"Parents wonder why the streams are bitter, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain." - John Locke, English philosopher (1632-1704)

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Honest teacher: "Raise your test scores - that's all they want."

by Alan Sitomer

Yesterday I wrote about how first and foremost I must raise my standardized test scores. I also expressed how I was disheartened by such a cold, black and white reality.

However, these are the cards I’ve been dealt. The federal government is literally strong-arming the states through a lording of the purse strings over their heads (i.e. no comply, no money — no comply, no money — no comply, no money) to either raise bubble test scores in our schools — particularly in our low-performing schools such as the one where I teach — or incur draconian consequences.

We are now in the draconian consequences mode here at Lynwood High School.

Though I believe I have spent years bashing the bubble tests as being insufficient assessment tools, ( I truly do not believe they measure my own ability as a teacher, the work I have done, nor do they precisely measure the full capacity of my kids in a manner that paints an accurate, holistic portrait of the individual child — and I do feel that growth model assessments would be much more fair and much more accurate indications of the work being done in our classrooms… blah, blah, blah, this case has been made ad nauseum) the powers that be have remain unmoved for whatever reason. And so, like every other teacher in my school, I have to play they way they want me to play or else they will remove me from my position and bring in other teachers to do as they wish.

Raise your test scores. That’s all they want.

And the thing is, I don’t really think it’s going to be all the immense of a challenge for me.

Now, I don’t want to be arrogant. I don’t want to sound like a teacher filled with hubris but, look… let’s be honest. I can do this.

Why? Because I am now going to “crack” the test.

And I am going to teach all of my students how to “crack” the tests.

And their scores will rise.

Let’s be clear, I am not going to do anything illegal. It’s all perfectly legit. Just like the SAT prep classes and the graduate school entrance exams (the LSAT, the MCAT, the GMAT) all have expensive “test prep” classes that teach their students how to “crack” the test, so too will I do the same for my kids.

Standardized tests by their very nature are “crackable” and if you put me in front of the guillotine, well… I have a job I’d like to keep.

And so, I will buckle to the pressure.

Is it best for the kids? Well, it seems like the powers-that-be don’t really care for my opinion on that matter.

Of course, it’s all fine and dandy when there’s no bread to tell others, “Let them eat cake” but this is going to save my job so please… unless you have a way for me to protest my approach to the second half of this school year without it costing me my employment, recognize that this is the world in which we all now live.

And if this pressure has not yet come to your door, be thankful.

Just FYI, more posts to come (for the curious) will speak to:
– How to crack the tests.
– Why I actually do believe in accountability.
– What will get put on the back-burner while test-prep gets “red-alert” priority.
– The inner conflict I feel about “going along to get along” as opposed to being willing to “die for a cause”.


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Posted in: Commentary by SoulRiser on January 11, 2010 @ 3:22 PM

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