Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Assessment Gone out of Control

About a week and half ago I received the following email from a former student:
I have a second grader who came home today with a notice that he is below grade level in math and needs to go to after school tutoring. He is really bright and is already in AIG because he reads on a 5th grade level. Based on what I have seen, he can do math just fine, he is just really slow. 
When I told him he was going to have to go to after school help, he cried because he doesn't want to do extra homework. We have friends whose son goes to Kumon for math work, should I look into it? What questions do I need to ask the teacher so that we understand how to help him? Flash cards? I know second grade isn't your thing but do you have some advice?

In short, my recommendations to her were to get more details on this tutoring and how his need was determined.  Specifically I advised her to ask to see multiple work samples and ensure that this determination was not based on a singular assessment.  Today I received a follow up.

Just thought I would update you.  I have spoken with both "L's" teacher and the program coordinator at "L's" school.  He is actually doing really well in math with the exception of this one test that they are using to determine the need for intervention.  It is a two minute timed test that is scored on how many digits (1 and 2 digit addition and subtraction) they get correct in the time allotted.  On all of the other assessments that the teacher has given including word problems, graphing, three digit addition, small fractions, etc he is above the rest of the class. 
The school has yet to be able to tell me exactly what they will be covering in the after school tutoring and the teacher informed me that most of the children who were targeted are declining because they are all in similar situations of good math skills but slower than the target on this particular test.  
We have picked up flash cards to speed up his addition and subtraction of numbers that he should know right off the bat.  I won't know until May if it is paying off but it can't hurt and I can see where he is getting faster as we practice.  I think if we work on that he will be fine by 3rd grade.  I also can't help but think how I had such a mental block during pre-cal my senior year that I almost failed and then made an A in calculus in college.  Sometimes your brain just can't process with everything else going on.
I really appreciate your thoughts both as a teacher and a parent.  I'll let you know how he does after the next test in May.
I was appalled at this practice.  NCLB, RttT, and all other accountability measures have really driven common sense out of our schools.  I asked if I could share this story because I feel it is important for us to discuss.  Her response was, "Yes, please share. I think this also should highlight the need for administrators to communicate better with teachers about which students should be identified as needing help before notifying parents so that teachers are prepared for questions. "

So many things to discuss with this one.  Where do we start?

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