Saturday, November 21, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
- The three tier teacher salary scale ($30,000, $40,000 and $50,000 base salaries for Tiers I, II and III respectively) was set up to raise student test scores.
- Tier III teachers leave schools because they don't want to teach low income, minority children who produce low standardized test scores.
- Tier III teachers are more capable of raising test scores than teachers at Tiers I and II.
- Standardized test scores are an accurate measure of a teacher's talents and expertise or of his or her students' levels of academic achievement.
- Grade level or more than grade level gains by students, as measured by classroom based assessments, are irrelevant as long as the student does not also achieve the level of "proficient" on standardized tests.
- Middle and upper income students with high test scores have their teachers to thank for their "achievement" whereas lower income students with low test scores have their teachers to blame for their "failure."
In response to these unsubstantiated assertions, here are some questions I would like the authors of these articles to answer:
Where is the proof that one of the rationales for establishing the three tier licensure system was to raise students’ test scores? The Public Education Department states that the system was instead established in order to recruit and retain good teachers.
Where are the statistics that prove that teachers leave schools because of their students’ low test scores, ethnicity or income? More than often it is because of the boxed, “drill and kill,” highly scripted and therefore woefully uninspiring curricula the schools are forced to adopt in order to comply with the punishments meted out to “low performing” schools by No Child Left Behind. Because teachers are forced to implement these curricula to the letter, schools become oppressive, unprofessional and disrespectful environments for many teachers. It’s no wonder they leave.
Where is the data that demonstrates that Tier III teachers are more capable of raising scores than teachers at Tiers I and II? In fact, the opposite may be true, since, unlike veteran teachers, new teachers (post NCLB) have been assaulted from day one by test improvement rhetoric and training.
Where is the high quality, investigative journalism that calls into question the validity of the tests themselves? In other words, why are the tests always unassailable while our schools and their hard working teachers and students are consistently the targets of negative reports in the local and national press?
Where is the recognition of the incredible academic gains of many students who begin the school year two years behind and finish the year almost on grade level, but because they are not on or above grade level according to standardized assessments, their achievements go unrecognized and are even labeled as failure?
Finally, where is the evidence that the higher test scores enjoyed by students in mid and upper income schools are due to their teachers’ tier level or teaching expertise instead of their parents’ income and level of advanced education, or their fluency in English? These three factors will remain major players in low test scores unless and until poverty is addressed thoroughly and comprehensively by the public and private sectors of our society.
The questions above remain to be investigated by members of the press who are both conscientious and responsible, qualities that of late are sorely lacking in our local paper. Nonetheless I, for one, would welcome broader and more comprehensive scrutiny of our public schools, instead of the usual scrutiny that prefers to lay the blame of all that is wrong with education at the feet of the students and their teachers.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Forget April's Fool's. Forget the Final Four. Forget Tax Day and Earth Day. Forget Shakespeare's Birthday and Armenian Independence Day (April 23 & 24!). If you're a public school teacher where I live, April is testing month, and believe me, that's nothing to celebrate.
Friday, April 3, 2009
- Teachers shall not talk about any test item with other teachers or with students. If they do, they risk losing their teaching license. (Ironically, this might actually be a good rule, since there are far more worthy causes over which to lose one's license!)
- Teachers shall not leave the room for any reason unless there is a certified teacher available to replace them. If a teacher does leave the room and leaves a non certified but competent adult in charge, every test in the room could be invalidated. (Now there's an idea!)
- Students shall not, under any circumstances, leave the room and return to continue on the same subtest. If they do leave the room and resume testing, their test could be invalidated. (This is likely based on the paranoid assumption that the student's motive for leaving the room is to reach a secure location where he or she can send a text message to a student in another room in order to give them the answer to test question #6!)
- Students shall not go to the bathroom until after they finish a subtest, only one at a time, and only with an adult escort. Violating this commandment could lead to test invalidation. Get out the kitty litter! (Perhaps this commandment was written in order to make sure students are not secretly meeting in the bathrooms to discuss test questions. Imagine that! What could be a more titillating bathroom discussion topic to a third grader?!)
- Students shall believe with all their hearts that the tests actually matter; that doing well will bring reward and that doing poorly will invoke disagreeable consequences. (In reality, those who do well and those who don't are punished equally when the school inevitably fails to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a fate that awaits all but approximately 10% of America's schools by 2014.)
- Students shall not have any breaks whatsoever during the administration of a subtest, even if the test lasts two or three hours due to a few slower or more meticulous test takers. (Is this a test that measures academic achievement, or one that measures physical and mental endurance under stress?)
- Students shall waste enormous amounts of time waiting for the last classmate to finish the test. The tests are untimed. Therefore, the testing session is over when the last student in the room has finished. Those who finish long before the last student is finished are in a sense held hostage by the last finisher since they must do nothing but read for possibly the next 1 to 2 hours. (While this is in some sense an improvement over the timed tests of the past—when teachers were instructed to literally rip an unfinished test out of a student's hands when time expired—it also has negative repercussions.)
- Students shall read and read and read again. If a student finishes early, his or her only option is to read. Never mind the fact that all they've been doing prior to finishing the subtest is read, even in math. You must read a book! (If a student finishes early and, God forbid, begins drawing a picture or designing a plan to halt global warming instead of reading a book, this could result in the invalidation of every test in the room!)
- Students shall not arrive late to school on testing days. This will result in the student spending the entire morning in the office with nothing else to do but keep an eye on the office staff and the principal to make sure they do their jobs! The student must make up the test later that day in an isolated room while the other kids are in their classroom, once again engaged in meaningful learning activities.
- Nobody shall criticize the tests without running the risk of being labeled non compliant, uncooperative, disobedient, obstructive, old fashioned, selfish, subversive, or a bad sport.