Monthly Archives: September 2010

Too Much Studying for Tests or Too Much Studying Test Results

Am I the only one who is getting tired of studying test data? Almost every meeting I have attended since NCLB was introduced has been about Proficiency Tests, OAT’s, or OAA’s. We have debated everything from the best techniques for prepping students to interventions for students who did not pass. This year, we are meeting weekly to study assessment results at each grade level.

Every week, teachers meet with the other teachers from their grade level to discuss their students’ progress in reading and/or math. This involves one to two meetings a week. On top of these regular meetings, we are being asked to keep ongoing records for all cumulative and formative assessment tests detailing every missed item, question by question. Then we study the most frequently missed questions to determine why we think they were so difficult for our students and how we can prepare them for these kinds of questions in the future. We will collaborate as a grade level, sharing techniques that have been effective with our students in order to improve our opportunities to be successful on this year’s OAAs. Then more testing, more evaluating, more intervening, and yada, yada, yada…

In conclusion, we spend hours looking at test questions instead of spending hours looking at students and what they really need to be successful. I have to ask myself if this is the best use of our time. Wouldn’t our time be better served looking at ways to improve our teaching, to explore creative techniques to push our children to be life-long problem solvers, to develop units that would challenge our students to use higher level thinking and develop their creativity, to share teaching strategies which have been successful in motivating our students to go above and beyond in academic areas? I resent the time we spend teaching our students to pass one test a year. Is it reasonable or reprehensible to let this one test dictate how and what we teach all year and how we spend our meeting times?

I have always contended, and I’m sure most teachers would agree, that this test is not an accurate measure of a student’s ability to be successful. But when so much emphasis is placed upon these tests, we send the message that we believe in the validity of these tests as opposed to the validity of what our students show us they can do daily.

I, for one, am tired. Tired of giving in to the demands that I believe are crippling our public schools, our teachers, and our children. Yet, if I want to keep my job, I am bound by this system, as we all are. So, I keep doing what I am told to do, but I am beginning to feel as though I am caught in a nightmare, and I can’t seem to wake up. What about you?

Revisiting 9/11

As we all are painfully aware, yesterday marked the ninth anniversary of 9/11. I’m sure that you, like me, can remember every detail of that day. I happened to be home that morning, as I had taken a half-day in order to take my son to an early orthodontist appointment, where we first heard the news that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. Each additional arrival to the office brought a new detail, but it still was a tragic accident, as far as we knew. It wasn’t until I dropped my son off at school and returned home to turn on the TV that the gruesome details were revealed. I remember falling to my knees as I watched the unbelievable happening and crying as though my heart was breaking in two.

The day only got tougher when I had to go back to school in the afternoon and face adults who had not seen what I had but knew something terrible had happened. I had to act as though all was well, so as not to alarm my students, who were becoming increasingly suspicious as parents poured into the school to take their children home, as though that was somehow a safer place to be. I also remember gasping out the details of the death, fear, and shock I had witnessed on  TV to my peers, who were almost as much in the dark as our students were, during our lunch break. Even now, as I think back to the tears we shed and the look of horror on every face I met that day, it brings tears to my eyes.

Now, here is the dilemma I faced on Friday. We were to celebrate Patriot’s Day at our school in honor of all of those who had died on one of the worst days of our country’s history. We each put out flags in the front of our building, and teachers were asked to talk about why we celebrate Patriot’s Day. But my students were babies during this tragedy, so I had to ask myself just how much I wanted to tell them. While I wanted them to have an understanding of the events of that day, I did not want to go into such detail that it would make them fearful of a possible future attack. While I wanted them to honor and respect those who had died initially and those who bravely gave their lives trying to save people who were trapped, I did not want it to turn into a who-can-top-this tale of misery and death. And above all, I want my students to face life bravely and confidently.

So, after much debate, we were able to find a kid-friendly Brain Pop video on-line which stated the events without too much drama, and after watching it, we spent a little time letting them ask questions and share their knowledge and feelings about the tragedy. They handled it quite well, and I felt that we had done the best we could with a topic that is still so difficult to talk about, especially with young people.

I end this blog with a moment of silence for all those whose lives were forever changed by 9/11. You and those you loved and lost are not forgotten. God bless you.

Committed to the Marriage

In a past blog, I told you that co-teaching is a marriage; a marriage between the general education teacher and the intervention specialist.  As you know, this year my intervention specialist and I are in a full-time marriage as we are self-contained. So, now that I am in a more committed relationship, you might ask how our marriage is going so far this year.

I love it!!!!! Imagine having two teachers working in tandem at all times. That old adage that two heads are better than one is proven daily. Where I hesitate, my co-teacher jumps in, and where she falters, I fill in. As Jerry Maguire would say, “She completes me.” We complement each other so fluidly that our teaching is becoming seamless.

There is never a time when one of us is just sitting. We team teach, parallel teach, orchestrate centers, or work with individuals and groups throughout the day. There is never a time when I feel unsupported by her, or she by me. We role play, act out what we are teaching, and thoroughly enjoy both our students and each other. I can’t say that I have ever enjoyed the actual act of teaching quite so much. I am so grateful to have this opportunity.

I spent considerable time over the summer wondering whether the choice we made to be self-contained was a wise one. I worried about teaching subjects I had never taught before. But I needn’t have worried. And if I needed any proof, I got that at the end of this past week when another one of our school’s intervention specialists, who has stopped in often throughout the past two weeks asking for advice or just to see what we are doing, told us that she wished she could be doing what we are doing because it looked like we were so much more effective and the kids seemed to love it. She talked about feeling like she was being pulled in two different directions as she moves from teacher to teacher. I always called that the yo-yo effect. I think for the first time in three years my friend and co-teacher does not feel like a yo-yo, and I don’t feel short-changed. So, I love this marriage, and I hope to stay in it for a long time.

Phase 2 Winners of RttT

The Department of Education released the names of the ten winning applicants in the Phase 2: Race to the Top competition in their August 24th release. They include the following: the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

Even though these applicants had the highest scores, apparently other states were not far behind. The number of winning applicants was determined by the quality of their applications and the available funds. According to the release, “The 10 winning applicants have adopted rigorous common college- and career-ready standards in reading and math, created pipelines and incentives to put the most effective teachers in high-need schools, and all have alternative pathways to teacher and principal certification.” Hmm…sounds a little scary to me. I’m not sure what pipelines are, but I have a feel for what incentives might be used. Does merit pay ring a bell? Also, if you check out the release from the Department of Education, you will get a feel for the intended budget for each state, as well as the District of Columbia. We’re talking a lot of money here, gang!

 If you are from any of the above winning areas, it would probably behoove you (as it would me since I am a teacher in Ohio) to read your state’s application. Let’s face it; even if your school is not a participating LEA, the writing is on the wall that your whole state will eventually be adopting the same reforms. So, take the time to read through a summary of your state’s application at the very least, and get a preview of what lies ahead. Pre-warned is prepared!