Part of me wants to be happy about this, the fact that the HSA is dropping all written portions from their tests. They say it's because they want quicker turn-around time on the grading, so that schools can catch the kids who fail and make them go to summer school. I'm sure that's part of the reason, but there's a lot more to it. While all of me is shocked and a little befuddled by this development - we have spent hours and hours crafting our instruction of the BCR and the ECR, turning them into an artform of sorts - part of me is pretty happy about it.
After all, the Maryland HSA - at least in English - didn't provide nearly enough time to write a well-crafted BCR or ECR. Last year, students were expected to write one ECR (basically a 5-paragraph essay) and one BCR (a 2-3 paragraph literary response), plus answer 25 multiple choice questions and read the short stories and passage associated with them, all in one hour. All year, we would instruct the kids about how to plan a BCR and an ECR, and, then the test would come, and there would simply not be enough time other than to write something just to write something.
Still, it pains me now that kids in this state will not have to write as part of their exit test. I mean, eliminating this portion is eliminating the importance of writing, and how could someone say that writing is not important? We put a lot of energy into writing, obviously, including into these ECRs and BCRs. It bugs me that they're being dropped. And this is especially because our kids tend to do better on the writing than the multiple choice parts of these tests. I'm worried that taking away the writing is actually going to hurt their scores more than it helps them.
But, let's be real: the MDSE thinks that taking away the written portions will actually raise most kids' scores. It's a way to be able to say, "The test scores in our state jumped 20%" without having to provide more resources. It's basically to hold up a lie. Ah, the artificial raising of test scores... that's the legacy of NCLB.
In a perfect world, those saved resources will be spread around, and maybe I'll have classes of 24 instead of 35. I'm not holding my breath, though.
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