Friday, October 12, 2018

One More Lousy Side Effect

One of my former colleagues and her husband are expecting a baby, and that is good news for everybody-- except, maybe, all the rest of my former colleagues.

Here's the problem. Since my retirement and the concurrent non-filling of my position, four English teachers are divided among the four high school grades. One teacher for each grade-- and that means that my colleague teachers all the students in the grade our high school subjects to the Big Standardized ELA Test.

She's due in March.

"Sorry to be a problem."
That means the district will be searching for a sub to fill in for the critical weeks before the students take the BS Test. My colleague has that test prep down to a science, so maybe her sub will be able to just kind of follow along and.... no, my district is probably about to experience a sudden mysterious dip in the effectiveness of high school teaching.

And while the state of Pennsylvania is on the brink of making our BS Test (the Keystones, because Pennsylvania is the keystone state-- get it?) optional for graduation, so that the stakes for students will be little-to-none, the stakes for the school remain large. Test scores (both raw scores and VAM-soaked "improvement" scores) are used to evaluate English and Math teachers- but they are also part of a score given to the entire building. And that building score is used as part of the evaluation score for every teacher in the building. That's right-- we still do that thing where teachers are judged in part based on the scores of students they never see in courses they never teach.

So that's where we are in this awesome teacher evaluation system-- one teacher experiences one of life's great personal joys, and a building full of teachers have to sweat their professional standing.

You may say that her maternity leave shouldn't really make any difference, that years of awesome instruction will be more than enough to lift those students to heights of swellness on the BS Test and all I can say is, Honey, aren't you cute. The test requires test prep-- not the kind where students drill and memorize certain facts and figures, but where they learn certain key vocabulary and learn to navigate the kinds of tricky gotchas favored by these test manufacturers.

Plenty of schools face this extra challenge-- a pregnancy or injury at an inconvenient time. And don't imagine that test-centered accountability doesn't affect which teachers will accept a student teacher, or if they do, what they allow those student teachers to do. Families are encouraged to schedule vacations at Not The Wrong Time. All sorts of events that used to be normal pieces of the ordinary life of a school have become dangerous bumps in the testing road.

My old department will pull together, and plenty of commercially available test prep materials will be marshalled, and my former colleague will help more than she should have to at such a moment because she's That Person, but the whole exercise is just a reminder of how far the Big Standardized Test is from measuring any of the things it pretends to measure.

No comments:

Post a Comment