Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pancakes and Politics

Each high school in our district has at least one special program designed to make it unique or attractive to students, as our district allows open enrollment. A couple schools have JROTC programs, one school offers International Baccalaureate--ours has AVID and Academia Civitas.

In its simplest form, our Civitas program teaches students about politics and the political process. Students often intern for lawmakers or other governmental officials; a former student of mine will be interning at the UN in Geneva this summer. (For me, pride and revulsion at the same time!)

This morning was one of the annual fundraisers for Civitas, the Pancakes and Politics breakfast. The best part--teachers ate free! You can bet I was there.

The food was great--and I mean great. The event lasted 3 hours, and since I'm not one to get up early, I missed the first few speakers. When I got there a former state Senator--a Republican woman, no less!--was speaking about her time as a legislator. After her was Gary Hart (no, not that Gary Hart), a Democrat former California legislator and former state Education Secretary. Both talks were informative and pleasant, but no controversial subjects were touched. Another former student (and a flaming liberal at that--but he laid a mean Pergo floor in my house last summer!) told me that an Amnesty International speaker at a previous breakfast sure got people's panties in a bunch.

Good thing I wasn't there. I hate wedgies.

Come the question and answer session, no one wanted to be the first to ask a question. I waited, paused, made sure I wasn't going to crowd someone else out, and then raised my hand. I asked Mr. Hart what he, as a parent (his daughters went to our school a few years ago) and former Ed Secretary, thought of California's standardized testing program and it's federal complement, the No Child Left Behind Act. See? It was not a loaded question at all. I can ask those sometimes!

Actually, he gave an answer very much like I would have. We need outside eyes looking at our schools. We need some objective analysis. My school does very well, but other schools don't--and it's kids in those schools who benefit most from someone's looking at those test scores. He doesn't think NCLB is applicable much to California because our testing regimen requires tests in more grades and more subjects than does NCLB.

Not a bad answer. I've said the same thing about our testing for quite some time--usually when California teachers complain about the burdens of NCLB, and thereby show their ignorance of the whole process.


Anonymous said...

The comments on NCLB are very good. My state had been testing kids in grades 2 - 8 for years before NCLB in four subjects -- math, language, science and social studies. We are also the home of value added testing.

In my opinion the one thing NCLB did was take the veil off what was happening in our schools for all kids -- not just the strong kids pulling the rest of the kids along. We have long know that not all of our children were receiving a good education. NCLB proved that to be correct.

The sad thing about NCLB is it has foced many educators to work with primarily with the kids struggling at the bottom and leave those in the middle or high end behind. All kids need to be challenged -- pull the high achieving kids higher and push all of th other kids up to improve everyone. My fear is NCLB is lowering the bar for all students and the kids are just learning what is needed for the test.

Just my two cents worth --


Anonymous said...

Query about NCLB: In my state all I can find are AYP standings, not actual test scores. Is that normal is my state shirking somehow?

Darren said...

I don't think NCLB requires publishing of raw scores.

It may not be illegal not to post them, but it will logically lead to questions about what the state is hiding.

Ellen K said...

I don't know why Texas doesn't bite the big one and make TAKS testing into an Exit test. In most of the classes, due to AP testing coming right on the tail of TAKS, nothing is really going on. Lord knows most of the coaches have the video centers full for the rest of the year. BTW, if you want to really thank someone for all of the AYP junk, go to the source, and that would be H. Ross Perot who along with his henchman, then Gov. Mark White created this whole testing monster for the state of Texas. It grew from there and the Prez took it with him to D.C. I just wonder who is making all the money off of the tests, the test prep material, the remedial material, the evaulation, the training and the paranoia that ensues whenever TAKS rears its ugly head. Don't get me wrong, I am not against testing as a tool for evaluation, but this is getting to the point of becoming absurd. We spend so much time preparing for tests, taking benchmarks, testing and evaluating testing that it's really hard to get a normal flow of learning into the loop.