Sunday, July 09, 2006

CTA's Muddled Positions

I'm not a union member but they still send me their union rag. I don't have a birdcage to line so I guess I should read it. But oh, it's a good thing I don't have ulcers to be irritated.

The June issue is all about social promotion and retention of students. At first glance that would be good, especially when the cover story seems to lean against social promotion. The first couple of articles might well give the right-thinking among us goosebumps--could CTA finally be coming around?

Sadly, no. Apparently, social promotion is only bad when a school district (read: administration) doesn't impose rigorous standards for students to meet. Yes, the valiant teachers fight an uphill battle against a weak administration (see pp. 6-7) that only wants to keep parents placated by moving their children along.... If only the school district had rigorous standards for students to meet, everything would be fine.

Sure, and what's CTA's position when the state wants to impose rigorous standards for students to meet? One size doesn't fit all! Standardized tests don't tell you anything! My creativity is being stifled! My guess is that teachers, and teachers alone, should decide who passes and who doesn't. We can decide that for our classes, but we cannot be the creators and arbiters of district policy.

Then I turn to p. 18 and read the article entitled "CAHSEE: The threat that gets their attention". Again, you have to wonder--given CTA's open hostility to the exit exam, how could this article appear?

In high school, where social promotion is not a possibility under normal circumstances, the exit exam may well be the first time students are held truly accountable for their academic performance.

Even students who consider the exam unfair admit that it made them put out effort like never before.
And a few paragraphs later, there's this:

"They hold teachers accountable and schools accountable, so why not kids?" he (a teacher) asks. "Sometimes by the time they get to high school, it can be too late." p. 19

That sounds like a ringing endorsement of the exit exam to me. Has CTA gone schizophrenic?

Apparently, the answer is yes. Keeping in mind what we just read about the exit exam, let's take a gander at what we find on p. 32.

The state is entertaining the idea of eliminating the CCTC (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing) and moving its duties to the State Board of Education or the California Department of Education. While CTA would like to see a majority of teachers on the licensure board, chosen in a manner similar to that of the State Teachers' Retirement System board, Council decided it does not want the body that deals with the high school exit exam, academic standards, STAR testing and No Child Left Behind to deal with teacher credentials.

So, where exactly does CTA stand again? Is the exit exam a good thing, or not? Are high standards a good thing, or not? And if we like high standards, is testing to ensure we meet those standards a good thing, or not?

I'm not really surprised. It's not like this is the first time that CTA's been inconsistent within the same issue of the rag.


Herr Professor said...

I did get a kick out of pg 19, "CTA recommends that the state provide parallel forms of assessment that use multiple measures to assess a student's progress (for example, a portfolio process guided by teachers, essays, and personal communications)."

Personal communications? What is that supposed to be?

Darren said...

Ah yes, I was going to comment on that part but missed it when I was actually composing the posts.

I think it means, "Talk to the student and ask if they get it. If they say 'yes', then they pass."

EllenK said...

Substituting is the pits. Even long terms subs are out of the loop and often suffer for it. Most ed schools recommend it as a means to acquire contacts for employment, but I think in reality it discourages education students from wanting to do the job. Face it, the highest teacher absences are usually in the "worst" schools. You send a young teacher there without any background or preparation and it's akin to sending a soldier into a firefight with a wooden sword. At least your subs get a decent wage. We have some retirees, God bless their souls, who try to make it through the day with secondary students and I pity them no end. I would rather work at Walmart as a greeter.