Friday, January 16, 2015

Assessment Week Fun

           It is the end of the first semester of kindergarten -- it really does seem like the time has flown by, even  though some weeks have seemed l-o-n-g. We have become a family -- we know each other well -- and my babies are growing up and reading and writing. Some days they drive me a little crazy, but other times they make me laugh out loud. This a good time of the year -- they pretty much know the rules and routines and the basics of the 3 Rs, so now I can do more science and writing with them.  We are just starting one of my favorite subjects -- penguins -- and the kids are excited about becoming experts.  I have so many great books about penguins, and I am eager to share them. We are also starting a writing unit that will teach them to write "all about..." stories. Many of the children are writng pretty good sentences now, and I am eager to see what they will write.
              So, there is only one thing that ruins this great time of year. ASSESSMENTS. The state and county required assessments are very thorough -- almost all have to be given individually, and with 19 kids, that takes FOREVER! Writing assessment and spelling assessments are pretty quick. But the math assessment takes several days, and my awesome assistant is a huge help as we check math understanding one at a time.  The most time consuming assessments are the literacy ones -- DIBELS and the reading assessment. Because of the new teacher evaluation standard, I am not allowed to assess my own class this time -- I have to test another class.  The scores of the students will be used to help determine if I am an effective teacher, so I guess they want to make sure I can't score my own students higher than I should.  I am a little offended by that lack of trust.  Besides that, no matter how hard I try, there are some little ones who just can't make the expected progress, and it is not the fault of the teacher. This means my entire planning period and every spare minute during this assessment week is spent assessing children from another class.  And children are called out of my class all day long as the first grade teachers do their required testing. Needless to say, we lose a lot of instruction time, even though the instruction book says that "instruction should never stop for the rest of the class."  
            The good news is that I am almost finished -- just 5 more reading assessments to go! And although I feel like the children might have done better working with their own teacher, it has been enlightening to see the first grade assessment. I see how important it is to teach comprehension skills because their assessments have a lot of "tell me what happened in the story" questions. And several of the first graders I assessed are my sweeties from last year, and I enjoyed seeing their progress, but was distressed to see that a couple seem to have lost ground. I wonder why they can't remember the things they knew last year. Maybe no one read with them all summer?
              I am grateful for MLK, Jr. and the long weekend -- my report cards are finished and I am ready for a break so I can take my assessment data and regroup.  The rest of the year will fly by and I want my kids to learn everything they can to get ready first grade, but I don't want to leave out the FUN,  I loved the sweet note I got this week from one of the first graders from last year's class.