By Chris Janotta October 18, 2010 6:43 pm
With all of the emphasis on test scores in public schools, it seems that things have taken quite the ironic twist. In my district, for example, we did not meet AYP due to one subsection not making the progress necessary to do so. Still other grade levels and subject areas tested did not rise as much as expected or even went down slightly. Thus began the process of the chickens running around with their heads chopped off.
Day one of our back to school meetings consisted of a presentation of the test results followed by a thorough tongue-lashing at our “failures.” Statements such as “We need to do more,” and “There are no excuses,” were thrown around like lawn darts. Claims that “The Board won’t be happy!” were met with under-the-breath comments of, “The Board is never happy,” and “Yes they will; they enjoy being upset with us.” Nothing like starting off the year with some adversarial pessimism.
At this point, we were told about all of the extra programs we would be implementing, about all the progress monitoring that would be taking place, and about all of the response to intervention techniques that would be used with the strictest fidelity. It all sounded a bit overwhelming, but as teachers, we were used to having more slop thrown on our plates with a fear-laden spoon. “This is the way things are now!” administrators would tell us. “Education isn’t what it used to be, you know!” they’d say with a sneer as if all of the years leading up to this day we had all been kicking back and taking a nap.
So, because this was “the way things are now,” we would need to reach down within ourselves and create…time. Because the only way we could possibly complete all of the extra duties being thrown at us was to somehow channel the powers of H.G. Wells and use his magic time machine to make our hour of plan time seem to last for six or seven hours.
Well, we all decided, this simply wasn’t going to happen, so we would just have to make do.
“At least,” many of the more naive teachers thought to themselves, “we will have some time today or tomorrow during our institute days to plan how to implement these new ‘fail-safe-techniques-for-student-test-score-improvement.’” No such luck. Next it was off to hear about the new bullying program we would be implementing. After sitting through two hours of what should have amounted to twenty to thirty minutes of training, we were told that we would be using entire class periods to teach our students about bullying.
Now, every teacher I have ever met understands that bullying is an important topic, but taking time out of our core classes to do this meant spending even less time with our students teaching them the skills that were so direly needed to pass the standardized tests. “Well,” we all thought to ourselves, “I guess we’ll just have to make do.”
When the institute days, half days, and other beginning-of-the-year necessities were taken care of, it was finally time for teachers to get back to where they belong: in the class rooms with their students. Of course this didn’t last long because soon it was time to attend another in-service at which–you guessed it–we analyzed last year’s test scores.
It’s not just that spending time analyzing test scores isn’t the most beneficial use of a teacher’s time, but that we were pulled out of our classes to do this. Let me say that again: we were pulled out of our classes to analyze test scores in order to decide how best to improve those test scores. Of course mentioning the fact that being pulled away from our students wasn’t going to help anybody’s test scores was useless because nobody was interested in hearing any excuses. “What a wasted day,” many of us thought to ourselves as we contemplated the best way to just make do.
With that behind me, it was time to jump back into class full-force and work on boosting those test scores! So I started barrelling forward with unbridled enthusiasm because being in the classroom with students is what makes all of the bureaucratic nonsense worth dealing with. By the second day of this I was back into a rhythm, and class was running smoothly. Students began to enjoy incorporating the Smartboard into our lessons and were even excited to learn about parts of speech–it’s amazing what technology can do for education! And on it continued like this — at least until the end of the day. The next day, I was subbed out for another in-service.
At least this in-service wasn’t about test scores, but it still took my students away from me and took yet another day of learning away from them. “Well,” I sighed to myself, “they will just have to make do.” As the in-service was about to begin, I did my best to remain optimistic; if I was going to miss a day with my classes, I sure was going to take as much from this in-service as possible. On top of this, the topic of this workshop was writing, my favorite subject.
Unfortunately, my optimism was short-lived as I saw a stack of test scores being brought into the room. In a matter of minutes, the scores were distributed to the teachers in order to–you can probably guess what’s coming–analyze them. Only my utter shock prevented me from screaming at the top of my lungs that this was ludicrous, and that would be putting it nicely.
How in the world was I supposed to make do now that my brain had been inundated with repetitive data that did nothing to help those students who were sitting in my room right down the hallway doing seat work because I was here? Making do, however, is sometimes a teacher’s only option.
So here it is a couple of weeks later, and I have gone several days straight without being pulled from my classes for an in-service about test scores. And do you know what? I’m finally making some progress with my students! The relationships that are so important to build in order to get students to trust and learn from me are finally developing. The strengths and weaknesses of each of my students are starting to become clearer, thus allowing me to better attune myself to each of their needs. A shaky beginning of the year as far as disciplinary matters go is finally beginning to smooth itself out.
Progress, at last, is being made. Not because of an in-service, not because I analyzed test scores, not because of a magical intervention, not because of threats that the Board won’t be happy, but because I am in my class room with my students. And guess what? We are all making do just fine.
Reminder: Monday, November 22, is the National Day of Blogging for Education Reform. Bloggers across the Internet will be posting and advancing debate on how we can all work together to improve education in America. Be sure to visit EdVoices on the National Day of Blogging for Education Reform, as we will be featuring the latest posts from education’s top bloggers.