Google
 
Web rhymeswithright.mu.nu

March 28, 2005

Outcry Essays

For over half of my teaching career, I taught English. Even now, when I get a summer school assignment I usually end up teaching an English class. That means grading a lot of student writing. It also means learning a lot about your students that you never do in another subject. That is what they are finding as they grade this year's TAKS essay.
Each year, hundreds of students use the essay portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test to write about being abused, neglected or raped, education officials say.

Others write about being depressed, or wanting to die or hurt themselves or others.

Such essays fall under the state's definition of an outcry, and school officials have a legal and ethical obligation to report the revelations to law-enforcement officials.

You get those in the classroom, too. One term each year I had students writing about "an event that changed your life." Over the years I was flabbergasted by what I got from my students. I was also heartbroken.

One sweet young lady wrote about being molested by her youth pastor several years before, and I had to report it to the school and CPS. I never did hear what happened to the guy. I lost track of her after she graduated.

Another girl wrote about the death of her father and how she blamed herself for it. She had her best friend over one night for a sleep-over, and her father offered to wait for them to ride along to KFC for a bucket of chicken. They preferred to stay swimming in the pool, and her father was killed by a speeding truck on the way home with dinner. Last I heard, she should finish college this spring, majoring in elementary education. I hope she comes back to the district.

One of my boys told the tale of going straight while being robbed of his drug money. When I challenged him on the veracity, he lifted up his shirt and showed me two entry and two exit wounds. He later became the first kid I wrote a college letter of recommendation for, and the first in his family to attend and graduate.

One guy wrote a chilling paper entitled "The Night I Killed A Man." His father had heard a sound in the living room and had gone to check it out. When the student heard a fight between his dad and a robber, he ran into the kitchen, grabbed a knife from the butcher block, and plunged it through the robbers back, killing him before they could even call the police. He was 16-years old. I know he talked about joining the Marines, to get away from the folks who were threatening revenge.

I read papers about drug rehab, crushing personal losses, and becoming a parent-too-soon in the ninth grade. I learned about the thrill of victory, first kisses, and getting saved one Sunday at church. I exulted in the glories that these kids experienced, and bled over the many hurts they had experienced. It was the assignment I dreaded most, and which took the most out of me. Mandated by my district, it was one of the things that was steadily pushing me to the point of burnout and reinforced my desire to teach in my major field, history. And yet, I sometimes miss that chance to really know my students, something that I don't always get to do now.

That a child or teen would write about something so personal or traumatic on a state test "isn't logical at all when you look at it from the outside," said Catherine Ayoub, an associate professor at Harvard University's Medical School and Graduate School of Education.

But "this is the most anonymous way that you can tell," so it's "absolutely what you would expect," Ayoub said.

And it is also because they know that the essays are going to be read. It is unfortunately way too easy to tell a kid you don't have time for them, even if you want to talk to them about a situation -- the bell just rang and you've got 28 other kids in class to attend to, you've got duty in the cafeteria, or there is a faculty meeting after school that you can't miss. The counselors at my school are nothing more than glorified (at best semi-competent) schedule-makers, each with a case-load of 400 students who they might never meet. The administrative team is made up of some really great people, but their one of their major issues is discipline and so some of the kids who most need them tend to avoid them. But that essay is a chance for them to say their piece and be heard -- they hope -- and so they spill their hearts out on those lines and hope that what is there will be taken seriously. It is true in the classroom, and true on the TAKS test.

You might wonder, how old are the kids who give these "outcry" responses on the tests? How common are they? What are the prompts that give them such freedom?

Texas labeled 688 essays as "outcry" last year and 592 in 2003, a fraction of the pool of more than a million essays.

The writing section of the 3-year-old TAKS is designed to give students flexibility — opening the door for personal essays.

"There are so many things that children are bringing to school" nowadays, said Chuck Hoffman, executive director of student and social services for the Fort Worth school district.

Students in Texas must write an essay for the TAKS in grades 4, 7, 10 and 11. Although the TEA flags outcry essays at all grade levels, most appear at the seventh-grade level.

Students are free to express themselves on the TAKS because the writing instructions are less formulaic than on past achievement tests, including the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills.

The essay instructions are broad: "Write an essay explaining the importance of accepting others as they are" or "Write a composition about an adventure you had."

Students can use any writing approach, such as cause and effect, or problem and solution. Essays can be narrative or philosophical.

The TAKS gives students more latitude in their essay writing than other state tests. For example, last year's test included this instruction for 10th-graders: Write an essay about the impact another person can have on your life.

Frankly, I don't know whether to be shocked by how many such essays the state gets, or how few. In a classroom setting, there is at least a relationship that exists and a level of trust between student and teacher. That doesn't exist on the test, which might be a good thing for some kids or inhibit others.

Do we, as teachers, listen closely enough to what our kids say? Do we take their writing seriously enough? They need us to do so. They have a lot to say. There's so much that they need to have heard. We need to give them a chance to get their message through.





|| Greg, 12:45 AM || Permalink || Comments (0) || Comments || TrackBacks (0) ||

Trackback Information for Outcry Essays

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blog2.mu.nu/cgi/trackback.cgi/106713
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 'Outcry Essays'.

Comments on Outcry Essays

Post a comment

Remember personal info?


 

 





AnotherMunublogSmall.jpg





Winner - 2014 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards
Winner - 2014 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2013 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2012 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2011 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2010 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Winner - 2009 Fabulous 50 Blog Awards

Posts by Category

Announcements (posts: 13)
Blogging (posts: 187)
Border Issues & Immigration (posts: 421)
deferred (posts: 4)
Education (posts: 685)
Entertainment & Sports (posts: 483)
Guns & Gun Control (posts: 65)
History (posts: 329)
Humor (posts: 88)
Israel/Middle East (posts: 44)
Medical News (posts: 54)
Military (posts: 273)
News (posts: 1570)
Paid Advertising (posts: 234)
Personal (posts: 108)
Politics (posts: 5261)
Race & Racism (posts: 281)
Religion (posts: 819)
Terrorism (posts: 884)
Texas GOP Platform Reform Project (posts: 4)
The Courts (posts: 310)
Watcher's Council (posts: 482)
World Affairs (posts: 345)

Archives

January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
December 0000



MuNuviana



Licensing

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Powered By

Powered by
Movable Type 2.64
AnotherMunublogSmall.jpg

Administrative Stuff

Email Me
Syndicate this site (XML)

Advertising Disclosure

adpolicy.gif

About Me

NAME: Greg
AGE: 50-ish
SEX: Male
MARITAL STATUS: Married
OCCUPATION: Social Studies Teacher
LOCATION: Seabrook, TX
DISCLAIMER: All posts reflect my views alone, and not the view of my wife, my dogs, my employer, or anyone else. All comments reflect the view of the commenter, and permitting a comment to remain on this site in no way indicates my support for the ideas expressed in the comment.

Search This Site


Support This Site



Recent Entries

Who Is Regan Theiler And Why Was She Allowed To Spend Public Funds On A Sole Source Contract For Her Part-Time Employer?
Not My Idea Of A Stimulating Evening
About Trump's Liberty University Speech
Do Not Place The Secessionist "Texas Independence" Measure On The 2016 Republican Primary Ballot
Conservatives Vs. Liberal On Those Engaged In Violent Political Activity
Tom Mechler Makes His Case Against Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Jared Woodfill Makes His Case For Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Questions About Moving The 2016 RPT Convention
Reject The Call To Move 2016 Republican Party Of Texas Convention
It Is Too Bad That Political Parties Cannot Reject Voters Who Seek To Join, Stop Would-Be Candidates Who Want To Run

Blogroll


Watchers Council
  • Ask Marion
  • Bookworm Room
  • The Colossus of Rhodey
  • The Glittering Eye
  • GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD
  • The Independent Sentinel
  • JoshuaPundit
  • Liberty's Spirit
  • New Zeal
  • Nice Deb
  • The Noisy Room
  • The Razor
  • Rhymes With Right
  • The Right Planet
  • Simply Jews
  • Virginia Right!
  • Watcher Of Weasels

  • Political & Religious Blogs