Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You Have GOT To Be Freaking Kidding Me

Did you ever have a student who really struggled with a concept?  I mean really struggled.  We're talking this child pushed you to explain things more ways than you knew was possible, asked you for example after example, spent countless hours practicing over and over and over with you cheering them on from the sidelines and then looked up at you day and said, "Huh?"  Yes, that child. 

It happens.  We cover some tough stuff in elementary school and some friends are bound to struggle, right?  


Of course, that's normal.  That's to be expected.  That's what we signed up for.

I had a student (okay, several students) who had a tough time distinguishing and using the hour hand and the minute hand on an analog clock.  Throw in the cluster f*ck that NONE of the clocks in their homes were analog and therefore they had no true real word connection or purpose for this learning except to draw little crooked hands on a worksheet/test and you've got yourself one little educational conundrum.   We practiced and practiced and they still didn't understand why the two hands weren't interchangeable. 

"Why can't you use the short hand to tell the minute again, Mrs. Mimi?"
"Because it just doesn't measure the minute, honey.  It shows us the hour."
"Why?"
"Well, that's just the way it is.  The minute hand shows us the minute and the hour hand tells us the hour."

Eventually, these friends figured it out.  They learned that the short hand is the hour hand and it shows us the hour.  It's related to it's friend the minute hand, but it looks slightly different and serves a different purpose.

Kind of like standardized tests and evaluating teacher performance.  They sound similar and yes, they are in fact related to each other but ONE DOES NOT MEASURE THE OTHER.  Teacher performance is teacher performance and it doesn't tell us absolutely how a child is going to perform on a standardized test.  And standardized tests are standardized tests and they don't truly indicate the how well a teacher did his or her job with said student. 

Now if my little friends can grasp a concept as abstract as telling time on an analog clock, certainly well educated adults can understand the difference between a test that was designed to measure student's ability in one narrow aspect of their learning and the complicated task that is evaluating a teacher's performance across an entire school year. 

Right?

Right?!?

Um, evidently not.  Yesterday I saw this little piece of a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/la-times-rates-teachers-again-unfortunately/2011/05/09/AFA2TNZG_blog.html#pagebreak">unfortunate bullshit floating around the internet.  Okay, the article itself is not bullshit, but the fact that the LA Times has YET AGAIN published teacher effectiveness scores based on some crap filled formula that THEY DEVELOPED (because OF COURSE they can do the impossible...which is turn complete ridiculousness into truth by putting it in print) despite the fact that a) standardized tests are not designed to measure TEACHER performance b) standardized tests don't even accurately measure a STUDENT's true ability c) many smart people have demonstrated that this math simply does not add up and d) it is unbelievably irresponsible and will bring nothing but trouble upon educators who are trying their damndest to teach in some of the most constraining conditions in history.

Now I'm not saying that teachers shouldn't be evaluated at all.  That's insane.  Of course we should be held accountable for our work and of course we should have a formal evaluation process.  However, when are the Powers That Be going to stop talking out of both sides of their mouths?  Publicly, they say things like, "We have respect of teachers," and "Teachers are responsible for our future.  It's  a big job," and blah blah blah but then, THEN.  Then, behind closed doors they devise plans so quick and dirty, so disrespectful, so illogical like tying a teacher's evaluation (and possibly PAY) to the score a student receives on a test!

Are we educators or are we test prep tutors?  Do the Powers That Be REALLY have any respect or understanding of the scope of what we do?  EVERY DAY.  Because if the Powers That Be did have a shred of respect for us or possess an ounce of understanding, I'd like to think they'd take the time to design a system of evaluation that honored the complexity of our work and the context in which we do this work.

14 comments:

Nicole Jewell said...

I've seen those articles too and just fumed each time! If you could addd something to my '10 things that teachers dont want list' I wrote after I saw the John Merrow article at the Huffington Post that would be great! Its here:http://www.teachercertification.org/blog/

Lindsay said...

Maybe they should change our name from "teachers" to "cog producers."

Michelle Wilson said...

Isn't the long hand the minute hand, and the short hand is the hour hand? Or else I've had it wrong all my life! :)

I really enjoy your posts! Thanks for giving us much-needed chuckles. :)

Stu said...

Not only does it keep coming up, but it's now LAW in...Indiana, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Michigan...New Jersey...

Legislators and Governors, most of whom have never taught in a public school, have decided on all sorts of things that will "help" (read: screw) public education.

They aren't listening to us...that's for sure.

Morgan said...

You'll like this article : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01eggers.html

And I totally agree with you Stu! That's the biggest problem I see. It's all about the politics and not the kids. The people who decide the future of American Education either a.) have no experience in the classroom or b.) are so far removed from the classroom they can't relate to education in today's classroom.

Sioux said...

I would love the "powers that be" to take over our classes for a month. They get to collect data and prepare them for the test and cajole parents and fill out the endless forms, just like we do...

My bet is they'd last less than a week...

Mimi said...

Morgan- Saw the Eggers piece and loved it! Loved it, loved it, loved it. I couldn't agree with you more -

~*~Ash~*~ said...

Girl, I hear your frustration! Also, where is PARENT accountability or student accountability for that matter? I think it's all too common that students are bubbling in snowmen on their standardized tests with no repercussions. In our state, the scores get back after school, so it doesn't effect their grades at all.

Also, this really helped some of my kids with time this year:
http://shop.scholastic.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay_34037_-1_10001_10002

It's a flipchart and CD with all the months plus other things too. I ordered mine for free with bonus points through scholastic book clubs. We sang it EVERY morning during our calendar time. When a child got stuck on time, I could sometimes walk by their desk and hear them singing this song to help them out!

Teaching Happily Ever After

Ashleigh said...

Thanks for the laugh. I don't know what grade you teach (I haven't read that far), but my third graders still struggle with telling time.

Ash, you are so right! Where is the parent accountability?

Julia said...

Hi, thanks for the laugh. Right now I am teaching in Costa Rica after having spent 5 years in charter and public schools. I am starting to think that after I leave here, it will have to be at a private school where the philosophy and mission come from what a group of people truly believe in and not one that is diluted with the standards and rules from the state government. Thanks so much for a great post! Looking forward to reading more.

tattle tale said...

Just found your blog. It makes me laugh that across continents we have the same issues. I teach 6 year olds (in the UK) and have hilarious lessons trying to get the objective across. Have you tried the "close you eyes and put your hand up when you think one minute has passed". Please try it and let me know what results you get. I had some ch who waited about 10 seconds and some who were still diligently sitting there waiting 5 minutes later!

tattle tale said...

Just found your blog.
I love that across continents we are having the same problems!
I teach 6 year olds in the UK, and I love it! I love that the things that I think are really complicated (like adding crossing 10) they pick up in an instant, but the simple things (hands on a clock are a brilliant example)just don't go in!??
Have you tried "close you eyes and put your hand up when you think a minute has passed."? I had some chidlren who managed to wait a whole ten seconds before proudly popping their hand up, and others who were diligently sitting their with their eyes closed 5 minutes later!

M said...

It's all politics and numbers. There isn't any meaningful form of evaluation I know other than administration giving their thoughts and opinions based on their day to day observations. Even then there is so much room for bias. Systems all over need fixing. There is also a huge disconnect with the teachers and the rest of society. At least where I was (and will go back to) teaching.

MK Chang said...

Yes! THANK YOU for sharing your frustrations and therefore helping me to vent out mine too. Here in Wisconsin, it is now a freakin' law that teachers can be fired based on their students' state standardized test scores. The law was just recently passed. It angers me, disgusts me, and saddens me all at the same time.

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