I've become convinced over my (relatively short) career in teaching that the real problem with education reform is not the kids, it's the adults. As we were finishing up testing this week, I became acutely aware of this.
First, our administrators made the decision that for the entire month of April, our 10th graders would be in special tutorial classes, which basically means that they do reading and math all day every day. They do not go to any other classes at all for a full 4 weeks. All this in order to help them "prepare" for the DC-CAS. Ridiculous, of course, but we "need to raise test scores."
Second, as anyone in DCPS knows, one of the hardest parts about making AYP is that you absolutely have to test 95% of your students, and you must test 95% of the students of each ethnic subgroup. Getting 95% of kids in our school to do anything is nearly impossible, so getting them all to come take a test that lasts a total of like 7 hours is quite a challenge. You might think the problem here is the kids (and I suppose at the high school level, you could argue that it is). However, when calling parents to remind them of the test, I was informed by one mother that her son is "sick." When I pushed further, I discovered that he is in fact on vacation for two weeks in New York. What parent lets their kid go on vacay for two weeks in the middle of the school year?
Third, our kids were promised a series of things as a reward for going through all of the testing hooplah. Example 1: a barbeque at the end of the week to celebrate the end of the test. The barbeque has been put on hold indefinitely for indeterminate reasons. Example 2: the kids were supposed to be given a special breakfast and lunch during testing. They go downstairs for breakfast on the first morning and are greeted with little mini cups of cereal. Lunch was left-over sandwiches. Special indeed.
The most heartbreaking part of this whole thing was watching how hard my students worked on that test. They all tried their hearts out and put forth a lot of effort. I'm very proud of them. (Even though I'm not technically their teacher; I was one of the poor saps that was recruited to teach these special tutorial classes). It makes me so sad when I think about all of the ways that incompetent adults -- either purposefully or through their own ineptitude -- stop them from really succeeding.