Monday, July 23, 2007

Are You an Idiot?

I found a great quote today by the ancient sage known as Anonymous:

Never argue with an idiot; they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

That Anonymous was a pretty smart cookie.

This image is taken from an online game you can play. Here's the link:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Georgia: Dumbing Down the Test

I knew it. Many Georgia teachers know it. We’ve questioned our administrators and higher ups in control only to receive round about replies that leave one perplexed and confused regarding what the original question was.

Now maybe those in control will admit to problems with Georgia’s testing…maybe, but I doubt it.

Recently I came across a link over at Joeventures, a blog on the Georgia blogroll that elementaryhistoryteacher has put together. That link took me to a blog titled 13th Floor From and an article titled A Test of Standardized Tests.

The article states:

The report presents the percentages of students meeting proficiency standards on their NCLB tests (which states design) compared to the percentage who are proficient on “the Nation’s Report Card”—the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The subtext: If students in a state are scoring much higher on the NCLB tests than they are on NAEP, then that probably means the NCLB tests are too easy.

…The five states where the gaps between the two tests are largest are Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Georgia, and Mississippi. In Mississippi, for example 88% of fourth graders scored proficient on the state reading test, but only 18% did on the NAEP reading test.

The report looks specifically at fourth grade reading, fourth grade math, eighth grade reading, and eighth grade math. In Georgia we have pass/fail requirements for certain grade levels tied in with the CRCT, our state test. Students must pass the CRCT at the third grade, fifth grade, and eighth grade levels in order to advance to the next grade.

Here are the specifics regarding Georgia from the report:

87% of fourth graders in Georgia scored proficient in reading while only 26% did on the NAEP reading test.

83% of fourth graders in Georgia scored proficient in math while only 25% did on the NAEP math test.

75% of eighth grade in Georgia scored proficient in reading while only 30% did on the NAEP reading test.

69% of eighth grade in Georgia scored proficient in math while only 23% did on the NAEP math test.

Over the last few years what I and many of my colleagues have noticed is third and fifth grade scores are generally higher than fourth grade. There is generally a marked dip in fourth grade scores every year in comparison not just in my district but across the state. It if was just our school or our district I would say there is something wrong with the instruction or discipline at those schools, however, it’s more than just a few fourth graders having a dip in their scores.

Our reason my colleages and I think is causing this is someone, somewhere has manipulated those tests in order to make it easier for third and fifth graders to make the benchmark and pass on to the next grade. Since fourth grade does not have the pass/fail option it has remained the same over the last few years.

The report cited in Josh Goodman’s article, however, points to the fact that even if the state is manipulating the third and fifth grade level tests to make them easier….even our fourth grade test does not compare in difficulty to the NAEP.

Getting back to Josh Goodman’s article he asks:

What’s most interesting to me is the question this report raises as Congress considers renewal of NCLB: Should the federal government design the nation’s standardized tests?

He makes an interesting case concerning a national test. However, will it really help? Will it help like the state test has done? Will states and school systems still have the final say over who heads on to the next grade level and who doesn’t?

Will the cut score be based more on a traditional test than the ridiculous scoring system used in Georgia?

Will requirements regarding pass/fail be upheld and not ridiculed by holding a meeting and passing along every student even though they didn’t make the required score?

Will it be a real measurement tool I can use with some certainty that it’s valid?

Seems like with every new improvement to education we simply open the door to more questions….questions with fuzzy answers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All Hail His Majesty, the Fetus!

In a recent Wall Street article Jeff Zaslow quotes a Louisiana State University professor who states that narcistic children are a product of Mr. Rogers.

Chance stated, “The semester was ending, and as usual, students were making a pilgrimage to his office, asking for the extra points needed to lift their grades to A's.

"They felt so entitled," he recalls, "and it just hit me. We can blame Mr. Rogers."

The article further states:

Signs of narcissism among college students have been rising for 25 years, according to a recent study led by a San Diego State University psychologist. Obviously, Mr. Rogers alone can't be blamed for this. But as Prof. Chance sees it, "he's representative of a culture of excessive doting."

Personally I always thought Mr. Rogers was a little creepy, but he was a very intelligent and gentle man who loved children and wanted them to know they were unique individuals. I highly doubt it was ever his intention to cause the narcissism that is so evident in today’s culture. Sadly however, our entitled generation isn’t just those on college campuses. It permeates all the way down through our youngest generation.

There is a huge difference in telling children they matter and they are unique and then treating children as if they can do no wrong simply because they take up space on the planet. Many parents confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. Basically Mr. Rogers is simply a metaphor that symbolizes self-esteem overload which results in mantras such as all children will receive an award though no actual work was done to receive such an award.

Alvin Rosenfeld, a Manhattan based child psychiatrist refers to the current problem as, the annointing of His Majesty, the fetus. I have had such annointed ones waddling across my carpet because they were so bloated with self-esteem. The “gimme” mentality has grown steadily worse over the years and not only includes the whiney children but their helicopter parents as well.

Zaslow’s article goes on to mention a disparity between the attitudes of American students and Asian students. Chance states that the Asian students accept whatever grade they're given; they see B's and C's as an indication that they must work harder, and that their elders assessed them correctly.

Maybe if I was on a college campus I could see what Chance sees, but I’m not. What I do see is my students that feel they are entitled come from all socio-economic situations. The difference is the environment they live in. Those parents that are preparing their children for the real world where work must be done to eat and obtain compensation look at their school work in a different way than students who live in homes where children can do no wrong and Mommie and/or Daddy will make it right no matter what.

Many psychiatrists agree that what children learn from parents isn’t so much through their words, but from their actions.

In the same scenario that Professor Chance describes I have had numerous students and parents ask for extra credit to bolster a failing grade at the end of a nine week period. This request usually comes after my many pleas and reminders regarding missing work, evidence of a failing grade through a midterm report, a missed conference or two by parents, and several phone calls from me that have gone unreturned.

My response?

I give nothing extra. Complete the work that you were originally assigned. I already differentiate, I already meet 504 requirements for Special Education, and many other alterations to curriculum. Waiting around until the end of the semester to obtain an easier assignment thinking I’ll be in a time crunch doesn’t fly with me.

Of course, it isn’t just the parents. Through the years many school officials bought into the excessive and phony adulation and the practice continues. During April and May I read many blog entries from frustrated teachers who were required to provide the Dear Ones with end-of-the-year-awards. It didn’t matter if they earned the recognition and it didn’t matter if it was slap in the face to the students who did.

We had such a requirement this year at my school. When I protested I was told by my administrator I would have a letter of reprimand in my personnel file for insubordination if I didn’t comply. When I questioned further and asked what the awards should be for I was told, “It doesn’t matter…make something up.”

My administrators weren’t handing out awards for self-esteem boosting, however. Their reasons were to simply avoid complaints from parents who desire acclamation for their child no matter the cost.

I’m sorry, but the self-esteem train has run aground through no fault of Mr. Rogers and unfortunately we will reap the aftermath of the wreckage for some time to come.

Friday, July 6, 2007

It's Carnival Time

A great best practice for teachers and parents is to stay informed. In the blogosphere the best way to do that is to read the Education Carnival. The newest edition can be found at
NYC Educator.

The video I posted regarding what teachers make is posted over at the Georgia Carnival posted by Elementaryhistoryteacher at Georgia On My Mind.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What Do Teachers Make?

We need teachers who will stand up for themselves and their profession in this manner (well, perhaps without taking God's name in vain...).

Seriously....I'm tired of teachers having to take the sole blame for society's ills. It's nice to see someone giving as well as they get.