Friday, March 03, 2006

Fiasco, Unfolding

On March 30-31st, students will stay home from school while every single teacher in the city, whatever their grade level or subject area, will meet at large high schools and spend hours grading the state math tests.

Sometime in the weeks leading up to this, my region (the whole city?) wants every single teacher to leave their classrooms and meet in some other location for training. Maybe simultaneously, or maybe in some kind of system of shifts, but either way a minimum of 1/4 of a school's teachers will be out of the building at the same time. My AP asked the Region's head math coach, What am I supposed to do with the children? He couldn't answer her question.

Next week's staff meeting will be spent grading the practice math test, for practice. Never mind that we have all too few opportunities to meet as a full staff and discuss, plan, get everyone on the same page: we will be bonding over the math test.

A PD session in the fall was devoted to training in grading the math test.

Enough. Enough, enough, enough. I want nothing to do with this.

It's important for teachers of every subject to have a sense of what the kids are expected to do on the tests, even in other subject areas. For that, grading a handful of tests or a good workshop would suffice; we don't need to grade them all.

I work hard. I spend hours planning, and I grade my students' assignments promptly (except posters, which I whinge about and procrastinate over for weeks...). As long as I get per session, I don't mind helping out grading the state science test, since I want to be very familiar with my students' performance. On the whole, I'm not the kind of person who draws lines in the sand about what I will and will not do. Maybe I'm arrogant and over-reacting, but I just don't consider grading state-mandated standardized tests to be a part of my job. Not. My. Job. There are so few hours in the day, and teachers are the greatest resource we have in the schools. Is this really how we should be spending the time we have to work together? I don't see why the burden should fall on our shoulders, and I don't think it's a smart use of resources. Surely, the city/state could find a group of college students or starving artists (or starving art students!) who need a quick buck, train them, and pay them to grade these tests? Or even schedule voluntary, paid grading sessions for teachers to earn some extra money, as they did with the ELA exam?

I can't support this because it isn't how I or my very talented, hard-working colleagues should be spending our time. I can't support this because it allows the government to get away with unfunded mandates, because this is what happens when you schedule more tests than you allot resources to conduct properly. I can't support this because it replaces professional development, which (although often done badly) has the potential to help prepare us to prepare the children better. I can't support this because it requires hours of training which replaces PD and faculty meetings, and I think that's disrespectful of what teachers need as professionals.

But what really kills me is this absurd idea that we should leave our classrooms for hours in the middle of the week, while the children sit at school in ad-hoc assemblies or with hours of substitutes. In this idea, I see how little respect the DOE has for the work I do, day in, day out. Good teaching is about momentum, the flow of one lesson to the next, continuity, building today on what we learned yesterday. So thanks, yank me out of class for a couple of days, then give the kids two days off the following week, because you can't figure out any other way to get this test graded. It's crazy, it's not good for the kids, and it makes me really angry.

I am thinking about not feeling well around the end of March. My principal said that if I feel strongly about this, she won't be angry if I choose not to participate. Another colleague is considering doing the same thing, for the reasons above and because she has never been good at math and feels she will probably mess up, which would be unfair to the kids whose tests she scores.

Are we over-reacting?

(Oh, and the best part is that they are notifying everyone of their locations/times through our DOE email accounts, which, to the best of my knowledge, about 30% of city teachers actually use. I mean, I am clearly comfortable with the internet, and I don't use mine! So, um, good luck with that.)

13 Comments:

Anonymous Schoolgal said...

First, I agree with you 100%! Enough already! Years ago districts were able to handle the scoring using OTP's and staff developers.

BTW: All Pre-K to Grade 8 students have those 2 days off. They get to enjoy a 4-day weekend while we suffer over these tests. Only grade 9 and some District 75 students will report. (See DOE revised calendar)

Is it only your region or are we all going to a different site?
I really love the lack of information given to us.

By the way, I gave the practice test and scored it myself. However we never received the rubric for Part 2, so I made up my own. Now I hear that scoring is different for using Guess and Check.

I can tell you that in most elementary schools, the Science teacher scores the tests. Some admins are nice enough to mass prep and assign others to help. Others do not. When the Science test starts to count, then you will see a change in the amount of help you will receive scoring the test.

6:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. So, what do we do? Write a letter to the mayor? An op-ed piece? I hate the feeling of being so silenced, of not having a voice... Any ideas?

Msss.

6:46 PM  
Blogger Miss Browneyedgirlie said...

Ugh, ugh, ugh!

This, THIS is what I have to look forward to in a year and a half?!

Oy vay.

8:26 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

woa. in just your region or every region? i had no clue! im an english teacher! how am i supposed to grade math tests? lol.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

whew! i was scared! just checked the calender. its actually just k-8. have fun! lol.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Miss Malarkey said...

I have no idea how we're being trained, my region's not big on letting us in on things. But I know that I got a chance to go to a literacy coaches workshop on those two days, and I jumped at the chance. I am so uncomfortable with math, even at the middle school level, and it is COMPLETELY absurd that we have to do this.

5:29 PM  
Anonymous VeryTeaching said...

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2:54 AM  
Blogger NYC Educator said...

"a teacher can broadcast their screen,"

I don't suppose there's much grammar, punctuation or usage in Very Teaching.

That's not Very Learning, if you ask me.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Polski3 said...

Gaccck! Thats enough to make me feel sick. IMO, this is getting their test graded at the expense of instructional time. And that is not right.

3:07 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

I agree with nyc educator, a video is not a substitute for real classroom teaching. A new teacher is better off in watching other teacher teach.

polski3;

The NYC DOE is controlled by non-educators (our chancellor needed a state waiver because he is not an educator) and the few high level educators in DOE haven't been in the classroom in at least a decade. Therefore, they do not understand how important it is for a teacher to be creative while teaching the ciriculum. Instead they force the teachers to teache to the actual test through repeated test prep.

The DOE has a "one size fit all" program that relies heavily on test prep in English & Math. Science? Social Studies? hardly touched. Music & Art? what's that? The bottom line is DOE only causes about test results and not the education of the children.

4:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chaz is right.

We are now mandated to assign topics for the Reading Response Journal instead of children writing their own responses.

Creativity is dead!

5:38 PM  
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1:46 AM  

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