The MSA is the Maryland State Assessment. It’s the No Child Left Behind required test that all kids in the state of Maryland have to take. (Every state has something equivalent to it). This week and next are our testing weeks. All the ESOL kids take it together. I have administered one day of 6th grade math, one day of 8th grade math, and helped with another day of 8th grade math and 7th grade reading. These tests are incredibly hard if you don’t know English. My kids try SO hard to get the answers right. They look up words in their dictionaries, they struggle, they furrow their brows, they apologize for not knowing. I tell them, “It’s OK. We understand. No one will be mad at you if you don’t know what to put.” But I want to yell, (at the state and federal governments) “IT’S NOT FAIR!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE PUTTING THESE KIDS THROUGH? DO YOU THINK YOU COULD PASS A TEST IN KOREAN (FARSI, ARABIC, TAGOLOG, CHINESE, SPANISH, FRENCH…) IF YOU’D ONLY LIVED THERE FOR ONE YEAR (OR LESS)???? HOW CAN WE EXPECT THESE KIDS TO PASS??”
One girl I teach is from Haiti. R was adopted by an American woman, along with her three sisters. She came here last year, at the age of 13, not knowing how to read or write or do math. She has made amazing strides and is really, really trying to learn. She is eligible (due to interrupted education) to have the test read to her and written for her. So I spent yesterday and today, sitting by her, reading her impossible questions about slope of the line and probability and scalene angles and volume of a cylinder and tranversals. All easy stuff if you speak English and have been learning math since kindergarten. Impossible if you’re still proud of yourself for mastering the times tables. She tried and tried and tried. She apologized, she complained, she almost cried. Finally I just told her that I was proud of her and that she was allowed to write, “I don’t know.” And we finished.
And tonight I am exhausted with the struggle and unfairness of it all. (And I haven’t even talked about how ridiculous the reading test is.)