End of the Year Testing

June 11, 2008

Like most people, I don’t think I’d list testing in my students top 5 recreational activities.  Heck, I don’t even think it’d come close to top 10.  Would any of us put it into our top 100?  However, it’s easy to understand how progressive testing is an integral part of the learning process.  You see, we don’t give grades, something that I completely support.  Really, in many ways (and of course I say this even though I’m royally miffed if I don’t get A’s in my grad classes) grades are arbitrary anyway.  Instead, students are recognized for their progress.  There isn’t that pressure to make sure you get the “right” grade; they simply worrying about practicing applying the material.  Honestly, I think it’s more conducive to learning.  But…the problem still stands how can you convince students it’s important to do it.

Of course, there’s always an easy line:  “It’s mandated by the Ohio Department of Education”, but that’s not always the easiest sell, and anyway, progress testing is really all about the student.  While not always the most exciting activity, progress testing provides students with a way to get excited about their improvements.  It’s a tangible evaluation of all their hard work and also gives them the ability to set goals and come up with realistic timelines.  And even though I explain this to my students every time, it’s often a bear to get them to do it.  Or at least it is for my GED students.

It’s easy to get my ESOL students to test.  I just tell them that they have a test on such and such a date, and they show up.  Heck, if I haven’t seen them in a while I’ll just send them a letter and stating in large font, “You have an English test on August 4th and more often than not they’ll show up.  Crazy I know.  Even I’d probably ignore it.  But there’s a lot more importance, I think, that is attached to a teacher’s request than in our culture. 

It also should be noted that most of their conversation tests last, at the most, 15 minutes, where GED students could last up to 2 hours.  Okay, there’s a slight difference there, but some of my students take reading tests (an hour long process) and when I make an appointment they’ll always show up.  Now, time has taught me not to even let my GED students know we’re going to test.  I’ve tried it in the past, and those days are by far the worst attended days.  The next class, you couldn’t imagine all the excuses.  I could take it if they were at least original, such as I had emergency brain surgery because I lost all my memories before I was 10 or I had to go the vet because all of my pets starting spontaneously combusting.  Now, I’ll give points for originality.  However, it’s always some lame claim of being sick or some emergency appointments.  Sometimes I feel like all they do is huddle together in some dark corner of the library and agree to the basic excuse formula.  At least, I know what to expect.  I guess I should be happy for small blessing, because students often say some of the craziest things that inevitably always trip me up.  Really, I’m usually speechless once or twice in every class.  At least it’s entertaining.

I imagine there’s really no good answer or way to go about it.  I’ll keep trying things until I find the one that really resounds with them.  I just hope I don’t have to resort to bribing them.  And if that’s the case, I’ll probably need a raise.  Any suggestions?


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