Our district, along with the rest of the country, is inching towards merit pay. One of the steps they have put in place this year is a Common Core State Standard assessment. In kindergarten, since there is no baseline data, we have to administer the assessment four times a year. Once at the very beginning of the year, the first week, before we even have routines and procedures down. Then we do it three more times at the end of each grading period. Testing.

We have just finished up the final, end of year CCSS exam. Our principal wanted us to pull a report from the program where we record our results. The data became available over the weekend and I looked at it. Basically, the “Big Picture” report takes all of the math standard results, and all of the ELA results and condenses them into one math “grade” and one ELA “grade”. The grades are, Emergent, Approaches, Meets, and Exceeds.

Fine, except for this, and it’s only one example. I have one little girl, who “meets” the standard on EVERY Common Core State Standard in math except one. She can’t count to 100 yet, she only counted to 49. She is rated as Emergent on this one standard. Eight standards tested, 7 out of 8 meeting the standards but that’s not enough. Because she was rated Emergent on this ONE standard, she is rated Emergent on ALL of math. That’s not right.

In reading, they have to know 50 out of 100 sight words to meet the standard, 49 is approaching the standard, 50 meets the standard, and 51 exceeds. There is no wiggle room. Knowing 35 words is still Emergent and knowing 35 words gets the same rating as knowing 6 words.

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What state/district is deploying this? Is this an evaluation year or is all of this live? From this experience, should it be better if the student was considered “meets” or “exceeds” with an understanding that in first grade the teacher should be aware of the counting to 100 target? Will this information only be used to evaluate you and give the student a label?

If you are in Education, you would know that at least 48 of the 50 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards. If you are not familiar with them, you can Google them. There is also a free phone app that covers the basics. I believe it’s available in both Droid and I-Phone formats. My district is confidential, I’m more comfortable that way, but I read many kindergarten and general education blogs and across the country many teachers are dealing with similar situations. The “Big Picture” report in our district is clearly intended to evaluate teacher performance (and by extension, the administration of the school), if not now, at least in the near future. My point is that either way, evaluating the teacher or the student, by consolidating ALL standards into one general readiness label, and doing it in this manner (7 Meets the Standard plus 1 Emergent equalling Emergent overall doesn’t make sense. Especially given that the student wasn’t that far off of Meeting the Standard on the one standard in the first place).

This is why I believe the real purpose of testing should be to see what the children know so we can teach what they don’t know. Testing serves a great purpose when given at the beginning of the year and used as a guide for instruction. I’m not sure it is entirely valid for anything else, especially at this age. There are too many other factors involved- including the “luck” factor. I recently had one student do okay on a written test by checking the first answer of every question! I once passed a college math exam- that I knew I wasn’t prepared to take- by answering in an “ABC” pattern. There are always problems with test structure, cultural and regional differences, timing, test anxiety, attention deficit, etc, etc, etc. I had a student last year who could count to 100, but couldn’t “do math”. Tests must be only a small part of how we evaluate the abilities of children.

I just found your blog! I’ve been teaching 28 years, 13 in kdg. 11 in 2nd and then 4 more in kdg. We had our first “appraisal” last year using student data. It counted for 50% of my eval. I taught NONE of the students…they were 3rd and 4th graders and I wasn’t at that school to teach them. Talk about unfair. Unfair to students to be tested constantly, unfair to parents, and unfair to tachers. I will leave at the end of January. Can’t do this anymore.

Wish you well. I appreciate you taking the time to relate what is going on in your area and classroom. I commend you!