Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wrapping up the year

Next week is the last week of school. The children are taking the second half of the PACT this week. PACT is the SC mandated test to see what our children know. Unfortunately, it's a "gotcha" test. No one is allowed to know what will be on the PACT except that it will cover "The Standards." The standards are broad and deep and impossible to cover in a year, especially if the children need to actually learn the information. Another problem with the PACT is that the results will come out in the fall and will be reported as basic, below basic, proficient, and advanced. Whatever that means. As a tool for assessment, it is useless. Students and teachers don't know what skills and knowledge are lacking and even the broad "basic/etc." scoring doesn't come out soon enough to be meaningful or helpful.

At Carolina School for Inquiry, the preparation for the PACT is a low-stress process that is supposed to familiarize kids with the test format and understand testing as a genre. Since one of the reasons we started an inquiry based child centered charter school was that we were concerned that regular public schools were teaching to the PACT rather than for life after the test, it is frustrating to have the PACT as such an important indicator for us. "Yeah, it's great that the kids are happy learning and that they seek out new opportunities and that they can tie together knowledge and skills from all areas and apply it in life. But what do your PACT scores look like?"

Frustrating, but a fact of life. We may not like it, but it's there. It is to be hoped: 1) that our students will show their learning on the PACT this year and 2) that our state will choose a test for next year that will provide accountability while giving a useful measure of learning. I'm feeling pretty good about both of those things.

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