Sunday, April 19, 2015

Weighing The Cows More Than We Are Feeding Them

I started to write this blog the other night and then had the opportunity to participate in #sunchat on Sunday morning. @jedipadmaster (AKA Toby Price) shared this saying with me as I lamented the over-testing and over assessment of our students.  Think about it.... WE ARE WEIGHING THE COWS MORE THAN WE ARE FEEDING THEM.  In no way do I compare our students to cows, but the saying makes sense.  We spend more time assessing and testing our students than we do teaching them. I believe in formative and summative assessment and I love to use data to develop learning plans but....really.... what are we doing to our students.

I was meeting with one of my English as Second Language (ESL) Teachers the other day to do her summative evaluation (even though there are 2 months of the school year left, we have to get these done by mid-April) and she said to me, "I really haven't done much teaching since March."  She then went on to explain it. In New Jersey, students who receive second language services must take the ACCESS for ELLs assessment, which is an extensive assessment of their English language skills. This assessment takes considerable time to take and assess these students.  There is a large component of this assessment that has to be done one-on-one. This means that my teachers are busy testing one student at the expense of many.... and we have many.

Thinks about this..... These same students are also part of  numerous other assessments that our school, our district, and our state requires..

If you are in the third grade in our school and are an ELL (English Language Learner) you spend time taking:

State Assessments
Access for ELL's
7 Day - 60-75 minutes of testing

District Assessments
AimsWeb-3 times per year
NWEA- 3 times per year  mapping

Each student is usually part of their teacher's Student Growth Objective  (SGO), which means that they will have pre- and post-assessments for this that may, or may not, be part of the regular classroom formative and summative assessment

And... by the way, many of these same students receive Academic Support where those teachers use these same students for SGO's....

And...oh, yeah... the ESL teachers need to complete SGO's.  So there's that assessment too!

That's a lot of testing! That's a lot of time!  What are we doing? 

I get it. We need to measure student growth and compare students against each other in order to determine that our system of education is up to par and that each teachers continue to do their job.  I get it.

Here's an idea --- Let me do my job.  Let my teachers do their jobs.  Let's use the time we have for our kids and teach them. Give them time for learning. Let's feed them.  Feed them every day. Feed them so much that they explode with knowledge and learning.  Weigh them periodically to check to make sure they're still growing and then feed them some more.

Upon a google search, I found this article that speaks to this phenomenon  You can't fatten the cow simply by measuring it


  1. Amen, Jay! My favorite part is at the end when you say, "Here's an idea." Perfect! Yes, "...let's feed them so much that they explode with knowledge and learning." I wish the whole world could understand the importance of that. How about just one test during the year so that we can make sure they are still growing? Then, we can continue to feed them some more! Now THAT would be some heavy duty learning! Thanks for sharing, Jay!

    1. Thank you Heidi. I really am upset by this. Add into it the days a student misses school and the days a teacher misses school and we aren't really getting it done. Not for these students or any students.

  2. Love this blogpost! Thank you for sharing it with me. We need to evaluate how much time we lose from testing and make some changes. Thank you again for your thoughts!

    1. Thank you Melissa. I have so much more to say. You'll be seeing more.