Tag Archive | "CSAP"

State Testing and the Urban Elementary Music Classroom

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State Testing and the Urban Elementary Music Classroom

Posted on 05 March 2009 by urbanmusiceducation.org

So, what we do, what I do anyway, is get the kids all “riled up” according to one classroom teacher who will remain unnamed. We all know that; its the nature of the beast so to speak. And thus begs the question, how do we teach creativity, movement and freedom of expression in the elementary music room without letting chaos ensue during State Testing time? Here begins my dilemma and constant struggle…

I’ll begin with this week: CSAP testing week. In our building EVERYTHING shuts down for CSAP, and though I was told that kids would be coming to specials to “not disrupt their routine”, I was also told they will be testing next door and to “not make ny noise”! Are you kidding me? Did you forget you were talking to the music teacher? And all this 30 minutes before the kids arrive. Subs get more planning time than that! And this will be for 2 weeks…
test anxiety by tini21

So I can live with it. I can be positive- free from negativity like my New Years Resolutions stated. I set out to find out what others may have done in a similar situation. Several discussions over the years have been posted to my MusicK8 mailing list regarding this topic, so I began there.

All of my classes were cancelled so the regular students
could take their test, and all of the specials were kept together to do
whatever. I had free time to make decorations for my upcoming concert,
etc., etc., etc. I did have one sax class, but we had to go into a storage
room and I put towels into the bells of the saxes! But, by the last hour
or so, I had done everything that I could think of and/or had the equipment
on hand to do, so I read a book. Of course, several people came in who were
already done with their testing & had their kids at the restroom — just to
check on me, I think — so I’m sure it’ll be told around the building that I
had nothing to do all day!!!

The test for the specials did not come in, so I imagine tomorrow will be much the same. My worry now is that whenever the tests do come in, I will have to cancel my performing classes, again, to administer the test to the specials! I can just see the concert going down the drain VERY quickly!! ~Nancy

I wish my classes were cancelled. I agree with the performance stress and I have ranted about that on this blog before. Have I learned my lesson about holding performances during testing time. Maybe. Here’s another quote:

This whole thing has gotten ridiculously out of control. Thankfully, they only pull us if they absolutely have to, because it means cancelling specials for everyone during those time periods, and God forbid a regular ed. teacher should miss a planning period!!!

(Pat in Gwinnett County, Ga.)

Amen, Pat! Priscilla from the list mirrors my views on State testing in the Arts:

Call me old-fashioned, but I do not agree with standardized mandatory testing in the arts. Especially on the elementary level, all children should feel free to explore and create in the arts without the pressure and
fear of testing. They should be able to move and play in physical education classes without pressure to pass a test.
Some of you teach twice the number of students that I have, about 450. We see them generally for about 30 minutes twice a week. Often our schedules are disrupted and we might not see a group at all, or only one time a week. In every class, there are special children who need adjustments. There are children who can’t read, write, or understand English. What a nightmare to have to make individual adjustments for probably 10% of your population.
It’s my opinion that music, art, and phys. ed. should be comfortable places for all children to have a level chance to feel successful. Even if they can’t read, write, or speak, they can play a drum, or create a picture, or kick a soccer ball and be good at it. Children learn without a test and
assessment can take other forms. If a child learns to love music and to play an instrument, is it important for them to be able to define a “fugue” or etc…? ~ Priscilla

Wow. And finally Karen Stafford offer a different viewpoint:

I, like you, have very mixed feelings. I’m feeling the pinch now, with NCLB, where kids are seeing the resource teacherduring music, where orchestra was scheduled against music so classroom minutes wouldn’t be utilized, and where the push to cut my program rehearsal times was one of the reasons my programs weren’t as successful as they normally would be. I hated the thought of accessing, too,and I think with NCLB, the kids are STRESSED! But, if we were accessed, the fact that those school report card grades” can be made public could be seen with fine arts accessments(sic) included might validate our discipline? I don’t know. But right now, if it ain’t accessed, it ain’t important (which gives them leave to cut our budget, double our classes, take our rooms…..). If Missouri did not require the fine arts for elementary, I think that’s the only thing keeping our jobs. That and the sacred plan time:-)
Luckily, from the pilot program, it didn’t seem like the Missouri tests
would have been terribly stringent,and we could still let the kids have fun. I think it’s actually worse now, because I feel I have to so attuned to include communication arts so I can argue my kids shouldn’t be pulled. That hasn’t come to pass and badly as I thought, thank God.
The thing I feel is that the kids are SOOOO stressed in the classroom (they cut social studies and science if need be for more reading time), that they’re off the wall by the time I get them. They’re too assessed across the board. They ain’t cookies off the cookie cutter, and this is NOT an assembly line. When will politicians and administrators realize this????

Hmm. True. True. So here I sit wondering how I can go in tomorrow for our last day of testing this week. First, I will have Chastidy, a sixth grader who can’t even follow a simple direction, much less complete an assignment. Kicked out of her previous school, emotionally and perhaps psychotically disturbed, she lays flat on the floor and does nothing for 50 minutes while teachers toss their hands in the air and give up on her.  Then I will have the class of 5th graders who I will have to beg to be silent in order just to finish the only-a-week-long keyboard unit I started on Monday. If they are too noisy, I will have to give them a worksheet for music directly from my SUB tub. (I don’t usually get subs anyway since the pay is so low here, so these have been left untouched all year long despite my hard work putting them together.)

Next will be the 4th and 3rd grades who will come in waves as they finish testing at different times. 1/3 of the class first; I’ll explain my directions and give an assignment to work quietly in groups or individually on another worksheet. Then perhaps 1/4 more 10 minutes after I just got finished with the directions. Then the rest minus the 1 or 2 who needed a scribe because they still can’t write beyond a 1st grader. And those kids usually come in so stressed out that they can’t help but be disruptive to the rest who have started working.

Oh, I will try to make it fun. A scavenger hunt. A wordsearch. And of course it will meet some component of my curriculum and standards. But not preferable by any means to playing instruments, moving, creating, singing. It will feel like a gentle slipping away…all the structure and relationships I’ve built over the year, all the work I did building my classroom rules and routines so we could actually move without knocking over expensive equipment or dogpiling each other. All the stress I went through trying to get the kids to not “noodle around” and to respect our instrument playing time. And the hardest of all, not having a performance opportunity as fabulous as the group before who begged me “Can we have a CD of our performance? Because I want to hear it again!”

Day 133 of 365 by evaxebra

It’s not fair, and I hear my father telling me when I was a kid “Life’s not fair”, but it’s still not and I can’t get over it. It’s not fair that kids have to come to school tired because they have to sleep on the couch with the TV blaring all night. It’s not fair that I have to teach a 2nd grader who just got literally “drug” upstairs to music class by a worn-out teacher who says to me “Good luck, I haven’t been able to control him all day!”  It’s not fair that I have to volunteer to teach dance next year because it’s the only way to keep my job in the midst of budget cuts to the PE program. It’s not fair that I am treated like a second class citizen when testing time comes around and that my curriculum, my advanced degrees, and my past successes all don’t seem to matter to anyone. It’s not fair that I have to take this home to my own two kids each night and be faced with piling up laundry, bills, and dishes.

Alright, enough whining. Time for some music. I hope you enjoy this tune by Tom Chapin regarding high stakes testing.

Feel free to comment on anything you’ve read on this blog, but most of all, peace to you during this time if you are in a similar situation at your school.

James 1:2-4
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (NASB)

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

Blessings, blogosphere and happy testing.



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