I had an epiphany today. After 15 years, it hit me! We do our students such a disservice when we teach them and then test them. This came to be after I did a DRA on one of my kiddos who has made such huge progress, but has some communication delays.
We are told over and over and over again to "differentiate, differentiate, differentiate!" We do 174,000 things to help our kids learn, pull out many tricks to help them "get it", and worry and fret when they struggle. We try to figure out what they need and do our best to give it to them. But then we give them a test that fits into a tiny box and are surprised when they don't meet that random standard that someone set up. We do whatever we can to teach them, but when we test them, it's one size fits a few. And it's CRAP! No wonder tests show that not all kids get it. It's a wonder that kids show they get it at all.
My little guy passed a DRA 12. Grade level for now would be a 14, with a 16 by next month. He is a freaky reader in that he can look at a word and know it without sounding it out. He doesn't always know what the word means, as he is an EL, but he has a pretty good idea. He understands the gist of the story, but he gets stuck when he has to retell the story on his own. If I ask him questions about the story, he can answer the questions correctly and elaborate a little, but he can't do it on his own. He is being tested for special education, but I don't know if he will qualify. As my friend said, I have worked too hard with him and helped him learn! A colleague was astonished that I would pass him on the DRA since he couldn't be a robot and retell the story verbatim. I'm sorry, there is more to life than being a robot child, like being able to think. He's a smart little boy who is beating all the odds and learning and doing well in school.
Sadly, next year in second grade, when they have to take the state test, he may not do well, which will reflect poorly on his teacher and his learning. We help students be successful in their learning, but it doesn't always reflect in their assessing. I'm not against assessments, but I'm against it being the end all, be all for how well a student does or appears to have done in their learning. Sometimes students are a whole lot smarter than a test shows, especially if they are given a chance to show what they know, rather than pick the right bubble or retell a story exactly as a publisher says.
I am a teacher after all, not a tester!