Sunday, June 10, 2007

Uniform Exams or Uniform Problems?

My AP has a thing about uniform finals. He insists we give them every term. This is a nightmare in a school as big as the one I teach in. We go 12 periods a day and he gives two forms of the exam. By the middle of the day every kid knows all the questions on the exam, no matter how much he thinks he can secure the exams. The kids all have lunch and other classes together and freely share answers. I know I did the same thing in school. Why would he expect today's kids to be any different?

Another problem with uniform exams in a school the size of mine is that teachers teaching the same prep do not get to see the exam and have input into it until it is too late to make changes. With over thirty teachers in a department and C-6 assignments there is no time to meet. We are on 5 different schedules and have different free periods. When I finally saw the M&D exam, I found quite a few errors on it. It was too easy and did not cover enough topics from the semester.

In spite of this, my AP weighs these exams very heavily. He does not want us to pass kids that have only passed the final. He has no qualms about failing kids who fail the final, no matter what their grades are for the rest of the term. Many of us have been known to inflate a kids final exam grade so he won't hassle us about the passing grade.

Resource room kids have an especially difficult time during this period. All their exams are coming at the same time and they almost don't know which exam they should finish first. Getting the exam up to resource room is an experience itself. The poor resource room teacher is expected to both pick up the exam and then deliver it back when it is finished. This is not an easy thing to when you have 5 classes of 10 - 12 kids (or more) each. Some of the resource room kids need readers. So now one teacher is reading an exam to multiple students at the same time. To me, this does not sound like very good testing strategy.

Years ago, when I first started teaching, we gave uniform exams. The only difference was that time was set aside for the exams, the same as the regents exams are given today. Only a policy like this can make uniform exams viable.

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