The craziness of the end of the year and writing exams leads to a much shorter temper for me. Each April I promise myself I will keep my patience no matter what, and every year I fail. Occasionally my frustration erupts. “Are you kidding me? You didn’t bring paper or a pencil to English class? Seriously?” But this year is a bit different. On a November morning last fall, a car accident took the lives of three of my students.
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Kids also talk to me about the tests. Luckily, at the elementary level I haven’t gotten any deep questions about why they have to take the tests, although I know they touch on this in their classrooms. They tell me things like, “I’m scared. What if I fail the [OAA reading] test and can’t go to 4th grade?” Or “I’m sick of taking tests.” They don’t know that these are high-stakes tests. They don’t realize that if many of them do poorly on one or more of the tests, in our district at least, their teachers may be offered probationary contracts instead of standard contracts. They don’t understand that low performance on these tests may lead to a reduction in funding for the entire school.
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For almost twenty years, I have prepared students in my classes for the Proficiency Test, the OGT, the ACT, and now the PARCC and my own SLOs. Never before this year have I felt that the testing took over my classroom. The testing is ridiculous. Every teacher knows it, and now with the many issues with the PARCC and AIR tests, parents, too, are realizing that required testing has gotten out of control. As a teacher, it seems to me we have a few options about how to approach these tests. Continue reading →
I have no plans to build a baseball field anywhere in Northwest Ohio. However I, along with fellow education advocates in the area, did construct something last week that was like our field of dreams. We set up a screening of the documentary “Rise Above the Mark,” set in Indiana, which chronicles the problems we’re dealing with in public education; over-testing, underfunding and unaccountable charter schools. Continue reading →
I had “the talk” with my 10 year-old daughter, Nina, yesterday. I felt like I had to tell Nina the truth, though. She’s been asking a lot of questions. She even stayed in from recess one day last week to do some internet research. Now she wants to write letters about it. In case you’re wondering what kind of internet filter my daughter’s school has, don’t worry. We’re not discussing where babies come from. We’re talking about standardized tests. Continue reading →
‘Tis the season for gift-giving, and with so many test-driven “school reform” policies being passed at the Ohio Statehouse this year, now would be a great time to present our lawmakers with gift-wrapped copies of one of the most forward-thinking children’s books ever written, Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. Continue reading →
High stakes testing is like saying to your child, “I want you to clean your room. But, at the very least, I want you to pick up your socks.” For twenty years we’ve been teaching kids to pick up their socks. Our entire system is designed around that minimal level of achievement: our discipline policies, our attendance policies, our curriculum maps, our basic understanding of how schools operate. Everything is designed to get our kids to do the minimum. Continue reading →
Recently The Cleveland Plain Dealer and StateImpact Ohio pulled a little PR stunt by publishing teachers names and “value-added” scores. They also made an amateurish attempt to mask this unethical report by also pointing out some of the flaws of using the data to evaluate teachers. Then, after saying it was wrong and inaccurate, they published anyway. I guess competent reporting takes a back seat to tabloid-like, website hit generating drama. Continue reading →
Listing teachers as effective or ineffective based on narrow tests not designed to be used for this purpose is a disservice to everyone. Trained educators can use a student’s value-added data, along with other student data, to improve student instruction. But you should never promote a simplistic and inaccurate view of value-added scores as a valid basis for high-stakes decisions on schools, teachers and students – even if Ohio legislators have gone down that misguided road. Continue reading →
ALEC, which stands for American Legislative Exchange Council, is the most influential corporate-funded political force operating in America today, one that has worked to dilute collective bargaining rights and privatize public education. Yet ALEC is more or less unknown in teacher circles. ALEC creates legislation for elected officials to introduce in their states as their own brainchildren. ALEC’s strategy: “spread the unions thin ‘by playing offense’ with decoy legislation.” Spreading the unions thin has resulted in radical changes to classroom teachers’ everyday lives. Continue reading →