As we pass into the second season of the school year … no, in our era that the reason children go to school is not to learn, not to become knowledgeable citizens, or to pass through the development stages of childhood as they grow into adults with support from trained personnel, we don’t have the four seasons of summer, fall, winter, and spring … the second season of the school year is test preparation. It begins every January after the season of instruction ends with winter break.
Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) employer has mandated that math classrooms begin every lesson with a district-provided ‘Problem of the Day.’
Oh, my … it’s been a long time since ed bloggers were offered up such a great straight line, but GOT is running with it before everyone else does, too.
Problem of the Day: Judging teachers and schools by premature district testing. We will soon start testing students with a third round of progress monitoring. For GOT’s subject, it will be a test given over two days, ninety minutes each day, to mimic the state test that will come in May. This year it is earlier than ever. Rather than waiting for late March or early April, the district has set the test for the last week of February or first week of March.
GOT got out the calendar and counted the days. His district is giving a test to cover a full year of learning after only two-thirds of the year has passed!
Problem of the Day: The pretense that such testing has value for teachers. Year after dreary year, when each progress monitoring assessment is given and results are analyzed, GOT is asked what he will do with the results. Given that the tests don’t correlate with actual teaching (it only does for teachers who have no self-respect and blindly follow the pacing guide without knowing the students in the room, their learning styles, and what is really needed), GOT always has the same response: I will carry on teaching the curriculum in a way that best benefits the students. Those areas they performed badly? That’s because we haven’t gotten there yet. Leave me alone and we will. We will arrive at a state of readiness by the time the last season of the school year, TESTING, arrives.
Year after year, the results prove GOT right. Not that the FSA is valid or reliable, but still, the students are up to the challenge on the day they must take it.
Problem of the Day: District testing shows the obsession district officials have with scores and that they are running their school systems to meet the needs of adults, not children. Why else test children before they are ready? Why the compulsive need for data? Is it because we do not trust ourselves? Is data, any data, no matter how flawed, better than having faith in teachers? Bad data always leads to bad decisions.
Problem of the Day: The belief by district officials, caught in the squeeze between sound pedagogical practices and state demands for test scores, that nanomanaging classrooms (we used to say micromanaging, but we have gone far beyond that, a new word is needed) will bring results.
Telling teachers what to write on their whiteboards, the exact way in which every lesson must proceed, the script they must read to their students and to deviate is to risk one’s job, and forcing administrators to inspect classrooms to make sure the edicts are followed has consequences and GOT is not sure that they are unintended.
Teacher morale is low and anyone who can leave is leaving for a new profession. Mental health is a problem and the number of teachers on social media reaching out for help is astounding as are the districts pumping out videos saying that employees should reach out to HR for assistance rather than addressing the issues that they are causing.
Problem of the Day: Comparing the results of a new test to one taken two years ago. We must calculate learning gains somehow, right? Wrong. Learning gain calculations in Florida are absurd. For example, if a student scoring Level 5 previously falls to Level 3, that still counts as a learning gain … unless the Department of Education has changed the rules again. They do that frequently.
Problem of the Day: State tests masquerade as objective measures of learning when in reality they are normed tests. The reason Florida changes its scoring rules is to maintain the narrative they want to report, one in which Florida leads the nation in reform and achievement but has terrible public schools and teachers, who must be punished or driven out of education altogether. It’s not an easy trick to pull off.
It takes a month to get test scores from the state after testing ends. Why? Because the state is reviewing the results and deciding whether to accept them or rescore them. If the scores are too high, the state raises the bar. Thus, if a school is struggling with their scores and threatened with sanctions, they don’t have to merely improve, they have to improve more than other schools.
Florida curves its tests. GOT doubts it’s the only state that does so.