10 January 2012

Educational Matters Continued

October of last year I wrote a post called Educational Matters. Some of the thoughts I shared resurfaced last week.

Immediately upon return from Christmas break, as in the first day back, all teachers with subjects that are tested were required to go to a testing meeting. The meeting itself was not too bad; every teacher there knows the drill. Standardized tests are on our minds all year long, and now that we're back they loom over our heads.

NCLB says over 90% of our students have to pass the test for reading this year. I won't even get into the practical side of this - and really, do I have to? Over 90%? In a perfect world.

However, no matter how much I know I just have to do my best, the pressure of it all is crushing. Couple this with the fact that the first week back from any long break, even a weekend sometimes, I have to fight my students for control of the room. By Friday I had things back to "normal," but I was feeling it.

Then one of my male students crushed me anew.
He's usually a mess when it comes to organization. His papers are everywhere, and they aren't covered with notes but doodles. He doesn't have many friends because even though he's immature, his ability to think is so far above his peers that no one wants to talk to him.

This is when things are normal.

I asked him how his break went.
"Oh, pretty much horrible."

I knew why. His parents are splitting up. Then, as he's picking up his multitude of papers,  he says to me, "Are things going to get better?" I don't remember what I said, nothing helpful I'm sure.

What standardized test?

The next day I asked one of my colleagues her guess at how many of our students come from broken homes. "I don't think 80% would be an unfair estimate." I agreed.

Our students come from homes where, if they're not abusive, they're probably at least ignored. And if their families haven't fallen apart, there's a good chance it might. I don't have all that much to offer these kids on days when I'm stressing over test scores. In fact, on those days when I'm distant, I give them what they're used to: the cold shoulder.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, sometimes education doesn't matter.

Oh, and the student I mentioned above, he'll kill the test. Not because of anything I've taught him, but because he reads constantly to get away from his life.


Rusty Webb said...

Well, damn. I'm not sure what the best way is to ensure teachers are doing things right. There is a real spectrum of involvement, and you seem to be closer to the end we all want teachers to be at. But then there are those that tell you to be quiet and then they go to sleep (yes, my 8th grade teacher did that, almost every day).

I don't envy you one bit. Good luck with making your 90%.

Man O' Clay said...

Thanks Rusty.

There are a few good things about NCLB; one of them is forcing the sleeping teachers to wake up (literal or not), but we have a long way to go.

I want to see standards shaped around each of my students. Let us measure the growth of individuals, not classes. We have the technology, why not use it?

Lydia Kang said...

90% That seems so high. I mean, if it happens, great, and if they truly can read at that level, even better. But the metrics seem to me more important about getting funding or proving that your job should be paid for, than actually getting the kids to read. Not that your job isn't important (it's ridiculously important) but clearly there are other ways than a test to show what a great teacher can do. Or maybe I've been watching too much of the Wire.

Man O' Clay said...

90% is high. And if NCLB stays, by 2014 it will be 100%.

There are other ways. Monday (1/16) I'm going to post about this week's parent/teacher conferences and what an encouragement our reading goal is becoming.

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