This year I keep hearing the same things over again:
Standards have changed!
The new STAAR test is more rigorous!
Writing must happen across the curriculum!
There's no time for the fluff writing that used to happen!
FEAR! BLAME! GUILT! WORRY!
Uh, okay... so my 4th grade students have the unique experience of being the first to take this new, highly rigorous writing assessment at the end of the year.
So they are expected to write two short pieces instead of one longer piece.
And one of these compositions will be an expository piece.
Oh, and don't forget the stamp across every thing we're told this year, "No. Fantasy. Writing. At. All. Period. No. Matter. What."
At district meetings, there is nail biting and fretting and eyes filled with horror.
At faculty meetings we look at graphs and bullet points and pie charts on the importance of rigor and excellence and content area writing.
And at each meeting, I grit my teeth and swallow down the words I want to say. No, let's amend that. I swallow down the words I want to scream:
I mean, in all seriousness, why should this test alter what we've already been doing? My students write what they want, how they want, and whenever they want. Along the way I offer them learning experiences that hone their skills and broaden their craft.
The point is, if you lead your students to love learning, it doesn't matter what tests get thrown at them. A master learner has no reason to fear being asked to show what they know. We're delighted to share our knowledge.
We have already been writing expository pieces, to explain our learning across the curriculum, persuasive pieces, letters, poems, narratives, and God forbid, the poor stepchild of the 2011 writing year, fantasy. When they have free time, they'd rather write than read or even draw. When I offer writing opportunities outside of school, many of them jump at the chance to participate.
If we are already doing what is best for students, the introduction of a new rigorous state test is not a reason to freak out and board the windows against the demons of free thought.
Let the STAAR come, I say, and we'll show it what we're made of.
(cross-posted at my personal blog.)