Next week middle school students in Texas are going to be taking the first round of STAAR tests. For those of you outside of Texas, the STAAR tests are the public-school state assessments for the state of Texas. Over the next few blog posts I am going to show you just how disconnected the STAAR test is from the actual teaching and learning we practice each day at my campus.
I am fortunate to have a staff of teachers at my middle school that have embraced my challenges of thinking differently, challenging the status quo, doing what we need for our kids and not to prepare for a state assessment. I have teachers that wrote grants for flexible furniture in their classrooms and teachers that just bought their own flexible furniture and, thus, have changed how teaching and learning looks in their classroom. Their classrooms no longer consist of desks and rows but instead of flexible seating options with tables, chairs, high seating, low seating, exercise balls… well, just see some examples for yourself:
What do you think? Do those classrooms look like rooms that you would want to learn in? How about your child? Do you want them to learn in classrooms that look like these? How about asking your child what they prefer? See what they say… which rooms would they choose?
What do you see in these classrooms?
I see choice, options, comfort, collaboration spaces, movement options in these classrooms. I see rooms that are conducive for student learning and risk taking in their learning. I see rooms that students equate more to being at home and less like being in a cold space for learning. I see teacher stations that allow for collaboration and conferencing with students
With the STAAR test coming, we are forced to change what our classrooms look like currently to administer the test.
Desks must be in rows, only 2 students per table with a divider between students, and teachers are not able to help students but instead only read instructions to students. The walls in the classrooms must be covered to prevent students from being able to look up and be inspired by a poster on the walls during a writing exam. The hallways must be free of anything helpful or inspirational while they are in the hallways waiting quietly to use a restroom. Students are not allowed to talk to each other in the restrooms if they are still testing because they might talk about their test. Today I had to go to a big box hardware store and purchase 25 tables to bring into these classrooms so that we can administer the test.
I hope you see that we must change the layout, function, feeling, and purpose of the daily learning spaces to take high stakes state assessment exams. These exams are purported to demonstrate a student’s knowledge and mastery of an entire course or in some cases the years of courses. Does that make sense to you that we must change the entire learning environment on the day a child is supposed to demonstrate all they know about a subject?
Think. Achieve. Succeed.
Share your thoughts in the comments section below about how we have to change classrooms to take state assessment tests.
Director of Instruction and Leadership Development
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are
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