Tuesday, June 14, 2005

How does the glass look to you?

Though only 35% of my students passed (got 3 or 4 on) the city exam, 57% of them improved their scores (raw and scale score).

So, fifty-seven percent. That's 48 of my 84 kids. Is it good that more than half improved? Because it sure sounds better than only one-third passed. But then again, only half the kids improved. The other half's grades either stayed the same or, god forbid, went down.

Blah. Blurgh.

We were warned that the administration, but especially the city/DoE, will only be looking at the levels. And also that the city (our "beloved" mayor who is "fighting for the kids") is pushing really hard to evaluate/keep/discard teachers based solely on their students' test scores. So thus, we were told to know our improvement as a way to defend ourselves, just in case.

Ain't that dandy?

So what do you think? For the teachers whose 90-95% of students improve or pass, do we give the teacher sole credit? It sure seems like it. I know the MAYOR wants to take sole credit for it. But this isn't about him. Well, actually in a way it is, but that's not what I want to focus on.

How much credit does the teacher need or deserve? Does it mean that I am a bad teacher because two-thirds of my students did not pass the test? Does it mean that I'm a not-very-good-teacher because half of my students did not improve their scores in the last year? Does "good" or "bad" teaching only get reflected in student test scores? Well, then why do we do anything OTHER than take the goddamn test? Or do we place the blame/credit solely on the shoulders of the students themselves?

Half full or half empty? I'm torn. What do you think?


Greg said...

Screw the test scores. Did they learn anything? I'm happy if any kid learns anything, even if it's one thing. Whenever a mayor or other government figure wants to get involved, I want to send a letter telling him or her to spend some time in the classroom. See how they do. Of course, if the test scores are the basis for your job, that's another issue, but I think test scores are at the bottom of the list of priorities.

ms. frizzle said...

I think it's a little of both.

First, test scores do reflect your teaching, but they are not the end-all, be-all. They are partly about you, partly about the kids, and partly about a bunch of other stuff outside your control. To survive in this career, you have to hold two ideas simultaneously: one, how my kids do reflects what I did as their teacher; two, how my kids do is just one little piece of a really complex picture. Both are necessary ideas.

More than half your kids improved. That's not bad. Remember, it's your first year at a hard job in one of the hardest places to do that job. Of course you want to do even better, and you will. Don't beat up on yourself.

And don't worry, no one is going to threaten your job over this. What, do they think there's some huge untapped pool of awesome teachers out there, waiting in the wings to turn things around? It's not going to happen because it isn't practical, and because the UFT won't allow it to happen. Besides, how would they evaluate people like me, whose kids only get tested every four years (in Science)?

Fred said...

Definitely half full.

I agree with Ms Frizzle. Test scores are not the end-all but are simply one aspect of our tool kit.

Let's face it, some kids aren't going to pass no matter what you do. You can't take it personally. My first year, I was crushed every time I had a failure. It must be my fault, I thought.

I now measure my progress by scores coming in and going out. If there's improvement, I'll take it. And, in your case, there was plenty of that. But, scores are just one part of it. I also look at improvements in things such as:
- maturity level
- behavior
- desire to learn (taking notes)
- project management (meeting deadlines)
- homework completion
- desire to improve (extra credit)

So - look at your scores - they're important. But, be sure to look at everything else that the mayor can't see. That's why we're in the classroom and he's not.