Sunday, January 20, 2013

NYS Regional Assessments

(In my best Jerry Seinfeld impersonation) "So what's the deal with Regional Assessments?" Honestly? Who knows...?

Does anyone else feel as if the state has mandated us teachers to come up with these assessments but don't know what they, themselves, are asking us to do?

I just went to a conference last week which was supposed to help us write our regional assessments. Now, coming back from maternity and being at work a smidge over a month, I had a lot to catch up to. I thought this conference would be great to not only start these assessments, but to network with some other local art teachers who I catch up with twice a year other conferences. Turns out... I didn't miss much- no one knew what was going on, not even the lady who was hosting the conference (who, of course, wasn't related to the arts in any manner, but I digress...)

As for now, my district started with the pre-assessments that the state has recommended to us, self-portraits. Some ironic things to point out:

1. The seventh grade portraits seem to be easier than the sixth grade portraits. The 7th graders are allowed to use mirrors and draw a straight on portrait, but the 6th graders have to draw a front facing portrait and a profile, hm.

2. As far as post assessments, you're supposed to grade a colleague's students' assessments- um... how am I supposed to know what their students look like? The rubric calls for "resembling the reference."

3. Third graderes are supposed to display a "proficiency" with color mixing, but are supposed to use crayons or colored pencils- not my personal choice to demonstrate color mixing

4. The thumbnails from the 7th & 8th grade pre assessments are tiny and basically black- kind of hard to answer a question about these images, folks!

5. Oh, and about those questions, how open ended can they be?! "What type of balance is being shown in the painting?" What does that even mean?..."

(6. Get a load of the question off of the 'Studio in Art' preassessment: Color is __________________. Um.... color is what? What the eye sees from a reflection of light? A visual perception? Cool?)

Does anyone else see these as setting us up for failure?!

I can go on and on, and if you want to hear my original gripes with the testing, you can click here, but I came here to ask for your input and to just do as I'm told : ). Now that I see what these tests are asking, I know for sure I will be making my own for next year. Funny thing is, again, NYS isn't really even completely sure of what they're asking from us. As far as I understand, we have no guidelines?! We can do a product based test (rubric graded), multiple choice, fill in the blank, have a word bank, etc. They want us to have standard tests, but don't direct us into having standard specifications. One of us can test ours students with ten questions, one of us, with a written response. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Also, not that this would happen, what is up with this peer grading? What if, heaven forbid, a teacher had it out for someone and just graded their peer very harshly? Or... vice versa, what if I was besties with my co worker and just graded her students with perfect scores? I know those are pretty extreme examples, but you get my point.

So, aside from my venting, I came to ask, how are you setting up your tests? Multiple choice? Fill in the blank? Product based? A combo? How many questions? Etc.? Just kind of looking for ideas. For now I typed up a 6th grade, 20 question, multiple choice test the day of the conference. I'll have to re-write the whole thing though, because I generally teach new lessons every year. Also... I don't know which grades I'll be teaching at the middle school for the next school year until typically around the summer, so who knows if I'll even have 6th grade?

Either way, there are just too many flaws with this testing to require us to implement them into our curricula right now. I'm all about assessing student growth, and checking for understanding, and critical thinking, but I'm sorry... mandating these tests in order for us to basically receive state funding appears as if our children's education is not actually our priority. It plain and simple is an unfair way to assess teachers.

And if I've still got your attention, just for kicks I thought I'd share the 7th & 8th grade pre assessment if you haven't seen it yet:
Art 7 and 8 Preassessment[1]

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  1. Now you know why I retired. After 36 years in the classroom, I have no patience for this BS.

  2. ugg! The assessment process in the States is terrible!!

    LOVE the Jerry Seinfeld connection-big fan!!! Totally cracked me up!

    Tales From a Traveling Teacher

  3. So scary! NJ tried to create a state written assessment for the Visual and performing Arts many years back when they started using the state mandated ASK Tests. It was a complete disaster!!! After testing it out in a few pilot districts they decided to bail on trying to test us in written form. Now with all the new teacher evaluations part of my eval will include my student assessments. I have to be able to show documented growth from Sept to June. Luckily I have a very supportive and knowledgeable principal working with us. Good luck with your evaluations!

  4. I feel your pain. It's pretty ridiculous here in GA too. My experience is that things like this die down after a little time, and I am hoping it will be the case here as well. It's hard for an art teacher to do well on a teacher assessment that was completely structured for a math class. Best of luck and try not to let it spoil your feelings about the REAL reason we are in the classroom!

  5. Yes.. I have a feeling that these, too, will pass... it's always something new.