Looking forward to…
I do love to teach.
I am looking forward to taking my class on a journey through the world of ancient civilizations, or an imaginary world of science fiction. I relish our long discussions on current events, past events, or just about any topic my students what to explore. Showing my class real reasons for doing math, and the joys of experimenting with new ideas, I can see the wonder and enlightenment in their eyes. As my Christmas break comes to an end, I have been thinking about getting back to the routines of my sixth grade classroom. I also been thinking about which book I’ll be introducing to my class, what math skills need review, which students have specific academic and personal needs, where we left off in Social Studies, Science and more. Unfortunately, I’ve also been thinking about district mandated testing that I’ll have to subject my students to as well.
Woes of standardized testing
I’ll have to administer an English Language Arts test that may or may not look like the new NYS tests coming in April. We then must look at these called ‘data’ generated by this exercise to determine which skills must be perfected before the actual test. Is this teaching? I don’t think it is and have expressed that sentiment to my administrators, but a directive is a directive and test prep I must do.
In addition, we’ll start a series of after school ‘clinic’ sessions for third graders, that is nothing more than test prep. Supplied with test prep workbooks we will be marching these 8 year olds through sample test question after test question. Is this teaching?
Last month I was having a discussion with my class and I mentioned the word ‘benchmark’. Immediately a load groan rose from my students. Since we were discussing weather, and I was telling them of a benchmark used in forecasts it didn’t quite register with me as to why they groaned. When questioned, they thought I was going to give them a benchmark test on weather! How sad is that? Benchmark has become a word students have learned to regret for all the wrong reasons.
I’ve explained to my students that I do my best to minimize test prep, and that it really isn’t necessary if we all do a good job with our studies. My students usually do very well on these nonsensical examples of assessment that really don’t assess a darn thing. Over that past 12 years I have never worried about how I teach, how I am judged, or how my students are judges. But now I’m worried.
NYS’ grand plan?
NYS has redesigned their tests for this year. They haven’t shown us how they’ve changed. They haven’t shown us the type of questions, how they might be worded, and the vocabulary they might use. They have told us it will be longer and it will start the day the students return after spring break. That makes sense doesn’t it? What else are we being told you might ask? We have also been told that the test will have pilot questions that test the test, and the test will also assess the teacher! The rationale behind this nonsense states that this is all alright based on research. Really?
Does the research look at the effect on the student? How do you explain to a stressed out student that you think the question they didn’t understand really wasn’t an actual question that counts? How do you explain that we have to do more test prep, and we really don’t have time to spend discussing what they thing a utopian society really is?
Governor Cuomo’s new plan
To make matter worse, we know have a governor who thinks he must take on school accountability. He’s stacking the deck with a pro charter Commissioner of Education and now plans to appoint a commission , with outside experts to look at education in NY. Can’t wait to see who this will be, considering his spokesperson has said, “What are the performance indicators? How do you judge performance in the education system? How are the services being provided?” “No one has really looked at it without a particular perspective on what’s going on in education.” Really?? Where have you been Governor?
NCLB RTTP APPR acronyms to failure
The only group making advances lately are the so called corporate reformers and the test makers/publishers.Profits are soaring, teachers are frustrated, and students are not moving forward. I guess NCLB is a success because if no child moves forward that none can be left behind. Now that race to the top is underway, corporations will be king of the hill soon. They’ll win that race and we’ll all be running in place.
Profits are soaring, teachers are frustrated, and students are not moving forward. NCLB it that view is a success because if no child moves forward that none can be left behind. Now that race to the top is underway, corporations will be king of the hill soon. They’ll win that race and we’ll all be running in place.