Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drilling Down

This has been a difficult start to another year of teaching. Seems demands are more numerous and trying out new, innovative strategies with technology are paradoxically piling up next to outdated testing pressures. On one hand we teachers are being held accountable by standardized testing and drill down into the data; and on the other hand we are being told that technology, creative, and performative skills are the way to go. It's like trying to get the moon by digging to the Earth's core: as ineffective and as frustrating.

This past month I've been drilling down on a standardized reading test that is sampling our state's standards. Pennsylvania has 3 reading standards with a total of 35 specific skills defined. Of those 35 skills, 12 have been translated to assessment anchors, or ways of measuring a third of the defined skills. Of those 12, the test samples 9. Of those 9, the questions sample 3 skills 3 times as much, while sampling others only once or twice. So as I drill down on 120 students individually--taking 5-10 minutes on each--my mind wanders and wonders if knowing so little about so little is worth the effort, let alone the time: 10-20 hours, if you do the math. Taking into consideration that the student might not have felt well, had had a difficult time that morning at home, or just didn't care so much to take the test seriously and the worth of standardized test scores wanes in my estimation.
So we've headed the wrong vehicle in the wrong direction to the wrong address.
I worry about my next dozen years or in the classroom, not because of the future, but my past. Before teaching I was in advertising, first the creative end and then the business end. I couldn't stand the marketing numbers. So then I worked for a family run book retailer which emphasized the love of books and knowledge. But they sold they went public and became a national corporate concern--and the concern was price points. I got out and returned to my first love--teaching. Now after 20 years of the testing movement and despite the call for 21st century skills, a dinosaur of data-driven decision-making is starting to bang at my classroom door. Is it time to move on? Or face the dragon? A lesson life keeps presenting might be a lesson worth learning.
Image Credit. "Free Mixed Numbers Texture for Layers." By D. Sharon Pruitt. 18 Nov. 2008. Flickr. Used by permission of Creative Commons License.


Fred Deutsch said...

Only stay if you're making a difference in kid's lives. If you're burnt out, what good are you to them or you? Life is too short. Carpe Diem!

PS Love your blog!

highschoolteacher said...

the data is a complete waste of time.

just found your blog, and diggin' it (but not in a "datadig" kind of way"