Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Day 102

Day 1 of the big fat annual assessments. This week we have two days of language arts testing. Next week there are two days of math tests. Based on the data collected from these tests teachers will be described as lazy, ineffective, and incompetent, regardless of the home situations of their students, regardless of the level of family or community support at their schools, and without consideration of the lack of leadership and management skills in the administrations of many schools. Also ignored will be the lack of resources and the absence of required special education teachers in general ed classrooms.

Yes, some teachers manage to achieve huge data gains despite these obstacles. Some manage the gains honestly and through hard work and a kind of genius which is hard to explain. Some teachers have this genius, others develop it over time. Some hardworking teachers never attain it. I don't have it yet, and I regard with awe those who do.

Other teachers give their kids the answers to the tests, or coach them. The kids have all told me that their elementary school teacher used to feed them answers on Benchmark and MSA exams. These kids get to sixth grade and they test at 9% (the average of my incoming sixth graders this year on the first test), and we get blamed because their test scores were so high the year before. We give those tests the first week of school--what could possibly be done in such a short period of time to ruin previously high scores?

Even though I dislike this type of high-stakes testing, I am optimistic about my results. My kids made huge gains between the 2nd and 3rd tests. Again, I think it's mostly because I paid them to pass with a $10 incentive, rather than any particular teaching skill. When they give a shit about the test and try, they automatically do much better! But I think many of kids will do well. I was quite proud watching them work today.

We took them outside today to let them play for once for an hour. This was a reward for trying hard. It was a great deal of fun, even though some adults crossing the field stole some cones and a soccer ball out of our equipment bag. At least that's the story--it's quite possible some of the students stole the gear (it's also possible a member of the faculty stole it) and the random adults story was made up.

The boys were really hot-dogging on the field, showing off their moves. Only a couple hot-heads, angry that kids who are inferior athletes were able to tackle them, got upset and tried to start trouble. But it was fine overall. I'd hate to be their parents and guarians tonight. Their school uniforms were rather muddy and grass-stained.

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