|That cap fit a record 297 kids this year|
Message received! Test-curious folk, read on.
Here's the gist:
This year, we took more time than ever preparing our questions; perhaps that's why we believed in them so. We knew they were good, so we stood by them. Non-fiction text presented its own challenges for us this time around, and we relied heavily on open-ended, opinion-type queries. We wrote the questions over the course of six months, and vetted them in front of committees of adults and children. We ordered the questions chronologically and then sorted them into categories (and yes, each test had one from each category.) We watched every movie trailer and read the Wikipedia entries. We generated over one hundred questions, which resulted in 3-4 different tests per day. We used visual prompts this year for the first time. The tests were good. Really good.
|Eight tests for the final Draft Day|
|Proud 7th grader on 12/22|
Our kids devoted days, weeks, maybe months to reading a book (and a challenging one!) that was optional.
Why would we ever want to rob our children of that glory?
While we can't boast that our tests are perfect, we can claim pure, positive intentions, and a darn flipping exceptional record. The Test isn't going anywhere. It's good. It's a cornerstone of what we do. And you know who loves it? The kids. And it's because of them that we are so confident it The Test's brilliance.
This year, it was The Test that gave us and our readers multiple moments of pure, unadulterated joy.
More than ever, we were swamped by kids who approached the testing table over and over again saying, "That was fun! Can I do another one?" We indulged the little maniacs when we could but on busy days, we had to swat them away.
We watched kids barrel out of the cafeteria with broad grins, nervous hands, and jittery feet. We exchanged silent smiles on days when our table was flooded with Special Education students. We bore witness as our readers surveyed the scene and selected their test with care. If they came toward us and said, "Oh my gosh, I'm so afraid. I'm gonna fail, I know it" we sent them back. "No no no! You approach this table with confidence! Now let me hear you say 'I can do this!'" and only after they obliged the CRL, gave that positive affirmation and laughed, did we let them continue forward.
For the first time, we had kids tell us, "I'm already All In! but I want to prove it some more!"
|Clarifying questions, jingling all the way|
We had a crew of 8th graders hang around the testing table day after day, ready to hi-5 readers as they finished. Mary had entire classes applaud when a nervous 6th grader came to her room for a 1:1 test. Of course he passed.
We had students approach us on non-testing days (good thing the CRL can write an assessment on a piece of scrap paper in about sixty seconds.)
|With our hi-5-er on 12/22|
(Hi. Mary here. As I was reading Erin's notes, I had to ask her, "Is this story really about you? Or is this me? It's you? REALLY? The EXACT same thing happened to me during 7th grade lunch duty!")
More times than we can count, we asked a lingering middle, "Do you need a test?" to which he or she would reply, "No, I'm just here to cheer!"
Our prize for favorite story this year goes to the Murphy family. Their 8th grade son is a 3-peat and their 6th grade daughter was going All In! for the first time. Several weeks ago, Erin got a panicked phone call from Mrs. Murphy, saying her daughter "had tried and failed." Mom knew her daughter Jessie had read UNBROKEN, but she struggles with reading, and this book was way above her level. She was afraid the failure would make her daughter give up. She explained how this book had spurred Jessie's interest in non-fiction and had taught her more about the World War II era than she ever knew. Mrs. Murphy sang the praises of All In! but her daughter had come home in tears. Mom admitted she didn't see the point to the assessment and wondered why we had to test the kids at all. Erin explained that her daughter had been quite close to passing and was confident that, given another shot the next day, she believed Jessie would pass just fine. She explained the CRL Philosophy of The Power of the Test. Jessie had invested her time and read a book on her own. She deserved to have that moment of celebration. We were not going to rob this child of a chance to experience her accomplishment. If she read the book, we'd be able to tell and she would earn her way in. Sure enough, that young lady did pass - with flying colors - the very next day and Erin left a jubilant message on the Murphy family answering machine announcing the good news.
Several days later, Erin ran into Mrs. Murphy at a local store. When she caught Erin's eye, Mrs. Murphy opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came. Instead, she wrapped Erin in a hug and began to cry. "Thank you, Miss O'Leary. I can't tell you what you've done for my daughter. She was SO proud of herself! You should have seen her when she got off the bus - she was practically dancing! You turned the entire assessment thing around for me, you know. I didn't understand it, but to hear you explain it as a chance to succeed and then to see Jessie's face...You were right! I am just so grateful for what you two do." She then explained that she had played the voice message for the entire family, much to her daughter's delight. Mr. Murphy, who is perhaps unaccustomed to the celebratory decibel level of the CRL asked, "Who talks like that?" Their son, well known to the both of us, said, "That's them, Dad. That's how they talk! They're so positive, that's just how they are."
|Finishing the race|