Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dispatch from the Trenches of the New York State ELA Exam, Day 1: "I Was Bored in Five Minutes"

Every year I fantasize about leading my students in passive resistance to the state ELA exams. I imagine us all sitting in my room with the door closed and the lights off, our desks empty, placid but silent. "We respectfully decline," I hear us saying, perhaps in a calm but defiant unison, over and over. Perhaps we conduct an all-day charity readathon, or maybe we just go and hang out on the playground with some kindergarteners from the elementary school across the way later in the afternoon, but we don't take the test.

And then I drag my sorry ass into school and give the test.

The state is claiming that the tests are harder this year, but I don't really buy it. I didn't think this year's test was all that much more difficult than last year's. (But, in case you don't know, I cannot comment on test content until the makeup period is over.) Most of my kids finished Book 1 early with time to spare, and since regulations mandate that kids spend the extra time twiddling their thumbs or staring off into space, my darlings were pretty wiggly by the 54th minute. And, of course, as soon as time was called, they couldn't wait to be out of their seats and talking again. This is middle school, after all.

Since 8th grade tests in three separate sections over 2 days, Day 1 is our long day, and Book 2 also passed relatively uneventfully. I like to think of myself as a pretty thorough writing teacher, and sure enough, most of my kiddies were writing pretty much to the end. Many of them destroyed an eraser or two in the process. I think that shows that they care.

Later in the day, I met up with my students who'd been taken elsewhere for testing mods with pull-out teachers. I asked them how it had gone.

"Aw, it was easy," said a girl I'll call Alicia.

"I bet you were all bored after ten minutes," I teased. "You're too smart for this stuff."

"I was bored after FIVE minutes," countered my buddy Drew.

"I'm sure you nailed it," I said.

He nodded. "I think I did."

Well, that's always good news. Day 2 forthcoming later this week.
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