CRCT Fever

17 Apr

It’s that time of the year when Georgia elementary schools are going all out for the annual criterion referenced competency test (CRCT). Both of my boys will be subjected to it this next week, and both schools are totally ramping up for this.

  • - Every core subject has been giving practice CRCT tests for the past month

  • - Letters are sent home (more than one) urging parents to make sure the kids are well-rested and well-fed on test day.

  • - Rewards are offered after each test is finished

  • - Rewards are offered at the end of the week after ALL tests are finished.

  • The high school bands are going to the elementary schools on the Friday before test week in order to perform for a CRCT pep rally.

  • Review sessions and tutoring are given after school

  • Evening seminars are given to help parents and students deal with test anxiety.

  • Numerous workbooks and study guides are sold for each grade and subject area.

So what’s at stake?

  • - AYP – whether a school is seen as successful or failing

  • - Real estate values

  • - Teacher contracts

  • - Administrator jobs

  • - Whether or not a student moves to the next grade

  • In the future, there may be some bonus money at stake for teachers and administrators.

In Georgia, this CRCT business actually started before NCLB hit the scene, thanks to the beloved former Governor Roy Barnes’ A+ reform program. Yes, Barnes actually was in front of the high stakes testing movement and continues to advocate for NCLB through his co-chairing the Aspen Institute . Yes, this is the guy who has, and continues to lead the charge into high stakes testing. Based on those actions, he became so unpopular that he was overthrown in his re-election bid and swept republicans into power in Georgia for the first time since reconstruction. And now he is thinking about running again. Egad. It is true that our current beloved Republican governor has proven to be even more unfriendly and twice as inept when it comes to public education but I find it hard to believe that people could be so stupid as to bring the former weasel back. Sure, the old weasel looks less evil than the current one, but why not try to find someone who is NOT looking to pillage education?

Back to the test…

There are still a lot of doubts about the CRCT.

If you look at the first list, you’ll find that actually teaching new skills is not on there. If it’s not on the test, it isn’t going to get much time and hasn’t for at least a month. During test week, EVERYTHING becomes subordinated to those tests. No field trips. No activities. No homework (YAY!). Even the school calendar is subordinate to the tests as spring break must be early enough so that there is enough time to take the test and get the results back before the end of the year. This is what the school has been working for all year. If you think they have been working toward delivering a good education, you are mistaken unless you equate scoring well on a test as a good education. And our students are getting better at taking tests. They may not be able to count change or get along with others, but they can sure take a test.

If you look at my second list, you’ll see that student learning is NOT at stake. The test is supposed to be a measure of learning, but is not learning itself, per se. Not much learning or instruction will be taking place during testing week. But at least the high school band will get in some extra performance time during the CRCT pep rally, which is nice.

My youngest, who just recently had his last IEP ever, will do fine on his tests. He’s the sort who will just do well no matter what else happens because he’s just the sort of kid who loves learning. My oldest, OTOH, will have some issues. First there is the radical change in schedule that happens during testing week. For individuals with autism, schedules provide a safe routine whereas surprises and inconsistency breed anxiety. They’ll do some preparation to minimize this, but at least the first day there is always some extra nervousness. He gets tested in a small group and is allowed as much time as he wants. The small group might help, but he won’t need extended time. He either gets it or he doesn’t and he’s not going to labor over one problem for any length of time. What might happen is that he’ll get distracted. One of the most difficult and costly tasks is transferring an answer from the test booklet to the answer sheet bubbles. It’s too easy to get off track. I can’t remember if marking in the test booklet is an option for him, but it should be. The other problem is the fact that an open test booklet contains several problems/questions at the same time. Getting lost and skipping questions is also a danger. This is why I would be curious as to how he would do with the computerized version. I know some offer it for make-up sessions but for some kids this might actually be a preferred accommodation. It’s more difficult to skip a question or get off track transferring answers. And generally computers present one question at a time. One added bonus is that results would be instantaneous.

For parents and teachers across the country, high stakes testing is just the way the political wind is currently blowing, but I know I’m not the only one who is hoping for a change. While some testing and assessment is necessary, I think the stakes involved encourage all sorts of ways to try to game the system or even outright cheat. Entire local economies are held hostage to these tests, which I think is quite a lot to put on the backs of our school children on a single day or a single week. It just seems like priorities have gotten off track and the kids are paying for it, much like they will foot the bill for the current fiscal crisis.

What’s the wackiest thing you’ve seen surrounding these tests?

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3 Responses to “CRCT Fever”

  1. Nicole April 18, 2009 at 7:17 am #

    We took the CRCT last week in our school – and my *favorite* part about CRCT week (make sure you read that with sarcasm) is how it affects my class and the other self contained moderate, severe and profound classes in my building. We have all of the MOID, SID and PID classes for the county housed in our school so there are 5 self contained classes and all of our rooms are on the 4th/5th grade hallway. During testing week, we are all sent to the gym and asked to try to keep our kids somewhat quiet :-) 5 classes of kids with significant disabilities thrown together in the gym – that includes some of my more aggressive kids with autism in there together with the fragile kids with physical disabilities. What a great idea, right?? On top of that, there’s the idea that – well, those classes don’t really do anything all day so they’ll be fine going to the gym and playing – it’s not like they’re missing out on anything important. Not to mention that there is no accessible bathroom or changing table near the gym – to get to those we have to go back down the 4/5 hall where they’re testing. But make sure you expain to the kid with a 30 IQ that this is a very important test and they need to be very quiet and not make any of those loud vocalizations that they can’t really control. Be sure they understand the gravity of the situation so that they will be quiet while we go by those room to get to the bathroom.

  2. brown April 24, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    I agree, I look forward to the day that our children are taught for a good education, not taught to pass a test!

  3. Daniel Dage April 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    Wow, Nicole. It took me awhile to NOT be overly upset with that sort of treatment. It would be all too tempting to parade the kids around and around the hall like it was Jericho! But this highlights the fact that there IS a very real culture of discrimination that exists against people with disabilities. If officials tried this with any other minority or group, there would be lawsuits and the media would be parked in front of the school. Unbelievable.

    I’m getting upset again.

    I dunno, Ms. Brown. I am seriously wondering if that is going to happen soon enough for your and my kids. If they are going to be taught beyond the test, I think it’s going to be you and I teaching our own kids. I’m not blaming teachers or anyone in particular. The school is a well-run (mostly) academic factory turning out kids who can pass a standardized test. It’s what we’re paid to do, and if we do more than that we’re often called insubordinate for our efforts.

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