Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Reflections on the writing prompt

For years, I have looked forward to March Madness and basketball tournaments but I’m thinking that the madness also applies just as well to the standardized testing that we are living through in our public schools. My family loves the college tournaments and we all fill out brackets. One year, I won the overall family pool when I filled out my bracket based exclusively on alphabetical order. (Arizona, Baylor, Connecticut and Duke are pretty reliable picks.) When Chris Webber called time out for Michigan, thinking he had one more available time out in the NCAA finals, I remember feeling really sorry for him. I also felt bad for Diana Taurasi when she couldn’t hit a basket in the NCAA finals as a freshman at U-Conn. But I never thought that these people were not tremendous players and their careers were not defined by these moments or  games. 
I made a connection to these two basketball memories as I watched one of my students struggle to think of how to answer this year’s writing prompt for the Connecticut Mastery Tests. I am sure that Webber and Taurasi worked on dribbling, passing, guarding, and more; likewise, my student had worked on focus, organization, elaboration, and fluency. In class, she had written high quality, high scoring essays and she could consistently tell me all of the traits of good writing. But she drew a blank on how to address this particular prompt—some of the prompts are just as random as picking the brackets alphabetically. So now, should all of the growth that she made over the course of the year in writing be trumped by the late start she had on her CMT essay since she spent way too long thinking about it? Webber played professional basketball for Sacramento for several years and Taurasi led her team to three national championships before playing professionally. I’m going to choose to believe that, even though my student couldn’t get much written on the CMT writing prompt, she is still a good writer. One 45-minute writing session should not define a writer.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I completely agree with you! I am so sick of testing and how much pressure it puts on the kids and the teachers! It shouldn't define students or teachers. Great post!