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Testing Patience

Last Friday my reading class finished the big nasty quarter final reading placement test. I teach 5th graders who are reading at a 3rd grade level and I am supposed to be helping them catch up to grade level toot-sweet. This is something I have a history of doing well.

So, imagine my surprise this weekend as I graded the tests and found my kids — all most everyone of them — testing at a pre-K reading level. What the F–!

See, this is what teachers know — some kids will fail. Most kids will not. If the whole class fails then the flaw is either in the test, or the teacher. We use a national test with years of research behind it. Not only that — I have used this test successfully in the past. Rationally, that means the fault has to be mine.

I worried that “fault” bone off and on all weekend. What did I do wrong? Why did I fail? Maybe it’s time for me to find another line of work …

This morning I went into work an hour early. Once again I sat down with the test. I regraded several of them — the results did not change. Then I studied the answer sheet — standard scantron. No surprises there. I looked at the test. I have given it several times, so I was looking to see if it had changed. All was the same.

That was when I decided to check Ilsa’s answers and try to get some idea of what she must have been thinking. I had expected her to get the highest grade in the class, but she scored lowest. When I compared her scantron sheet to the questions, I found that for the most part, Ilsa had chosen the same answers I would have — that means that I just scored at a pre-K reading level, too. I found those results highly suspect.

That was when I finally picked up my scoring mask and looked at it. I had given the 5th grade, 1st quarter test, but was provided the 5th grade, 4th quarter scoring mask to check it with — little wonder we all failed.

I went in search of the Reading Coordinator, obtained the necessary correction mask and many apologies, and re-scored all the tests. Phew! My students aren’t coming along quite as quickly as I’d hoped, but neither are they regressing — better yet, I am not reading at pre-K level.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. Ha! I imagine it was a long week-end for you…we of the obsessive genes.

    Ew. we can start a new line of jeans. Obsessive…following you behind all day…



  2. I thought the problem was revealed in the the first paragraph when you wrote, “I teach 5th graders reading at a 3rd grade level..” Well, maybe you should teach 5th graders reading at a 5th grade level! Why are you holding them back?

    It’s spelled b-r-a-t remember?

    You are going to regret encouraging me to take blog breaks from grading my midterms.

  3. Bless your heart! It’s not a wonder things were going so bad with the grades! Glad ya figured it out, and that you’re not reading at a pre-k level :0)

  4. Hi Quilly!

    So, my closest friend is a first grade teacher in the Parkland School district in Allentown, PA.

    I told her this story, and she got a great laugh out of it. As a teacher, she is constantly calling me to tell me funny stories about the kids in her class.

    Occassionally, she has the funny story about something she did. Like this year when she sent a letter home to the parents to update them on class-happenings, and her spell check, for some reason, changed the word “incomplete” to “incontinent”.

    ha ha! Great stuff.

    For what it’s worth, my mind works at a Pre-K level…..


    –joe “TFKoP”

  5. lol good thing you are not reading at pre-K level hon…but if you were you be the smartest pre-K kid ever…look at your grammar, spelling and story telling..

    glad you finally resolved the mystery. i love that you went after it and didn’t just give up accepting the ‘facts’ such as they were..we should all learn a bit from this..

    now could you pls help Eino with his mystery and a ways to find someone besides Mrs. Trouble to run for mayor?

  6. What a sign of dedication to keep gnawing that bone until you found an answer. That’s another reason I’d have been a terrible teacher, I don’t have the patience to search for the fine details. You rock.

  7. that was a brilliant bit of detective work, Quilldancer! (i’m sorry i’m responding today… believe it or not, i read this post yesterday and got myself distracted, and well… you know the rest!)

    one wonders what would happen to our educational system — as well as the students it strives to educate — if more teachers had your level of dedication, curiosity, and/or tenacity. (nevermind the part where you were wondering about your own reading level… your secret’s safe with me!) xox

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