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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 13 2012

Standardized Testing: OVER!!

My students took their last chance at the DCAS this past week… In the beginning of the year I, under TFA’s guidance and instruction, set a class goal to represent 40% gap closure. Basically it’s a goal of how much they need to grow to be on a trajectory to overcome the achievement gap in a couple of years. Our class goal was 824. When I initially calculated this, I laughed. In October their class average was at 768. I remember thinking, “I’ll just be happy if they get a class average over 800 by the end of the year.” An 800 represents a proficient score.

Delaware, for better or for worse, believes in testing students multiple times throughout the year. One benefit of this is that it allows teachers to objectively track growth. I’ve slowly seen my students grow, but never quite meeting our targets for each test session. Going into this last test session, for the first time I felt at peace about it. I didn’t know what else I could do for them. I felt like I had given them everything I could in the time I had. Sure there are always lessons that can go better, but I still felt like I had done what I could do. I didn’t know if they would meet the goal, but I thought they might at least get close. The last few weeks I’ve tried to be as encouraging, inspiring, and motivational as possible which I don’t consider to be a strength of mine.

Wednesday, test day, was probably the craziest day I’ve ever had in my school. There was a fight in the morning that later turned into a much bigger deal once the mothers arrived to take their daughters home. We spent about an hour on lockdown. I watched out the door window (as I was supervising 60 children by myself) a mother who became violet with our faculty and sent her daughter and friend on a mission to “f*** her up” in reference to a sixth grade student. Later I watched the mother and both girls be arrested and taken away in handcuffs. It’s a very strange feeling to be appreciative while watching 13 year olds in handcuffs. During this event, I also heard many of my students in the room recount of their experiences being arrested. It’s pretty heartbreaking to know that plenty of my students have records and probation officers. It’s definitely not something I was experiencing in my life at that age. Needless to say, the excitement of the morning made me very nervous for my students’ abilities to focus and be in the proper mindset to test in the afternoon.

The first few students to finish did exceptionally well. I kept going over to computers and seeing huge amounts of growth reported. I started to even question in my own head that they just might make it. Getting to see the celebrations of students and shock on their own faces is a priceless moment. Being able to tell some students that they’ve grown more than 100 points in one year is an incredible opportunity. Come the end of the day, they met their goal. Currently the class average is at an 825, one point above their goal. I still have one student left to test so this is number may still increase if she does exceptionally well (though it cannot decrease). At the beginning of the year, just 8% of the class was scoring proficient. Now the class sits at a shinning 73% proficient. I couldn’t be more proud of them.  It’s still hard for me to believe that we actually made it.

It was definitely an afternoon full of moments that help me to know that all of the struggles and the lack of sleep in the past year has been worth it. I don’t think that I’ve changed their lives or that I’ve closed any sort of gap, but I know that I’ve done everything I could. I know that I made a difference even if it’s very small.

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