No Beef, All Filler

11 07 2007

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As a teacher, I am consistently blown away by the CRAP that we had to do in school for no apparent reason (other than the obvi: “because you have to”). Because of asshole laws like No Child Left Behind and high stakes testing (SAT, ACT, ARMT, blah, blah, blah), we teachers are forced to do a bunch of junk in our classrooms that entail anything but learning. If you’ve ever

a) taken a quiz on the parts of speech

b) been asked to identify the theme of a poem on a multiple choice test

c) had to answer trivial questions about a novel you read for class

d) memorized facts in preparation for a test

e) all of the above

Then you have been the victim of learning-less education. The problem is in the proof and the proof is supposedly in the testing. As educators, we have to be able to determine whether or not a students has learned the material we have taught, so we have to construct ways of collecting evidence that justify the grades we end up having to give our students. Most often, forms of evaluation like the ones I lsted above are much easier to evaluate than authentic assessments, but much less reliable in that they really only show evidence of a student’s ability to recall information and they cheat a broader vision of education.

Last night, I was reading this article in Time magazine that issued a report card on No Child Left Behind. This legislation, described by one superintendent as being like “a Russian novel” in that “it’s long, it’s complicated, and in the end, everyone gets killed,” was essentially designed to “close the achievement gap” between rich and poor, between “lacking” groups such as minorities and special ed students and everybody else. “under achieving” schools have to prove that they are making adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards reaching their goals that will help them “raise the bar” for their students. Funding for public schools is strictly tied to compliance with NCLB, so schools that fail to make AYP risk losing funding.

The first issue I have with this well-intentioned legislation: we are STILL LABELING students! The gap will begin to close when we stop defining our differences and start practicing more inclusive means of teaching. A second very serious issue that I take with NCLB is the idea of “highly qualified” teachers. We teachers have to take ridiculous (and expensive) tests in order to prove that we are highly qualified. In Alabama, the APTTP actually requires that we listen to various messages and record the information we heard. So while students are being groomed for high stakes testing, teachers are also being measured in completely arbitrary–and often insulting–ways.

The law is up for renewal this year. Please read the article and be informed about where our educational system is heading. The anxiety that this law creates in the classroom is cheating our children. Teachers are being evaluated based on how many of their students make the grade on these tests, which causes them to curb their teaching styles to “teach to the test.” Instead of creating authentic opportunities for learning (i.e. getting the hell out of the textbooks), teachers are handing out worksheets and making their kids do practice tests–all activities that yield little to no results in the classroom or on these tests. This kind of learning is meaningless and it does not transfer beyond that isolated activity. Since the law is coming up for review this year, you could make a difference by writing a letter to your Senator or your Representative. Anyone who knows me know that I am not a particularly political person, but this one hits close to home as I teach in a school that did not make AYP last year.

Here’s two more links to check it should you feel so inclined:

Eliminate NCLB

National Education Association

U.S. Department of Education

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5 responses

11 07 2007
Art

I will read the article this weekend. I am all for getting this insane law made into sommething sane. But will anyone ever listen to what TEACHERS have to say about the ways to improve education? I am not hopeful.

11 07 2007
whitreed

Neither am I. But at least if we write about it then we can feel like we’re doing something 🙂

12 07 2007
Lauren

I can’t begin to tell you how cheated I feel as a former student. I wish students were dealt with on an individual basis. I, for instance, can recall information pretty well and present it to a teacher either verbally or in long answer format. If you were to ask me a question in a more mathematical fashion, like multi choice, I will fail to recall the information fully or accurately. It is who I am. Because most of my tests in college were multi choice, I didn’t perform as well and subsequently graduated with absolutely zero intellectual confidence. It has taken two very long years to gather myself back up and feel secure in my own intelligence. I just wonder how many “me’s” we are producing with this mandated education technique. How many smart kids will fly the proverbial nest, only to fall straight down?

23 07 2007
emmabolden

IZ TIM FOR MOAR POST PLZ! KTHXBI!

28 07 2007
mynorthernexposure

yiz, pleez rite morr

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