re not alone. I know you and other teachers are doing your best. I see what you’re up against.

  3. andy

    important, clear, and the writing dances. thanks for the excellence – each gem like this makes us more likely to fight mediocrity of mush.

  4. SI

    Thank you for the post. The ridiculous idea that 3rd graders have the ability to comprehend the kind of complex problems posed on these math tests, and expected to answer quickly is maddening. I think what’s most frustrating is that there is no visibility as to who and how these tests were conceived.

    It is a fact, that children’ s brains are incapable of understanding perspective before the age of 7. They simply can not, because this part of the brain is not yet developed. With this, I am curious how the cc tests were developed? Were child psychologists involved at any point during the cc writing process? Was scientific data used to understand brain development of children between the ages of 5-12? It is now known that the human brain does not stop developing til the age of 25. During this time, children, adolescents, young adults have ever evolving neurons, and paths that have a lot to do with how they process information, and how they analyze problem solving.

    The amount of stress I’ve seen from my daughter and her classmates, as well as the stories i’ve heard from other parents is frightening. My child started developing stress related eczema on her hands as the surprise math prep tests started. Today, another surprise test. After her score was lower than she expected, she said of herself, that she was ashamed and that she was stupid. Meanwhile, she has consistently received high scores on her class curriculum. A boy in her class has been banging his head with his fists over and over,every time his math prep tests fell below 3. So many parents have been speaking of how terrified their kids are, of not doing well on this test. THIS IS EDUCATION????

    The parents and teachers of New York state need to file a class action suit. There is a lack of accountability from the chancellor and the DOE. The toll on teachers and students for the sake of absurd testing is unforgivable.

    I believe my child’s teacher is a fantastic educator who cares about her students. I know she has done a great job. My child has done well in her class, and studies hard, but the expectations set forth on these tests, for such young children, is just not acceptable. Nor does the testing reflect a teachers abilities. And unfortunately, the ones who are suffering the most, are the students.

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