Thursday, March 26, 2015

Warning warning warning

When I was in high school, for some godforsaken reason, I was told I had to take the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.) As a registered conscientious objector (much to the dismay of my WWII veteran dad) I saw no need to take this assessment. I argued and argued but was given the test. So I took it. I played connected the dots and made patterned drawings on the bubble sheet.

When the results came back my scores were unbelievable, abominable, abysmal!
My guidance counselor accused me of cheating in my regular course work since this standardized test showed that I had less than normal intelligence. 

The next year she just about choked when I graduated as salutatorian. I later sent her a copy of my college diploma (magna cum laude) and my MA diploma (ditto.)
See what happens when smart alecks take dumb aleck tests.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

It is to weep

Do not for a moment think I am condemning the teacher about whom I am speaking in this blog.

In this screwed up educational climate, people who teach ELA and Math are under undue pressure, and in this particular school, all teachers have part of their APPR based on ELA or Math. Thus ELA and Math teachers have the additional burden of not letting down their colleagues.

I wanted to weep because I saw a child's homework. The homework was directly from last year's CC state exam, with the added feature of The answer is ____ because_____ and The answer is not____ because____.

This poor teacher is giving students grades for practicing with questions from ill-conceived and inappropriate tests.

It is to weep.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Child's Teacher Could Be Deemed Failing BUT My Daughter Passed.

Measuring growth is a statistical nightmare on the new CCSS tests.

I believe that student growth is defined as successfully meeting educational requirements from one year to the next. That means, to me, that MY CHILD’S TEACHER WAS SUCCESSFUL if my child has successfully completed the material in grade 4 and then successfully completed new material in grade 5. In the world according to Beth, if my child scores an 81 in 4th grade and an 80 in 5th grade she has still grown because the 5th grade material was new and appropriately harder.  Please note, I was comparing her grade to her grade to show the effectiveness of her teacher because THAT MAKES SENSE.

If only that were true, but it is not. According to NYSED growth model, the state compares my child with other children who have similar characteristics (disabilities, socio-economic status, prior test scores). The state then compares how well my child did compared to the other children on the next year’s test. Growth is shown only if my child’s test score is higher than the test scores of a certain percentage of the other cohort student test scores. My daughter was proficient last year in ELA and Math. If she is STILL proficient, but her individual score is not as high as the other cohort students’ scores, THEN HER TEACHER IS SEEN AS NOT EFFECTIVE for my child. 

Let’s recap. My child was proficient- met the standards, passed the test; whatever you want to call it- but her teacher supposedly failed her, he was not effective since her score was not higher than the scores of other children who got the same score the year before. My daughter is still on target to be 'college and career ready' but her teacher could be fired.

<Picture me screaming>

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Teacher Evaluations- and I am not talking testing

I worked as a bank teller and head teller when I went to school full time and worked full time. My evaluation consisted of sitting down with a manager or assistant manager and a print out of my error sheet. There was a paper evaluation sheet, about a page and a half long with check lists. We would talk together and then the rubric would be filled out. I think it was a 3 point rubric- fair, good, exceptional. Raises there, like in education, were based on longevity.
My husband works in the private sector. He sits down with the boss and they talk and sometimes, if the business is doing well, he gets a raise; and sometimes he is told that they wish they could give a raise. His evaluation form is about a page.

Until a couple of years ago, most of my teacher evaluation forms were about a page to 2 pages. It didn't matter if I were in public school or private school or BOCES, the form was pretty similar. The administration may or may not have observed me and may or may not have filled out an observation form on me. To digress for a moment, my favorite observation for stated that I didn't make my room inviting for students because there were no posters on the wall. Nothing about my teaching. I reminded the administrator that the afternoon before the observation she had suspended a student who had vandalized the room, including breaking 2 desks and tearing the posters off the wall. She said that I should have come in the next day with new posters. I told her that the broken desks were still in the room and she should have had custodians remove them. (She is now under investigation at a district for embezzlement and falsifying documents, just saying.)

Back to the topic at hand, evaluations. The game changed with Race To The Top (RTTT) when states had to compete for federal funding (hah! no equitable funding there either) and part of the competition was having the most rigorous (ugh-buzzword) teacher evaluation system. Despite the fact that collective bargaining is a right under the NYS Constitution, and despite the fact that many school districts, like mine, were still under contract with evaluation forms, Governor Cuomo stated that districts that did not redo their evaluations would lose money. Part of a teacher's evaluation would be measured by student growth, another by student achievement and the other 60% by a rigorous evaluation rubric. Districts scrambled to write new evaluation systems.

NYSUT, the teachers' union, stepped up and wrote a rubric by which teachers could be evaluated. NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT approved the rubric. You can find it here NYSUT 2012 Teacher Practice Rubric  I am evaluated by that rubric, as are many, many others. IT IS 42 PAGES LONG and has SEVEN STANDARDS not all of which can be seen in  an observation or lesson plan. That means that I have to bring to my conference with my administrator proof of my worthiness to teach. Andrew Cuomo praised the new teacher evaluation system in May 2011. HE PRAISED IT. Now, he condemns it because it didn't do what he wanted it to do.

And now I need to state this out loud. All you private sector people who want teachers to be evaluated 'just like everyone else'-- guess what, that would be a step down for us.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

#WhatAllKidsNeed #CallOutCuomo

Dear Governor Andrew Cuomo,
I couldn't be in Albany today lobbying against your education reforms. Unlike your minions who had coopted the social studies standards to wage war against public schools, using public school money to bus kids to show support for your charter school movement; I spent my day in my classroom. In all fairness, I gave up my lesson plans today too. Instead, I had a guest speaker from the children's wing of a nearby hospital talking to all of my students about their seriously ill teammate. When courageous students asked the question they were all thinking, "is he going to die" I wept. Yep, I cried for him, for them, for innocence, because the answer was "we hope not." I sat through the presentation five times, waiting for that question.dreading that question. And as I type this, the tears are pouring down my face. 
You self serving son of a bitch. Do you really want to know ‪#‎whatallkidsneed‬? They need teachers who weep, they need classmates who leave my room and go to math class asking if they can talk about how to make their friend's difficult journey just a little easier. They need advocates like that math teacher who threw out her lesson to brainstorm ideas. When you have done your level best to dismantle public education and moved on, we teachers will still be standing strong behind and beside our students.
You has never been about the money.