Friday, October 09, 2009

This Is Only A Test

We evaluate students the way most schools do: testing. Next week, we will administer the PSAT to our sophomores and juniors to see how they compare to other kids nationally. I won't have to look to know. We have smart students! This is about testing and ran on November 1, 2006.

Friday ends our second six weeks of school. Today was test day in all five of my Bible classes. We are required to give two tests per grading period in our high school classes and three to our middle schoolers. My eighth graders and sophomores both study exclusively from the life of Jesus but the tests are markedly different. The tenth grade tests are longer and more intricate in detail. The ones for the middle schoolers cover less material and I tend to be slightly more flexible in accepting answers, sometimes allowing partial credit. There are four students who are locks for perfect scores each test; Kim, Glory, Joi, and SunWoo. I'm not sure if the overall grades of girls in my classes are higher than that of boys but there is a gap at the top. The four girls mentioned above scour their completed tests searching for mistakes- boys are rarely that careful. Our upper school principal at Westbury Christian School, Dr. David Lacey, is constantly reminding us of the value and validity of the testing process. Tests count for 60% of a student's grade so it must be significant. What does each test measure? Is it an effective evaluation tool for the material the young person was to have learned? Is it challenging enough? Is it too difficult? Most of my students make good grades on their tests. I review, review, review, etc., etc., etc. The philosophy I take is that the best way to teach the story of Jesus is repetition. If they all make A's, great! If they consistently fail, I don't think they are trying. I don't have many F's.

The theme of testing is common in the scriptures. Three of the four gospels relate the ordeal of Jesus in the wilderness. Right after his baptism, Jesus completed a fast covering forty days or only two days shy of six weeks. Satan then took his best shots at the Messiah with challenges to turn stones to bread, jump off the temple, and bow down in exchange for all the power at the devil's disposal. Jesus never took the bait, instead rebuffing the evil one in each successive temptation. I teach my students that there are three (at least!) lessons we can take from this encounter.
1. We see how Satan works. In coaching, we call this a scouting report.
2. We can handle temptation with scripture. Satan quoted the Bible and Jesus responded in like manner, always from Deuteronomy.
3. Testing lets us know we can make it. There is always a doubt until we pass through the fires personally.

One of the videos I use in my classes is Cotton Patch Gospel, a one-man show based on a very loose interpretation of Jesus' life by Clarence Jordan. At the end of the temptation sequence, Tom Key who plays Jesus (and a host of other characters) faces the camera and exclaims in great exultation, "I passed!" I pray my students will someday make the same proclamation because of the things they learned in my classes. That will be the truest proof of validity.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you're alive, it isn't."
Richard Bach

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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