Monday, December 6, 2010

SOL Hell

When I was interviewing for teaching jobs, I had a schtick about the SOLs (Standards of Learning.  These are tests that the kids take at the end of the course to show that they have learned an adequate amount).  It went something like this:

"How would I handle the SOLs?  Well I plan to teach the skills all year and go well beyond the skills.  After all, the SOLs are only a minimum standard of knowledge.  With ongoing assessment and immediate remediation, I expect my students to tell me the SOLs are the easiest thing they have done all year!"  

Oh. My. God.  That was so naive, I want to slap myself.

Its a nice idea.  The issue is that I did not take into account that I am not 100% in control of how well these kids do.  Here is the reality....

1.  My kids don't care.  About anything.  They somehow imagine that I am going to drill a hole in their head, pour the info in and then they will all be magically granted basketball or football scholarships and go to college, where they won't have to do any studying.

2.  I have done ongoing assessments.  Its pointless.  Last month, my kids did a benchmark to see where I need to do some remediation.  In a pathetic attempt to motivate them and get them to take it seriously, I told them that it would count as a test grade.  I had four kids out of 35 get over a 70.  The majority failed or were just at passing (61).  Many failed at a level that made my jaw drop.  I had one kid, a fairly decent student, who scored a 28 out of 100.  I said to her "Please tell me you blew the test off and this is not in any way representative of what you know."  She laughed and said, "Yeah, I didn't feel like taking that test." 

3.  Students must pass the SOLs to graduate.  Pass.  That's really a low standard of performance and one that is not considered acceptable to the principal, our county, or the state.  Whose job is it to make sure these kids not only pass, but do well?  Mine. Its my job. 

How exactly am I supposed to do this?  Its not enough for me to teach it.  They have to actually pay attention, learn it, and then make the effort on testing day.  Yet, when the scores come back, the lack of success will be blamed on the school in general and the teacher specifically for failing to adequately teach the students.

 The 11th grade SOL is coming up in January--that's right, they take a test on info I am supposed to have an entire school year to teach them, just a little over 3 months after they walked into my class. These are the moments when I want to put my head down on my desk and wave the white flag.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote another response to this that is now lost in the ether. But I wanted to say that I enjoyed reading this entry, it's eerily reminiscent of my sentiments nearly every year. Never fear though, the closer the test comes the more scared they get and they'll give you about 20 minutes of good, solid work a day leading up to the test. They'll do fine, I promise.

    Keep up the good work!

    P.S. We've exchanged emails before, I'm Eric's brother, and Elizabeth sent me this link. Enjoy your break!