Friday, May 1, 2015

Remedial and The SRA: Testing in the Classroom

How Things Changed

The advent of the high stakes tests created a new phenomenon in our school and many others.


We had a new and wonderful group of teachers who specialized in remedial reading and writing. Students who had failed the HSPT were assigned to their classes to learn and practice the skills they needed to pass the test the next time. Or, if that didn't work, to pass an SRA Special Review Assessment.

School Teacher Clip ArtThe SRA was an alternative to the test. I don't know all the details, but part of it was a series of essays each student wrote to demonstrate their mastery of skills and knowledge they had failed on the standardized test. Since I never taught as SRA class myself, I don't know the process involved, but I do know each student did lots of writing and rewriting during those remedial sessions.

As a vocational school, remedial classes often pulled students out of their shop/career classes several times a week. Back then, we had a full three class periods devoted to shop classes, so there was time, although awkward for shop teachers's lesson plans, for students to go to remedial classes.

Carpenter Clip ArtA word about vocational education here. It is a wonderful experience for students whose learning skills are more "hands on" than academic. So many of our graduates have gone on to amazingly successful careers in job areas they studied in school. They did not need to be "college ready," when they graduated, but with basic reading and math skills and a good solid career education in such areas as auto mechanics, welding, carpentry, air conditioning and heating, electrical trades, and cosmetology to name a few, they went on to become happy, successful and productive members of our society. The HSPT could never, ever measure or predict any of that.

Rant over.

At the end of the school year, teachers from the regular, non-remedial English and math classes, scored the essays and other projects the remedial students created during their extra classes. If several of us agreed on passing scores--holistic grading based on the HSPT scoring standards--the student earned a passing grade to replace his/her failing scores on the HSPT itself and earned the right to graduate.

I know our students worked hard on their SRA's, Our remedial teachers were a dedicated, well-trained group, truly dedicated to the principles of education.

But times were changing. Testing itself seemed to be becoming more and more popular as a way fo judging teaching and learning success.

Confusion was on the way.

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