Wednesday, February 25, 2009

my finest hour

The math lesson was "not satisfactory?" Excuse me? Here are some samples of the test based on the material taught in that math lesson, and almost the entire class received 100% on this test.

Standardized testing throughout history was always a measure of students' achievement and progress in the subject matter. Tests were never used as a tool to determine the effectiveness of a teacher for some obtuse "accountability." There are many factors that are part of how well a student does in school. If a student pays attention in class, does his homework, and studies the material... he will probably perform well on a test.
When I was in school, I always did poorly on language tests because the subject matter was difficult and hard for me to understand and learn. On a language mid-term, I received a 41 on the test. The student next to me scored a 96. It would seem that if tests are any measure of teachers' competence, all students in a class should perform relatively the same on tests. They don't.
Let's make it a bit clearer. At NYU Law School, if all law students do not pass the Bar exam does anybody believe that the professors at the university should be held "accountable?" Why do some students "flunk out" of med school? Are the teachers responsible for their failures? I never heard of the professors discussed as part of the equation when students drop-out of college.
In any class there will be some students who ace tests and do well and some who just cannot cut it and choke on tests. Some pass, some don't... and that's how it goes in school. "Merit pay" is an absurd idea because there are too many variables that filter in to what a student learns and how well he does in school.
There is a learning model in place in the NYC elementary schools that teachers are mandated to follow. There are many educational components that have been designed to achieve excellent results. With this scripted "Stepford teacher" approach, test results should be almost consistent across the board. They are not. So the denouement kills the philosophy. "Accountability" is absurd in an environment where teachers are not permitted to craft what they believe might be more excellent lessons.
In what became the last month of my teaching career, I was rated "U" for a "teacher-directed" math lesson. I was told I could not teach "math applications." The students were directed to sit in groups to discuss strategies for solving math word problems. I was named the "facilitator." And as "facilitator," I was a witness to the end of good education and I was helpless. I retired before I could be stuck in a straight-jacket and carted off by the DOE's Ministry of the Interior. I thwarted the administration's attempt to possibly have me "rubber-roomed" for failure to have morphed into a lemming. After I retired, I completed my "grievance" for the lesson that was rated "unsatisfactory" and I had that "U" over-turned and removed from my file. I produced the class test based on the material I taught during that "U" rated lesson. And almost all the students received 100% on that test. The principal was not able to substantiate her "U." But, I was able to show that the "U" was applied for a transparent insidious and hidden agenda. Many principals misuse their power and evaluate satisfactory lessons unfairly as a way to punish teachers with whom they do not get along or who are not obedient followers or even teachers who speak out against the administration. I won my case!
My case is just one example of hundreds. I had my excellent documentation to prove this goes on. And the principal who rated me "U" is still at that school doing her thing. The teachers drink her special blend of Kool-Aid and time marches on.

(please enlarge the above principal's evaluation letter and the test samples posted)

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