When students who I KNOW have CLB 5 or higher reading skills get 30% on my test, I know that the problem wasn't with them. The problem is that I have no business designing and scoring such tests when I have only had a few hours of instruction (workshops and TESL training combined) in this sub-specialty of ELT: test design.
I am not using materials / texts that have been graded. I'm using authentic texts such as the guide to eating safer fish from the Detroit River, which is immediately relevant to my learners' lives. Once upon a time long, long ago I ran across a tool that allowed me to paste in text, click a button, and receive analysis of the level of text based on how many words came from each tier of the first x thousand words language learners understand. If I ever find it again, or if you do, let's remember to link to it on Tutela or here, shall we? In the meantime, I gave it my best guess. What about my test questions? I THOUGHT I had used phrasing that was easy to understand, AND we went over the questions quickly the day before the assessment. Only when I marked the tests and saw that many students misinterpreted the same questions did I start to see the flaws in my design. Test designers have the benefit of being able to pilot their tests before live roll-out. My poor students are continual guinea pigs.
I will explain all this to them, apologize sincerely, and do what next time? I don't know yet.
In the meantime, I am starting to become privy to evidence, anecdotal though it may be, that my agency is taking this whole PBLA thing a lot more seriously than many other schools are. Have you yet started to receive students from schools that are supposedly already doing PBLA? What do these students' binders look like, if they bring them at all? Are they filled with spelling and grammar tests instead of skill using and real-world tasks? Have they even had the plastic taken off the guts? Has the other school entered into our shared database the fact that the student was issued a Language Companion?
There was a time not so very long ago when the teachers at my agency had a word-of-mouth reputation so strong among newcomers that our waiting lists were the longest in the city. Now? I fear some are leaving us in favour of schools that are "softer" on PBLA.
If this is indeed the case, then I am ready to consider mandatory use of ePortfolios whereby all agencies mandated to implement PBLA also be required to use the SAME electronic portfolio system. When a student transfers, she brings the password to her ePortfolio with her. We can see which school issued her LC, the name of the instructor who last promoted her, the work on which that promotion was based.
Without some sort of uniform and consistent accountability for schools and instructors, this whole PBLA initiative is nothing but a contest to see which agencies can fudge the best. Sorry if I sound peeved, but I am. I feel as if good teachers and schools are being punished for true compliance while those not taking it seriously face no repercussions. If that is the case, what's the point? It also feels as if good, passionate teachers are getting snagged in a dragnet that was initially created to catch out the lazy and incompetent.
That's my rant for the month. By next week I hope to have lots of juicy free stuff uploaded to kellymorrissey.com from my seniors' module on safe fish, my literacy module on Canada, and the seniors' module on using 211. Let's hope!