Monday, April 22, 2013

Its TCAP Baby!

For about the last two weeks, life at school for The Big Girls has completely changed.  It has been taken over by TCAP mania.  For those who aren't from the great state of Tennessee, that would be the name for the state standardized testing here.  It is seriously insane.  I know there are standardized tests in every state, and The Big One must have taken them in CA, but I have no real memory of them.  So, they didn't stand out as a huge deal.  Here, though, you can't help but know about them.  Even people who don't have kids know it is TCAP week in TN.  Seriously.
Its starts with rally preparations.  First, the school becomes completely devoid of all letters and numbers.  The rules here state that the children not be allowed to see any letters or number (not a joke).  So, every single thing with writing on it of any kind is either covered up with plain black paper or removed.  The school looks terrible.  It is both creepy and sad.
So, to make up for it, they try to make a big party atmosphere for all the kids taking the tests.  We have a massive pep rally the Friday before TCAPs start.  At our school, each grade comes up with a song, a parody of something popular on the radio, and rewords it to have a TCAP theme.  Middie's was TCAP Baby, Which was actually a parody of Call Me Maybe.  This isn't the same version that our school sang, but I have to share this video here.  I mean, after all, if teachers are willing to do this for their kids, you have to give them some serious love, and share it with the world.

This also gives you an idea of what I am talking about.
See, craziness.
Every day, the teacher on morning drop off duty has held a count down sign letting us know how many days left until TCAPs.  This whole week, Middie will be in a different classroom. Since her teacher has proctored TCAPs before, they are moving her to help with the older kids this week.  Her class is being divided up and put in the other Kindergarten class rooms for a week.
The Big One's teacher sent home a note asking us to send in snacks and water for the whole class.  We went to Costco and sent in a huge thing of mini water bottles and cheeze its in individual bags as per her request.  They were told that they could chew gum this week, and even take off their shoes, or do what ever else made them feel most comfortable.

One of the biggest signs that TCAPs were coming, though, is that for the last week to two weeks, the kids who have to take the tests, Kinders are exempt from TCAPs, haven't really been doing normal school work.  They have only been prepping for TCAPs.  They have taken practice test after practice test.  They have studied the material that should be on the test, and only that.
School has basically come to a screeching halt so that these kids can get the best possible score on the test.

Now, call me crazy, but I think somewhere along the line, someone missed the point.  Actually, I think everyone has in charge of this missed the point.  Instead of teaching a well rounded curriculum and hoping that the kids do well, the schools here are literally teaching for the test and only the test.  I know it isn't all the fault of the schools and especially not the teachers, but of a system that has really lost its focus as well.  The teachers are doing what they have to do.  There must be a better way.
I'm not sure what it is right now, but I know broken when I see it, and clearly, the way we are teaching our children is broken.  We should be doing better for them.  We should have the best educational system in the world, and I am so sorry that we are failing at that.  Perhaps it is the people who come up with these systems and rules who need some testing, not the students, at least not like this.