Mrs. Eagle, Mrs. Hummingbird and I were not really too hopeful that our students would do well on their first benchmark. Why, you ask?
1. We have a huge, and I mean HUGE, number of kids reading 1-2 years, and yes, 3-4 years, below grade level. When Mrs. Eagle and I went and helped edit the benchmarks, we voiced a concern that it was written way above grade level. High school kids might be able to decipher it, but we had doubts about seventh graders who were reading at a 4th grade level. We figured they'd read the first page of questions, give up, and start bubbling in designs on their answer sheets.
2. These kids, while nice, don't turn in work. They don't do work. So therefore, we had some serious reservations that they'd remember anything they'd been taught, since they weren't practicing any of it.
3. There's really no incentive for the kids to do well outside of perhaps the bribe of a pizza party, and for some of them, it's not worth the effort. They'd rather bubble in the answer sheet and daydream for 70 minutes.
4. And then of course, there were the kids last year who, as a group, scored 1% proficient on the first benchmark. That means 3 kids out of 300 seventh graders passed the silly thing. We didn't see that this group would do much better.
Imagine our surprise when we went and scanned in the answer sheets and discovered that, as a grade level, we had 21% proficient!
Yes that was 21% proficient!! We about fell over. Seriously.
And interestingly, when we sat and analyzed what the kids had trouble with the commonality was that they were on questions without graphics (science is heavy on graphics and charts) and with long passages of reading. One page of the test was all text, and crammed together with little spacing between questions (to save paper, obviously, but it makes the test difficult to read) - they had trouble with all the questions on that page, regardless of the standard or topic. Heck, it made my eyes go blurry just looking at it.
So it was a nice surprise...considering how low this group is when it comes to reading skills, we were glad to see that they managed to actually exceed our expectations.