Up on the Box

What She Wore: Khakis; red, hooded shirt with a deep v-neck; black undershirt; black snow boots.

I try not to get all political because, quite frankly, I’m not any good at it.  But yesterday I read something in Newsweek that really got my juices flowing (I was pretty surprised to be reading Newsweek too).  The article stated clearly, "It’s time to move from identifying failing schools to identifying failing teachers."  Now I realize that this sounds good, but this is the worst idea I’ve heard in years.  The thing is, if you don’t work in education, I think that it’s hard to understand.  So, rather than explain the whole thing, I’ll just put you in my shoes, and maybe that will make it clear. 

I work in a low-performing school.  Last year, 18% of my students passed the state-wide test.  This is nothing new–fewer of them had passed the test the year before.  In my mind, that’s improvement.  If you compare the kids from one year to the next, you’ll see that many of them did improve, but not enough to pass.  This year, the state expected 60% of our kids to pass.  Next year, they’ll want even more. 

Maybe you can see why that’s frustrating.  We get them failing, we spend a year of extended classes trying to improve thier skills, we actually improve their skills, but the federal government is only interested in one number: how many passed the test.  Period.

The good thing (relatively) is that the individual teachers aren’t punished–the schools are, but not the teachers.  This way, we are free to teach where we want.  I can work with kids who need it the most, and not worry that they’ll fail the test–I just do the best I can.   

If I had to worry about getting fired, there’s no way I’d take this kind of job–that’s just like saying I want to be unemployed next year.  Or worse yet, getting my pay reduced while teachers in affluent districts with well-behaved kids get raises for keeping proficient kids proficient. 

So, that’s my soap box–you want better teaching, ask the teachers what they need.  They’ll tell you.  And it’s not more computers!!!!!!! 

KM

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About takedeux

In one summer I had a baby who was hospitalized for five weeks, quit my job, and moved back to my hometown. This blog is about starting over.
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18 Responses to Up on the Box

  1. Emily says:

    Amen!   My school did not meet our NCLB standards last year, but they didn\’t see how far my kids came from the beginnig of the year to the end of the year.   We do writing portfolios in KY and some of my seventh graders couldn\’t even write in sentences at the beginning of the year.   At the end they were writing in paragraphs that made some sort of sense.   However, a low novice (novice is the lowest score) is still the same as a high novice in state scoring.   So while the students had made leaps and bounds, we still failed to meet our yearly progress.   Many teachers do the best they can with what they have.   And people wonder why the new teacher turn over rate is so high.  

  2. Jennifer says:

    Hi again Katy 🙂 I left a couple of comments here earlier, and you got back to me on my blog, so I\’m playing catch-up! I found your blog when it was featured on MSN at some point- it interested me because I\’m studying education, and your writing is entertaining. I saved it as a bookmark, and promptly forgot about it shortly thereafter. I organized my bookmarks today and \’rediscovered\’ your blog, sort of, and realized I\’d missed a lot (such as your pregnancy- congratulations, by the way!), so I read a couple of months back in the archives. (I\’ll be honest, though- part of my motivation was catching up, but part of it was also procrastinating!) Anyway, that\’s how I happened across your old entry! 🙂 Have a great rest of the week!

  3. g says:

    I are right on the money for that!  We can do the best we can to help them learn what they need to know to get through life and although my students scored 82% in reading which I was thrilled with, they scored only 29% in math.  Yet when I compared from the previus year, they gained 418 points in math…so it is hard to blame the teacher.  I blame the schools…we don\’t have enough supplies, the books aren\’t completely in, we got no allotment this year, the AR/STAR programs are down daily, there is no discipline at our school, some teachers honestly don\’t care and some scored 0% in math and 6% in reading…, and I can go on and on….and yes the state expects us to go even higher even though our school did not meet AYP for the 2nd year in a row…we have had no guidance from our site principal or from the superintendent…when the test coordinator came to give us our "training" she said, and I quote, "Don\’t worry about making ayp.  Just look at the gains that your students made."  I was livid.  She made it sound like it doesn\’t matter if we make ayp or not!!!  I work my ass off trying to get these kids up to level and she makes it sound like oh, no big deal!!!  The STATE does NOT look at how many GAINS we made.  They look ONLY at whether the school MADE or DID NOT MAKE ayp.  God, it is so frustrating.  Sorry, I just freaked out again.  It is a tough job to be in when it comes to testing, but I love the kids.  Sorry i went off on a tangent.  Good luck with your testing…we start last week in feb.
     
    g.j.

  4. KENT says:

    Hi Katy,  Thanks for your comments here.  I\’m with you on this one.  I\’m not an educator,  but having had my own children grow up through public schools,  I recognize that there are many devoted and dedicated teachers that don\’t get credit for what they do.  My feelings  are that sometimes officials are only interested in numbers,  not only if the field of education but in many walks of life.  What we always need to remember is that we are dealing with real people, each individual and each a separate personality. Because we are all different,  we can\’t expect to get the same results everywhere with everyone.  We\’re all here to help each other.  If there is any improvment however large or small,  then in some small measure,  we are successful.  Don\’t ever believe otherwise.  There will always be others  trying to make you feel that way. 🙂 Kent

  5. WINDOW LIVE says:

    I am blogging about something school related today as well.  We have become a society of passing the buck.  Our education standard is down, standardized testing is up, it is crap.  If I knew what I know today I would have home schooled my children.

  6. siobhan says:

    This is exactly why I say that the No Child Left Behind Act is just meaningless legislation that ties teachers hands rather then supports them.  It sounds great…"we will let no child be left behind, blah blah"  More like a slogan for the Green Berets then an education standard.  All this does place emphasis on kids passing standardized tests, not on teaching them how to think, reason or create.  My Finnish daughter Reija spent a year going to school here, and had to repeat the year once she got home.  Finland would not recognize her school year here.  Some superpower we are, Huh??
    Great Post!!
    Siobhan

  7. Becca says:

    I worry about A. I know that he will never graduate from school, but you know somehow he always passes these tests. How right is that? I wonder how skewed some of these tests are when they do things like this. I wish they would do away with this program.

  8. Tracy says:

    Ya, that is very frustrating.  I hate it when the people who make the rules, have never been there in the classrooms and don\’t really know what goes on.  All they see is those test scores.  Frustrating!  You are awesome for working in a school like that and helping the kids to improve, instead of just saying oh forget it I\’m going to a rich school district where the kids do well, just so that you "look" better!! 

  9. Unknown says:

    I\’m so lucky this year w/ my daughters school. It\’s got GREAT PTA helping to buy EVERYTHING. The winter carnival is tommorrow night and I\’m going w/ a wad of cash-o-la! Funding is crappy. I can\’t imagine my job depending on the kids having to meet some made up score and not them looking on a total picture, before vs. after. Thank goodness it\’s not to that point!
     
    Hugs to you and that little baby!
    Mercy
     
     

  10. tressie says:

    teacher tests and standards crack me up – i have taught 17 years in one state and moved to California and i can\’t get a job right now for one big thing – a CLAD or BCLAD or whatever they are calling it this week (ever notice how often our credentials change?) it\’s a California language thing equal to a TESL and other such things -the kicker?? i speak fluent spanish and live in a predominantly spanish area – i am about ready to toss the career – it\’s just to freaking frustrating – not just looking for a job – but trying to keep up with the administrative demands.  I haven\’t been by here in a while – wanted to see how your baby stuff is coming along – 15 years ago when i was pregnant with my daughter, I shared my very clear ultrasound photos on the overhead with them….3rd graders – now?  i would have lost my job probably.  Ah well….if i can\’t beat em, i ain\’t gonna join \’em. 🙂  Hope you are feeling better.  ttfn ~ tressie

  11. Sheryl-Ann says:

    I did read that article, Katy, and I think that what you are saying is correct.  I have always hated standardized tests because it is hard to truly grade progress using these tests.  Is there anyone on the side of the teachers who go to these meetings in Congress (or wherever the legislation is made)?  Like you said, it\’s hard to compare your school to schools in more affluent districts – it\’s like comparing apples and oranges.  This is just plain wrong!!  Oh well, I hope they figure it all out soon…….it doesn\’t seem like rocket science, does it?

  12. Antonella says:

    I don\’t know if it\’s the same there as it is here, but here, the teachers union is so string, teachers can be really terrible and never get fired while the good teachers aren\’t rewarded. I think it\’s unfair. I had teachers in school that couldn\’t spell simple words, I mean, come on, I know they\’re not perfect, but you\’re teaching language arts, you should be able to spell!!
    Anyway, there are a lot of problems in the education system and you\’re right, I\’m not a teacher, but in my opinion, I think good teachers should be rewarded and bad teachers fired (you\’re right, not just based on performance, but improvement)and there shouldn\’t be so much emphasis on standardized tests that the kids learn nothing but how to take the tests. That\’s what I think from what I\’ve seen.
    Antonella

  13. David says:

    If you ask me (and you didn\’t), teachers do MORE than their fair share, especially for the little money they make.  They are expected to do more, every year, with less.  Less money, less time, less resources.  More students, more headaches.  Fewer teachers, fewer aides (which I think the whole position is crap…if they had enough teachers, they wouldn\’t need aids, and if they paid the teachers enough, and gave them the materials to do their job, instead of expecting the teachers to supply them, they\’d have more teachers.
     
    My response to people who think teachers get paid to much, "considering they have half a year off, and only work 6 hours a day…" is to quit your job, and come to work as a teacher for one year, for their salary, and the BS they have to put up with.  The long weekends correcting papers, the staying-up-nights 4 nights a week or more preparing lesson plans, getting up early in the morning to make sure you can stop at the supply store to pick up art supplies because the school, taxpayers, and parents are to cheap to do it…(and it wouldn\’t be "right" not to, because it\’s not the kids fault, is it?) YOU do it for a year, and see if you still feel the same way.
     
    And if you do…I\’ll give you a gold f!$%$!$# star…and nothing else.  Just like a teacher gets.  Minus the gold star.  They don\’t even get that.
     
    -David  //BootJockey
    (PS, I\’m not married, and I don\’t have kids, and even -I- can see this…how can some people be so f!$%!#$#ing ignorant?)

  14. Nadine says:

     Here! Let me give a Pregnant Woman a Hand down off that box…..You know you are right.
     But you also know that there are some teachers that fail the students too. I had a math teacher my freshman year of high school who either lied about his creditials or he lost his mind sometime in Sept becuz he was totally dismissed by Thanksgivng!!! He was not teacher material at all!! 
     No easy Answers for any of it.
     Hugs!!!

  15. Jaysey says:

    That\’s a great box to be on.  The federal government really needs to revise their stance on education…and not revise it to punish teachers.  Only someone who\’d never been in education would say something so stupid.

  16. Christine says:

    As a former public school nurse and current home schooler, I can see both sides of this issue.  I understand your frustration in particular give the students you work with.  As far as accountability for teachers, I agree with it.  Hear me out, please.  Many teachers work their back ends off to help thier students improve.  The test results DO reflect this, and those teachers, while the students may not yet be passing, should be rewarded for helping their students get better.  You, as a teacher, know as well as I do, that there are also "teachers" who do no such thing.  They whine and complain that the class is too big or this kid or that one is to disruptive.  They single out a child or two to be favorites and they single out one or two to be the scapegoats.  In my school nurse days, there was a teacher of color who singled out a caucasian child and uttered very nasty things to him.  She was not fired, of course, but moved to another school where she could terrorize another child (or many other children).  Why she ever went into teaching is beyond me, as she seemed to hate every child who entered into her classroom.  This is the type of teacher who gets moved around from school to school because of tenure, but who ought, instead, to be given her walking papers.  As a parent, I saw first hand the damage a bad teacher can do.  My oldest son came home from school EVERY DAY of first grade in tears because his teacher was so horrid.  DS has a learning disability that was finally diagnosed after his second grade year, but the guidelines given to us by the audiologist (he has a processing disorder) were EXACTLY what I had been telling his teacher in first grade that he needed.  This teacher gave ORAL directions to 6 year old children for their homework.  My poor son (and many other boys…she particularly disliked boys) had a miserable year.  Every time a parent survey came home after that year asking parents how the school could be improved, I wrote in FIRE So and So.  I think teachers like that one and the one I worked with are the ones who need to go.  They HARM the children they are supposed to help.  I am just grateful that I now have the opportunity to home school my younger children.  After all, who knows them better than I do?  Who better to address their strengths and weaknesses? 
     
    I have great admiration for those who teach (as you do) in a loving manner.  Those who work with 30 children and need to try to teach every one of them, from the slowest learner to the quickest.  I understand how much work it is to prepare curriculum and try to make it interesting.  Having worked in an inner city school I understand the effects of poverty, teen parenting, drugs, and social services on the children.  I do applaud teachers like you who CARE.  The test shouldn\’t be how many answers the children get correct on a test, but how many come back to see a particular teacher after they have moved on.  Those are the teachers who reach beyond the barriers and help children learn how to learn.
     
    Stepping down off the soap box in my turn, hoping you don\’t hate me now.
     
    Christine

  17. ncjenn2nd says:

    I totally agree with you on this one.  I work in a Title 1 school where they decided we need tutoring for kids 3-8, but not k-2, we need to have less teachers, bigger classes, and less instructional assistants.  Now how is that going to increase our scores?  Dump more work on overworked people.  Hmmm, I wonder about those people.
     
    BTW, thanks for your comment on my site about the kids, I\’m glad they do know how babies are made, I was concerned for a minute there:).  And we all do say babies are in the stomach or belly, probably because it\’s easier to say than womb or uterus.  I hope all is going well and that your little baby is growing right along:).

  18. Emily says:

    Thank you for your comment on my blog.   I did not hear any judgement in it, and I appreciate that.   Middle school is hard, but I do not regret my choice to teach because I did have other choices (I had a full scholarship to graduate school, but felt that would be just too easy and safe, and it would have been).   I have learned so much in two and half years.    More people should be kind to teachers.   People think it is an easy job.     

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