Can't we all just eat ice cream?

As you can see from the comments on my previous post, I have some amazingly creative readers! I was thinking more about fantastic classroom inventions this week because the kids have been taking their second round of benchmarks. (Benchmark tests are for the district). I wish I had a button that made all tests disappear. In the words of my husband: "They're testing AGAIN!?"
As teachers, we want our students to do their best. But I have issues with rewarding kids by how well they do on tests. And maybe this is just because I'm coming at it from a special education perspective... you know, what about those kids who try their hardest but still miss the mark? What about the kid with severe test anxiety? What about the kid who is just having an awful time at home right now? That's why I had to try not to cringe when the teachers in the lounge were talking about how they were "motivating" their students to do their best on the benchmark tests. One teacher told her students that she'll be making ice cream sundaes for kids who get 90 and above while all the other students just watch. Last year, for the state test, they promised a McDonald's Happy Meal for all the students who passed! One teacher told us that he was so depressed about how his kids did on the math benchmarks yesterday, that he ate every single cookie he had promised them as a reward IN FRONT OF THEM. Meanwhile, I'm trying not to choke on my lunch burrito.
These teachers happen to be very good and very caring teachers. I just don't understand what happens to common sense when testing comes around! But maybe I'm the one who is wrong here. Should I be throwing ice cream parties for the kids who passed? Do potentially better test results justify the means? What is your take on bribing (ahem, rewarding) for tests?


Mrs. K1 teacher said...

As a special education teacher myself, I have difficulty with rewarding kids for test performance. Testing is important and has some value but the issues you raised about individual student differences are real. There are a lot of different factors that affect how students perform on tests and the tests themselves are a snapshot of one or two days.

As teachers, imagine if we were only evaluated on one day in one way. Based on that evaluation, our administrators judged us the way these children are being judged. Its a snapshot and the next day or the next week, the same child could have done better or worse.

I also think some students need motivation. I feel that its not necessarily motivation to do well on a test so I can have a cookie, but motivation to do well in life that matters most. And that kind of motivation, the desire to succeed in life can't be addressed with cookie or happy meals. It has to be nurtured by teachers and maybe even encouraged on an individual, rather than whole class basis.

I understand teachers frustrations, but eating the students' rewards in front of them seems down right mean.

What about rewarding for effort, just the recognition that test taking is hard for students and after the test, celebrating that everyone got through it?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree! And I like your idea of celebrating everyone's effort at the end of the test. I'm already thinking of ideas :)

Sarah said...

Sorry, that was me in the above anonymous comment. I'm so tired tonight, I forgot to sign in!!

Anonymous said...

I feel this approach teaches kids to ignore/devalue the intrinsic worth of learning; also brings psychological and ethical concerns to mind. Desperation is never pretty! Brenda

Anonymous said...

Ice cream as a bribe seems to work with mom! dad

John Wills Lloyd said...

Is the problem the focus of the rewards? What if one rewards based on effort?

Randy et Jan said...

How much are the teachers motivated to reward as they do because THEY need to look good in front of the boss and their colleagues??

Mary said...

The testing climate has gotten ridiculous. It seems that we test every other week. Okay, maybe not that often, but if I could just stop testing so much then I could actually do more TEACHING.

Regarding rewards, I am not in favor of the amount of rewards that we bribe kids with--but it does work sometimes.

At our school we reward/bribe kids when we take the state high standard tests in the spring. We reward them on having a positive attitude, being on time, and giving good effort. There is a rubric that is gone over before the test week so everyone knows what is expected. When the testing window closes, the kids who have done well on the rubric are treated to a hot dog picnic.
But shouldn't we always have a positive attitude, be on time, and give our best effort?

The jury is out for me on whether we should give extra treats to people who do what we expect them to do.

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