Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Marginalized taking the DC BAS

Only two days after Labor Day and the high stakes testing frenzy is in full swing across DC Public Schools. At my school students started the first day of the DC BAS today. It is not as long as DC CAS and is supposed to serve as a baseline to track student progress for the April tests.

Without getting into all of the politics of standardized testing, I thought I would share my experience today to offer an inside perspective.

I was responsible for administering the DC BAS to David*, a fifth grade special education student. When I was assigned David, I was told that he may not take long to test because he is so low academically and would probably just randomly bubble in answers.

David was very cooperative and respectful the entire time. We both opened our test booklets and I read the sample question. David got it wrong. “No worries,” I said trying to prevent him from getting too frustrated. “All we want you to do is try your best. It is okay if you don’t understand a question or do not know the answer, just guess.”

With the new NCLB regulations we can no longer read questions or passages to special education students. We are only allowed to read aloud the directions for the reading and writing sections. David’s facial expression went from pleasant to a combination of confusion and fear when I told him he would be responsible for reading the passages and questions. “I can’t read,” he exclaimed in exasperation. Unfortunately, he was not exaggerating.

In the end, without reading a single word he bubbled in all of the answers and did not write anything for the writing passages except for his name at the top of the page. I spent the next hour and a half talking with him about his summer and how school was going thus far. We also did some play therapy with puppets.

The testing not only served no purpose for David, it was also a humiliating and alienating experience. The reality is that there were thousands of Davids today in schools across DC suffering in silence or acting out to cope with feelings of inadequacy. They just don’t fit in with the NCLB standardized testing equation. It is heartbreaking to witness.

* David is not the student's real name


AVParodi said...

Oh the looks on my student's faces as they were taking this test. So early in the year and so many already had such tense, distraught faces. Can't the teachers, we who work with these children, do our own assessments to discover where we need to help our students the most? The answer from above is quite clear on this.

Linda/RetiredTeacher said...

To me, what has been desribed by Ms.Sylvia is the emotional abuse of a disabled child. I wonder what would happen if some teacher challenged this sort of "testing" on a legal basis?

DCPSer said...

I have not heard of any teachers or the union challenging the DC CAS in court. While other states are challenging some of the provisions in NCLB, Rhee is celebrating them. I have not heard any criticism from Rhee about standardized testing. We should not rely on Rhee or even the Republican led OSSE to challenge it. Parents are the ones with the most vested interest including those of high performers. Maybe one of the parent advocacy groups can take the lead.