Sunday, April 23, 2006

Changes in the Test

On Tuesday, my English II students will take their state test. Of the four tests Mississippi requires them to take in order to graduate from high school, English II is the one students struggle with the most. The first year the test was offered, fewer than 60% of students passed it. Over the past five years, this number has risen to around 75%. Are students getting better at English? Probably not. Teachers are just gearing their curriculum more and more to the objectives of the test. Speaking from personal experience, 100% of what I have taught so far this year was directed toward the test.

With all my teaching efforts directed toward the test, one would think I should feel confident going into the week of the test. In a way, I am. Some of my brighter students should get impressive scores, and most of my kids will pass. My goal, as a first year teacher, is to have 70% of my students pass. Any more than this, and I will be happy. Any fewer than this, and I will be a little disappointed.

The English II state test takes most students between 2 and 2.5 hours to complete. It feature 85 questions spread out over 12 different reading passages. Some slow readers will spend in excess of 5 hours attempting to complete this test. I think this is unfortunate, because many students initially fail the test not because they do not know the answers, but because they are not used to taking such formidably lengthy exams. They put their heads down and quit when they realize they still have 3, 4, 5, or more passages left to wade through. I think Mississippi should streamline the test by elimlinating some of the passages to make the exam more manageable. The average student should spend and hour and a half tops on the test, and no one should have to spend more than 3 hours on it. After all, this is not a college entrance exam like the ACT.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


My students are only a few days away from T-Day....the dreaded English II state test. I think most of my kids are ready, although there are a few students I am convinced will probably never pass this lengthy exam. Some students read at the comprehension level of a fourth grader, while others do not even read at this level. Next year I plan to identify the students who have the most difficulty reading and work with them one day a week after school. I think this might mean the difference between passing and failing for a few students who would be willing to put in the time. Unfortunately, I feel as though few of my students are willing to invest their time in bettering their situation in life.

In both the classroom and the athletic field as a track coach, I have seen students fail to push themselves to achieve what they are capable of. Some students do seem to be lazy and/or disinterested. In track, this was particularly troubling, because kids who went out for the team did not have the tenacity to push themselves during workouts. Even my fastest runners seemed more intent on complaining and whining than improving their God-given abilities. Speaking with other track coaches, this is a state-wide problem. I tell my kids that if you to improve, you need to practice, whether it is in school, music, or sports. Unfortunately, the thing that many kids are practicing the most in the Delta is complaining.