Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Archive for the tag “testing”

This is our Sputnik moment.

School’s all across the nation are either starting or about to start a new academic year. It’s suppose to be an exciting time for students and teacher. However, this year may be much, much different.  This has been the summer of Trump. Our students  have been subjected to Trumpism all summer.

Before this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, I was wondering where did we go astray. How could our nation elect someone like Trump? After this weekend, I think I have the answer.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to admit this. I view this past year as a failure of our education system. As educators we have not fought hard enough to protect our curriculum, our methods, our standards and our public schools.

All too often we  observe teachers dutifully, following directives that they don’t agree with. We observe teachers, following standards that are not research based and often inappropriate for the children they teach.

I have watched  Social Studies lessons being put aside for high stakes testing skills and subjects. I have observed Social Studies standards morph into ‘big ideas’ that often lack correlation with history. For example, teaching about the Articles of Confederation without taking the necessary time to teach the events that led up to them.

Social Studies is being put aside. Now we hear STEM is the new ‘ big idea’. Science Technology Engineering and Math is turning into this year’s new focus. We’ve already witnessed literature, take a back seat to non-fiction in Common Core.  Look at the results, look at society, and ask yourself, “ can we really afford to abandoned the humanities”?

We need to refocus our teaching towards Social Studies. Link your lessons towards teaching history. Not a whitewashed version, but real history. The history of the peoples of the world.

We now have a President that has no understanding of our nation’s past. We have thousands marching in the streets protesting things they do not understand.

This is our Sputnik moment. We need to emulate the counter protesters of this weekend by resisting any attempt to water down our curriculum. We need to stand against those that want us to teach a revisionists version of history.

Forget the damn high stakes tests. It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and do what we need to do to save our nation. Resist and teach like our future depends on it, because it does.

Anger doesn’t describe it

New York State assessments conclude today. Half of my fifth grade students will have sat through over 9 hours of abusive assessments while the other half opted out and today is the worse day of all. Today’s math test includes overly complicated questions that most of our members of Congress would flub. They are multi-step atrocities that are designed to confuse and befuddle.  I am prohibited to post any of the questions until a select few are released to the public. I am pretty positive the hardest questions will never see sunshine.

Here is a general  idea of what one of these questions looks like.

A factory produces 4,861 items in 30 day. They then package them in crates hold 8 each. These crates are delivered to 26 distributers daily. How many are delivered each week to each distributer?

Ten year old children must be able to answer this question correctly, otherwise their teacher may be labeled ineffective.

Now here is the rub…

The New York State Department of Education issued the following  statement in a press release this week.

 Commissioner Elia said. “With substantive changes and increased guidance for educators, teachers will be able to develop curricula and lesson plans to meet the needs of students in their classrooms. “

The key words here are substantial changes.  That is admission that the standards that today’s tests are designed around are faulty.  Why subject children to 9 hours of abusive testing based on standards that require substantial changes? A warped political agenda is being driven right smack dab at the children on New York.

Anger doesn’t describe my feelings. Our society is being driven over a cliff by an extreme ideology that will destroy our nation. When we look the other way when children are being forced to fulfill an agenda, when we allow school children to go hungry, when we refuse to provide health care, when we demonize a segment of our population, we are heading for a fall.


Growth scores a formula for failure

Today I’m angry, disgusted, demoralized,and frustrated. I am also firmly resolved to fight back against the tsunami of junk ideology that all good educators face these days.

I received my ‘growth score’ today from the New York State Education Department.

I know,  I really shouldn’t care what my score is. I know 100% of my students tested at or above grade level in Math and English Language Arts.  I know my class’ scores were near or at the very top of my district’s scores. I know my district is also at or nearly at the top of the region’s and states’ scores. I know I work my heart out and push my students to excel. My students always, ALWAYS  succeed.

Yet according to the NYSED my growth score is so so. I’m rated effective with a growth score of 14 out of 20. Keep in mind, my student’s mean scale in math  is 708.4 and ELA it is 678.  I’m confident both scores are well above that state mean.

So why did I get a mediocre growth score?

The state’s explanation of it’s calculation should be a eye opener for all  of us. Check out this  junk math.

Here it is in a nutshell..

They compare your students with similar students and measure how your students do to these similar students. You are then graded based on how much better your students did  or how much ‘poorer’ your students did  than these other students. They look for the gap between your students and the representative group of similar students.

Here the flaw…

If the representative sample of student all do well, your ratings will be negatively affected, because your growth is based on only how much better your students did than the group. In other words they look for a gap between your students and the group.

We all know that this year scores went up for everyone.. so as they rise, individual teachers get lower ratings, because the gap doesn’t increase.  Sounds nuts doesn’t it? Goes against all the jargon about closing the gap.

It gets worse if you happen to have some high performing students in your class as well. Not much room for growth if you’re near the top, and your group is near the top. It’s a teacher’s advantage then to not take those high performing kids, It will hurt their growth scores.

My students did great, it’s a shame that NYS thinks they did so, so. Perhaps, if my students understood pineapples and hare races a little better, they could have correctly answered just 1 more question in that 6 hour marathon of testing correct, and all would be well.

We have a choice, we could  start practicing saying, “welcome to Walmart”, for our next career or fight back. What say you?

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