Let's Change Education

Challenge. Discover. Lead. Change.

Month: April 2017 (page 1 of 2)

Finito! Project 180, Day 145

Well, officially anyway. So proud of the kids for the hard work they put into the state testing this year. Glad the ELA section is behind us. Sadly, the kids still have math and science ahead of them, and a good number will also be taking the AP World History test.  Too much testing. Too much.

Back in 211 today after a nine day absence. We will just ease back into normal. The kids are spent. Glad to be back with them. Can’t believe we are down to thirty-five days. Crazy.

Happy Friday, all.

The End: Project 180, Day 144

Finally. Today marks our last “official day” of testing, and fortunately most kids will cross the finish line today. However, there will be a good number of kids who, for various reasons, will have to get pulled out of class to finish up next week. It’s been a long, grueling event, but the kids toughed it out, and I am proud of them. They have worked very hard.  And though some will still not pass this first go, many will, and the mad marathon will be over. Finally.

Happy Thursday, all. Looking forward to getting my kids and “normal” back next week. Been a long haul.

Stuck in a Rut: Project 180, Day 143

Okay, this may be a bit much, but if one were to have observed my class the last seven days, he would have seen this “training” in real time. And, we still have two days to go. Why so long? One word. Kids. It is a kid-centered decision. We have decided to give kids the time they need to perform to the best of their abilities. It is the least that we can do for them. Yes, it rankles me that I am losing nine days of instructional time. It pisses me off. But I am not pissed at the kids. I am pissed at the system, a system that’s stuck in a rut. I used to think it routine, part of the deal, but I now think it’s a rut, an expensive, misguided, ineffective rut that we cling to out of stubborn insistence that we have to measure everything, even if the measurements yield no real progress or movement in the system.  And what’s most unsettling is that I think on some level we all know this. But we persist. And it makes me wonder if we persist because we don’t know how to write the next chapter, or if it’s because we have been repeating the same story for so long that we’ve actually begun to believe it. Either way. We are here. The kids are here. Big rut. Stuck.

Happy Wednesday, all. Grumble.

And We’re Testing: Project 180, Day 142

We will, Dory. Thank you. Maybe forever. Wish it felt more like swimming than drowning. Ugh.

Morning, all. Hard to find my morning inspiration lately. Just keep testing…

The Story Behind the Story: Project 180, Day 141

Friday, I posted on the data we collect. Much of the data we collect is mined from students’ standardized assessments. And as the kids hopefully wrap up testing this week (at least 3 days to go), we will sit and wait for the results, the data. And though some would suggest that the data are key, are essential to informing our work in the classroom, I am no longer convinced that’s the case. I will get some information about this year’s kids; OPSI will generate a “report card;” the administration will offer up graphs and charts as evidence of what is and isn’t; and I will be asked to look for trends from this year’s results to drive my decision making in my classroom next year. Next year. From this year. Here’s the rub. The problem with the over-reliance on last year’s standardized assessment data is that it applies to last year’s students. It’s not relevant. Not once in my career have I found state assessment data to be of significance when making decisions about my approach with my current students. And I know that the argument suggesting that the data follow the kids exists, but I have not found it to be particularly useful in making real decisions in the classroom. For me, and others, standardized assessment results are really just an indicator that students, teachers, and schools have jumped through the hoops. Oh, I am sure it serves someone or something somewhere, but we need to reject the narrative that it provides critical input for teachers when it comes to making key curricular and instructional decisions. It is simply not true.

And yet, those in power believe that it is THE revelatory data that we should use to make our curricular and instructional decisions. I believe many in education are kidding themselves about the power and usefulness of the data we mine from standardized testing. The only useful data I have ever uncovered in my career has come from my immediate, in-the-moment, day-to-day interactions with my students. That is the data to dig up. That is the stuff of truly relevant data-driven decisions.

And so, as we move on to day six of testing, I will continue to be a cheerleader for my kids, encouraging them to  jump through the hoop of hoops. And I will, then, sit and wait for the hoop-jumping results in June, bidding farewell to my kids this year, waiting to meet next year’s kids before I make any decisions. I have to. No relevant data will exist until we begin our experience together. Yes, teachers should make data-driven decisions. Of course we should. But not all data are useful. So we need to be selective about the data we choose. All data tell stories. But some stories are more important than others. I am no longer buying the standardized story. Well, I haven’t bought for a long time. I am just more willing to publicly call BS now. Time for a new story.

Happy Monday, all.

Names not Numbers: Project 180, Day 140

Yesterday, I emailed this to colleagues and administrators as a reminder that while data tell a story, some stories are perhaps more important than others. Schools have always collected from the left-hand column. We do an exacting job of it. And once collected, we then analyze it to make sense of it, using it to make important decisions about the system. Nothing novel or new about this. It’s how the system works, a system that has essentially, in many respects, remained unchanged for decades. The problems are not new, and sadly, neither are the answers. And yet, we continue down the same old path, mostly listening to the left, largely ignoring the right.

For the last four days, kids’ stories are being written. But not by them. They have not shared their passions, interests, and goals. They have delivered data points to a system that will build a facade, hiding within those who inhabit the walls, perpetuating that they hold the definitive details to the year’s stories. They hold the data. But data are not kids. Kids are not numbers. And numbers present a limited view of the complexity that is learning. I’m no longer convinced the numbers alone pave the path towards progress. I think there’s more to the story. Maybe it’s time to start driving on the right side of the road. Maybe instead of collecting we should be listening. We might learn something.

Yesterday, to illustrate my point–as I vowed to both colleagues and admin–I called each kid by name as I handed out their test tickets with their identification numbers. With a smile, I reassured each that he/she was a name, not a number, wishing him/her luck. Names not number. People not pupils. Stories not data points.

Happy Friday, all. The march into madness continues today. Grumble.

If Only: Project 180, Day 139

The saga continues. Some of the kids will begin taking the CAT part of the SBA today, the “multiple choice” segment. Wish the choice factor was an opt out factor.  But that’s not the case. Yet. I hope we have about reached the end of this era.  Keeping it short. Nothing nice to say.

Happy Thursday, all. Grumble. Grumble.

Test Story: Project 180, Day 138

Infinity and beyond, indeed, Buzz. This is how the testing season feels. It goes on and on. Forever. And we are just underway. Selfishly, I am thankful that LA is up first when the kids’ brains are fresh and their tolerance is still intact. I feel sorry for my science colleagues. By the time the kids get to their round of tests, they are done. So done. Can’t say that I blame them.

But for now, they are just getting started.  The kids, bless their hearts, are working hard, and I am proud of their commitment. Gave lots a pats on the back as I walked around the testing room yesterday as if to say, “You gotta a friend in me.” Wish I could be a better friend and turn their test stories back a few years to their toy stories. But those days are gone. They live in the “real world” now. And it is a mad, mad world we live in.

Happy Wednesday, all.

Differentiated Standardization? Project 180, Day 137

Day Two. Well, day one for some. We opted to go with a two-hour block schedule for the first four days of testing this year. Yesterday, we had periods one, three, five; today, we will have two, four, six, so in reality, for these kids it will be day one. Not sure if the block schedule will be advantageous. In briefly talking to the kids, many felt it was too long, and beyond that, those who tested yesterday, won’t get back to it until tomorrow, and some felt like that was not fair since it would no longer be fresh in their minds. Not sure what the best approach is. But I’ll likely suggest we go back to the one-hour testing schedule next year.

Each period we wrapped up a little early, and in overhearing the kids talk, I discovered that not only are there many different topics but there is also a mix of modes, either explanatory or argumentative. And while this is not completely unexpected, the variety seems more pronounced this year. And I wonder about that. I wonder if our “vetting process” for the tests is so reliable and accurate that truly equitable conditions exist for all kids. Are we in an age of differentiated standardization? Is that possible? Is this a kid consideration, or is it a test-manufacturer’s selling point? Like, “Oh, look, we offer a number of standardized options that cover various topics in different modes. And now, if you want to truly teach to the test, to succeed on the test you must access our interim assessments.” Of course, these interim tests are not being offered altruistically; they come with a price. Not sure I trust that which comes with a price. Not sure that I trust an education-for-profit approach. But I do trust my instincts, and in so doing, I am not sure this differentiated approach is equitable, nor do I think it will settle the anti-standardization crowd. How do I get behind this when I hear one kid say to another, “Why did you get that topic? My topic sucks.”? And then, inevitably, eyes turn to me with a what-gives-Sy accusation. But I have to ignore it. I can’t talk to the kids–my kids–about it. It’s against the rules. It’s outta my hands. It’s in the hands of those who apparently know better than I. I am no longer the teacher. I am the betrayer. At least that’s how I feel. Sorry kiddos. I don’t know what gives. And even if I did, I’m not sure I could explain it.

Happy Tuesday, all. Grumble. Grumble.

And So It Begins: Project 180, Day 136

Well, here we go. The kids will embark on their standardized testing journeys today. For English Language Arts (ELA), they take two tests: the performance task (PT) and the computer adaptive test (CAT). Their combined score on each will determine if they meet standard in order to graduate. If they don’t pass the first time, they have additional opportunities to pass the test over the next two years. And while I know with great certainty that all will eventually pass, it is my earnest hope that each meets standard the first time. One and done. But, sadly, for a small handful of kids, this will not be the case.

Not all of my kids will pass the first time around. And while the reasons will vary, I could almost predict who those kids will be. For most of the few, it will be those who did not earnestly embrace the growth opportunities before them this year. And while my critics might point to my approach (no grades) as the contributing factor, I would point, in turn, that the same scenario played out last year–with grades. 92% of my kids passed the first time last year. I expect a similar number this year. Oh, I hope for a 100%, but it’s unlikely. There are a lot of factors, of course, but in the end, I think it simply comes down to it may not be the right time for them. They may not be ready.  And so, then, it becomes a question of why? And for that, there are no easy answers. Yes, I own a great deal of that responsibility, but ownership becomes a tricky equation. It becomes a matter of, “Where does it start? Where does it end?” If I have to own the lowest, then I have to own the highest–and all points in between. And as those scores are tallied and weighed, what do they really mean in the end? If most of my kids pass, do I succeed? If some of my kids don’t pass, do I fail? How much of this year factors into their success? How much do past years factor into their success? Is a kid who passes this year, really that much smarter than the kid who passes next, or is it a matter of timing and readiness?  So many questions, not enough answers. And yet many turn to standardized testing results as that which definitively determines success in schools.  We tend to put a lot of stock in the results. But I wonder if we really know what we are investing in.

And so, we begin. At least the kids are given the time they need to do their best. It is not a timed test. At least that stress element is not a factor. Last year it took the majority of kids seven days to complete the test. Seven days of lost contact and instructional time. Not sure the benefits are worth the cost. Not sure at all.

Happy Monday, all.

Older posts
%d bloggers like this: