Friday, January 09, 2015

No, But Thank You Anyway

I'm coordinating our site's MAP testing, which our district is mandating (and paying handsomely for, I'm sure) for all 9th grade English and all Algebra 1 students.  One of our vice principals will be coordinating our Smarter Balanced (Common Core) testing, and she and I went to a training/meeting about that testing after school a few weeks ago.  I asked why she wanted me there, and she said it's always nice to have another person off whom to bounce ideas, notice impossibilities, etc.  I like to know what's going on at school, this one didn't cost me anything but a couple hours of personal time, so I went.

A lot of good information was put out in that first meeting.  What really stuck with me, though, was that we spent the majority of the time (or at least a very large plurality of it) discussing how to handle special education education students.  Obviously that's important, but why/how does that merit such a large segment of time?

Today the vice principal sent me an email asking if I'd attend the second meeting on the topic, in several weeks.  You know what?  I hate meetings.  Always have.  I'll attend them if I'm needed to and if the cost isn't too high, but other than that, well, I'm not very interested.  This next meeting, though, has a very high cost--it's all day, during school.

If you've never taught you probably don't understand how much most teachers despise missing school.  You have to work extra hard to prepare for a substitute, you worry the whole time someone else is in your classroom with your students, and then you have to go back and pick up whatever pieces need to be picked up.  And for a high school math teacher, the probability is very low that you'll get a substitute who's interested in or capable of teaching your subject; there just aren't a lot of math teachers sitting around on the substitute list waiting to be called.  I miss one day of school and then I have to juggle all the planning I've done and the bottom line is I'll then have to load the students up with a little extra work to get us back on schedule.  My students don't sit around watching Frozen in my class, they're too busy learning math.  It's not like I have "slack time".

So I don't want to go to that meeting.  I declined as delicately as I could.  I wouldn't mind knowing how this testing works and how it can be implemented, but I don't want to give up a day in the classroom to find that out.  Aren't there better ways of getting this information out nowadays?  I don't know, something to do with using all that technology (TM) we have for giving those tests?

Just a thought.


Jerry Doctor said...

As a Chemistry teacher I soon found myself hoping my substitute knew nothing about the subject. I could put together an assignment designed to keep students busy and all the sub would need to do is stand there and look mean. It wasn't the most productive way to spend a day but at least no damage was done.

My big problems were when the subs thought they did understand the material. It meant at least a day and sometimes longer after I returned unteaching what the students had been taught.

As to the meetings I had to attend, I frequently explained to people later "they were dumb enough to ask me what I thought and I was dumb enough to tell them."

At one meeting the speaker was discussing the various types of teachers that attend meetings. When he got to the "U Boat Commanders" (they sit in the back of the room and torpedo ideas), half the faculty turned around and looked at me. I just smiled.

Anonymous said...

Boy, I agree with missing school-hate the extra work to prepare, and then the prayer that I had a sub who at least didn't let the few trouble-makers tear apart the room. For $100/day, we have about three subs who try to teach and have the kids work, but the others spend the day on their cell phones or tablets and don't even monitor the kids.
Concerning MAPs: I had a 7-month job of persuading our principal and supt. that those tests were messing up my evaluation scores at the end of the year. Two problems: my honors class in 9th grade were getting 11+ scores at the beginning of the year and there was no growth for them at the end of the year. The supt. thought that since the district paid for them we should use them. Well, duh, if a had a large group testing as high as they could go in the beginning of the year, where was there any validity for them to be good measures of student growth?! You wouldn't believe how many times I had to bite the inside of my mouth to keep from saying what I wanted to say to that person--just too stuck in his mindset to see the simple logic. The other problem is a large bunch of kids who thought it was fun to just make patterns of the answers or to finish the test in 10 minutes. There are no stakes for them--no grade and no accountability. YET 50% of teacher's evaluation comes from these pre-and post tests.
Our former principal said there is almost no way that a teacher can get the accomplished rating anymore and that he thinks the system was designed that way. My observation rating is accomplished, but the rest is dependent on kids who don't care, who refuse to do homework, read the assignments, etc. What other profession is evaluated this way?

Darren said...

Anonymous: none. But that doesn't stop people.

Jerry: some ideas are so stupid they *deserve* to be torpedoed as soon as they're spoken. Sadly, the people who speak them are even more stupid and don't understand why that's the case.

Jerry Doctor said...


My usual comment began with "What are we going to do if..."

Often the response was they hadn't thought about that. There is nothing wrong with new ideas if they have a reasonable chance of producing a good result. Unfortunately I've found very few cases that were thought through (let alone tested) before people wanted to make them S.O.P.

That was probably one of the things that made my job at the university much more enjoyable than teaching high school had become. Far fewer bad proposals for change because there was an actual discussion about the changes before they were implemented.