Saturday, June 7, 2008

MCAS, TAH reflection, and it's already June-oh my!

First off, I want to say that totally agree with Dan. TAH has definitely improved my teaching of American History as an elementary school teacher. I was really fortunate to be one of a small group of elementary school teachers who have a degree in content. I was a History major in college and that has been a huge asset to me as an intermediate elementary school teacher.

My concentration as a history major was in two broad areas; Ancient History and Post World War I and II Eastern Europe. Guess what I teach to fifth graders? Early American History! I've had to do a lot of self-exploration to inform my teaching of this topic. After 8 years, I think I've become a pretty good expert (at least in the eyes of my 70 ten and eleven year olds), but TAH has opened my eyes up to a lot of different things.

What I was curious to talk about with all of you is MCAS. It now seems like a blur, but just a couple weeks ago, I was up to my neck in all that stress. Fifth graders take a total of 9 sessions of MCAS. Awful! We take three in March, and six in May.

I am very curious to hear about the high school and middle school tests. I'm not entirely sure what grades they are in anymore- 7th? 11th? What are people's reactions to this push to a more of a "primary source" based test? I thought the fifth grade test was a mixed bag. I thought the material I had to cover in fifth grade, only 32 ridiculously detailed standards, wasn't too bad. I still find it hard to watch kids answer very specific questions. What I would call, "button, button, who's got the button". It can be heart wrenching to watch as students say that Lord Baltimore was the founder of Rhode Island, when you very specifically taught the difference between Roger Williams and the insignificant Lord Baltimore. Many of the questions aren't difficult, but lean towards more of what I would describe to be "common sense" type questions, and these to prove to be daunting for fifth graders. Why did most of the colonists in the colonies speak English? Some of my kids think it is because the Indians spoke English. No joke- that was one of the answers and I watched kids pick it. I think I shouldn't be allowed to proctor this test for my own mental welfare.

What do you all think? Do you find it painful to watch MCAS? Are we teaching too much- too much breadth and not enough depth? What can we expect our kids to learn and retain?