Thursday, February 15, 2007

NCLB Again

I am all for teacher accountability. But measuring how well a teacher does by looking at one test a year is not the way to do it. There are many problems with this system.

1. The bad day problem: Most of us watch sports. There are days when you just excel and then they are days when you can do nothing. We never know what day we are going to get even if we do the right things like eating a good breakfast and getting enough sleep. The test is really just a snapshot of a day. We have all taken bad and good pictures. Sometimes it is the person behind the camera, sometimes it is the person in front of the camera.

2. The incentive problem: There is no incentive for the student to do well or even try on the test. There are no repercussions for them if they do not do well. Most students have pride and want to do well on it. Many students in my population do not like the test. They tests make them feel "stupid." (Believe me I have heard this refrain many times. They have stopped trying to take the test. Some speed through it as fast as they can. Some make patterns. Some just randomize answers. Some try for a while til they get frustrated. Some try the entire time. I have tried food bribes and other incentives for them to try the entire exam. Sometimes it is successful; most times it is not. In the big picture, i do not think this is a major of serious problem but in my population I think it is.

3. Required Test: The students are not required to take the test. Parent have the option of having their kids not take the test. This could lead to all sort of problems should the test me the marker of teacher performance.

4. Teaching to the Test: There are definitely strategies to taking a multiple choice test. I loved math tests. I really enjoyed the fact that most problems did not require me to actually complete the problem. I could find the answer based on those given by doing a little work. I also know what type of answers they would provide. They always give an answers that will fit the common mistake such as a negative answer when the answer should be positive. Eliminate those and your chances go from 20% to at least 25%. Find another simple thing to eliminate before you do any work and your odds keep getting better. Where was the academic value in what that I just gave you?

5. One Size Fits All test: Sure they are standardized. But it just means it fits most. So you can get most people in it but there will be many that it does not fit well. There is a reason why we have so many choices in our life because we all like and are comfortable with different things. My one size fits all beanie is a little short and does not cover my ears all the way. Options on testing is the way to go. Mastery of knowledge can be expressed in many ways. To force us to use only one is not the way to go.

I am tired of this rant but I am sure I could find more problems with this method of measuring teacher progress. How about the student who does not like the teacher and intentionally tanks to get back at the teacher. Hmm, I like that one. I wonder if I can use it for ill actions.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

rants part one

i wonder what i can say. i usually do not say much. ok not much on my other blog. i figure this blog can be my rant blog.

NCLB. I love education. I love special education. I have found my calling and now NCLB (No Child Left Behind) is taking the pleasure from my career.

I have been in education for 6 years. 5 of them as a special education teacher. Generally, I am a fickle person. I get bored with what i am doing. If I stick to what I am doing, I become bitter and lazy. I like change but it better be positive change. I have been able to teacher literature, algebra, geometry, and all the social sciences in special education. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I changed up every couple of years. I have become a solid math teacher. The teachers in the math department respect my knowledge and my ability. I was a political science major in college. I am not highly qualified to teach math despite my knowledge and ability. I am highly qualified for social studies only. Thus I can teach world history, us history, economics, and government. I do love those classes, I did major and minor in that area. Thus, in the future i can only teach those few classes.

I can always become highly qualified. I could take really expensive tests that have a higher than 50% failure rate. But, then I would still need to get a credential in that subject area. Hmm, I could become the most highly qualified teacher on campus and get no reward other that being able to teach what i want. sure we get some more money when we have more post graduate units under our belts. but there is a limit to how much we get credit. i could go to the mainstream now and max out in a focused one area now. thus the credits are not meaningful.

i frustrated by the system and how it has totally overlooked special circumstances. the first thing we learned about special education is the need for it to be individualized. to be honest, all of education needs to be that way. i could look up my entire college major graduating class and we all would have taking a different route to a degree. the variety that makes college great is missing in high school. the students are all fed the same gruel. it will stifle; smother; be perfect for some. it does not work. encourage each to be the best and the brightest in what they do well not what we think they should be doing well in. you will never make me a great writer but i will be creative. enjoy it.

meanwhile, i am going to seriously consider getting out of special education and into the mainstream.