Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Broken

Testing season has begun, and it is sucking my will to live.

Starting on Wednesday, and continuing for the entire month of April, all of our 10th graders (those being tested) will be participating in day-long tutoring sessions to prepare for the DC-CAS. All day, nothing but test prep. Of course, these students will still be enrolled in art, music, foreign language, history, and science classes. They just won't actually be taking them. Unless it's math or English, it doesn't matter in April.

This bothers me as a teacher for two reasons. First, kids can't just focus on only math and reading for a month without going bonkers. Second, since I'm one of the teachers who will be leading these testing sessions, I have to abandon my classes to go teach these other kids. What will my children do while I'm gone? Fester in some other classroom (with a teacher that is less than competent)? Yes, exactly.

The dumbest thing is that students could be learning engaging and appropriate math and reading in all of their classes if we as a school just planned better. You can't do social studies or science without reading. You can't do physics, chemistry, or music without math. So what we need are curricula that are standards-based and make sure that kids actually know things while still exposing them to a wide range of topics. Such things wouldn't be that difficult to create, except that getting teachers to collaborate and work on a common goal is like getting dogs to walk on their hind legs.

I've written before that I think standardized testing is not all that bad. In theory, if kids know things, then taking a test shouldn't be a problem. And we do need reliable and easy-to-collect data on our schools. If run well, testing shouldn't be an issue. In good schools, no one freaks out about testing because the tests are easy. We don't have to stop everything to teach to the test because we've already taught beyond the test. That's the way it should work. It's just that pesky word "should" that gets us into trouble every time in DCPS.


Glenn Watson said...

for the entire month of April, all of our 10th graders will be participating in day-long tutoring sessions>>>

That's outrageous. I am a teacher in a Alabama and we don't do anything like that. How long have you been doing this? Can the student opt out and stay in his regular classroom? What does happen with the kids not being tutored? Is it movie month for them? Is this test a graduation exam or is it just a test for informational purposes? Is this month of tutoring something Rhee wants. I'm flabbergasted by this.

Sam said...

I am pretty sure you can teach music without math.

Anyway, this sounds absolutely ridiculous. If I were at your school, I'd get some teachers together and contact Rhee directly. I would love to see her opinion on this, as obviously it's not the best use of time or in the best interest of the kids, BUT in her book, the end justifies the means, right?

Anonymous said...

"If I were at your school, I'd get some teachers together and contact Rhee directly. "

You're clearly not from around here. This is what Rhee wants. Anyone who contacted her about this would be seen as an enemy or a "bad teacher" and be put on the notorious 90 day plan towards dismissal. At least that's what people fear, so I doubt there will be any complaints to Rhee.

Sam said...

I don't know.. I think it could go either way. If Rhee already dislikes the principal, then he or she will be the one to be fired. NOW, if the principal is part of the "Army of Believers"...then that's another story. It sounds like Harry is a TFA alumn, I don't think Rhee is out to get him.

Mr. Potter said...

Sam and Anon-

Do you two really think that teachers get put on 90 day plans because they send an email, or taken off of them because they did TFA? Have you ever seen Rhee do anything as capricious as the things you're suggesting? Now, you can disagree with her decisions about running the district, and you can disagree with her methods for carrying out her plans. But it's a little silly to pretend that she's some monster stomping around DC hiring and firing teachers at whim.

progessive educator said...

Sam, you CAN teach music without math )or reading), but you don't HAVE TO.

Mr. Potter, I agree with your views on standardized testing - they are valuable and will not be done away with. We need to focus on teaching students beyond the test.

I have worked in schools that went into panic mode - sometimes well before April. It was sad to see the children lose so much educational instruction due to teacher test anxiety.

Sam said...

I don't think Rhee is some monster stomping around to get teachers- but I do think she pretty much has a Rhee train that she needs people to board and if you don't want to board it, you will get run over by it. I don't think this applies to individual teachers, because there are so many, but I do believe it applies to principals; hence why some principals from good schools and good prior evaluations ended up being fired last year and vice versa. Finally, the TFA comment was more in the stance that if there was a he said, she said situation, the TFA alumn status would definitely increase the credibility of that particular teacher.

Anonymous said...

"Do you two really think that teachers get put on 90 day plans because they [complain]. Have you ever seen Rhee do anything as capricious as the things you're suggesting?"


I also think, but don't know, that she has favorites, who are not threatened or punished - as a way of showing she is not so bad and as a way to keep those compliments coming.

I think you are one of those people, Mr Potter and will remain one as long as she thinks she needs you.

Mr. Potter said...

Well, thanks for thinking I'm one of her favorites. I'm not sure I agree. I can tell you that I am absolutely positive that Michelle Rhee has no idea who I am, that we've never spoken (except for the one question I asked during the question and answer session at my school), and that she couldn't pick me out of a line up. However, if she could, I'd like to think she'd like me. : )

Toby said...

I'm neither TFA nor a DCTF, though I did get certified through my own alternative teaching route (I took the necessary courses to get certified). So whatever opinion I have of Rhee is not based on any program loyalty to her. Rhee's so called favorites woud be teachers who are totally dedicated to student achievement and growth, who keep believing in their students, who don't constantly bad mouth children and engage their students to positvely impact student learning. I have even heard teachers bad mouth and appear to give up on 6 year olds. One thing I can say for TFA teachers: they have that relentless drive to push students to excel. They don't make excuses for children because of their home lives but keep insisting on excellence.

Anonymous said...

Mr Potter - maybe she doesn't know you, but you've dropped enough clues that anyone with a little access in DCPS could figure it out. I'm fairly sure people from her staff drop by the blogs - only makes sense that they know what's going on out there.