Friday, August 07, 2009

AYP Denouement: Time To Go To Work

I've tried this summer to personally get a better handle on this standardized testing thing, and to pass on what I've learned as I think I learn it.

But like most things, when one starts really peeling layers they only find more layers. And more layers. And even more layers. And pretty soon the layer peeler is so far away from those not peeling layers that the layer peeler speaks a language nobody else understands and can generally be considered a "strange talking little weirdo".

Hi, I'm the strange talking little weirdo.

And, trying to be objective about it, the big reason I'm a weirdo is that 99.9% of all observers of and participants in this standardized testing mania feel one (or more) of the following four things:
  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Standardized Testing Is So Stupid That We Should Just Avoid Thinking About It
  • NCLB Testing Proves Public Schools Are Bad
  • NCLB Testing Has Problems But Is Here To Stay And That's the Way It Is, So Deal With It
  • NCLB Testing Has Problems And Many of Those Will Get Fixed When NCLB Get Reauthorized, So Let's Put Up With It For The Foreseeable Future
And given these viewpoints, the very strong tendency is to have a visceral reaction to NCLB while avoiding any real rational investigation into the whys and wherefores of it.

I'm not blaming anybody for that. For one thing, it's damn complicated. I could go into strange talking little weirdo mode and tell you in 713,000 words just how complicated it is, but that's kinda the problem here. Here's a scenario that has played out, I'm betting, many, many times at Burque Babble in recent days as the scores have come in:

Concerned Internet Searcher: Alright, let's find out how my school did on these tests.
Google: Hey, Concerned Internet Searcher, here is a list of hits for the search terms "Volcano Vista AYP Albuquerque"....1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, Burque Babble Yadda-Yadda-Yadda AYP Albuquerque
Concerned Internet Searcher: Whoo-hoo! This Burque Babble should have some info, let's click on that!
(CIS clicks and pages changes to large picture of goat and 675,000 words of impenetrable text)
Concerned Internet Searcher: What the Hell is all this crap? I just wanna know how Volcano Vista did? Did we pass or not? I'm gonna go check that little "yes/no" chart at Screw word diarrhea boy here....

So let's just say it's complicated.

So complicated that even those professional directly affected, my colleagues for instance, will show up this upcoming Wednesday morning for the very first day of work, see our test scores on a projection screen, and immediately start talking about how stupid the testing is and that will be that.

And unlike last year, when I actually did open my mouth and made a point about how small sample sizes make slight positive variances meaningless (big mistake), I'm not gonna say diddly-squat. I'm not going to mention to anyone that I'm a strange little weirdo who has spent probably 15 hours looking over school-by-school test reports for 2009. Who has written obscure 713,000 word posts on things like confidence intervals and AYP regulatory differences between State X and State Y.

I'm just gonna drink my bad, weak-ass staff meeting coffee as fast as I possibly can, nod my head in acknowledgement when fellow staffers make observations about how stupid the test is or how much better the 57 kids in a particular subgroup did versus last year, and if directly asked (and only if directly asked) I will simply say:

"Well, it's complicated."

And then go to the oasis that is my classroom and get to work planning a school year.

The one difference this year is that along with teaching I want to use the strange little weird information I've gathered, and destroy NCLB in New Mexico as it is currently implemented. I cannot expect much in the way of involvement from my colleagues in this regard, as they are busy implementing the crazy tenets of NCLB in New Mexico, and, besides, it's complicated.

The same might be said of my Union, my District, my State Department of Education. I'm going to continue peeling layers and find out what can be done and if anyone really wants to do it. I am not terribly optimistic.

And, speaking truthfully, at some point in the upcoming Semester I'm sure the daily energy thrown into my classroom and my love for what I do in that classroom will replace any energy I have for the frustrating process of getting NCLB implementation changed here. And that process of replacement will continue until at some point I forget all about it and am no longer a strange talking (thinking) little weirdo.

Well, I'll still be a weirdo. But the strange NCLB thoughts will subside and I'll just do my job, and when asked will say "Testing is stupid". And mean it. And mean nothing more than that.

Happy school year, everybody. Let's enjoy this last weekend before that upcoming Wednesday morning staff meeting.

P.S.: I'm just kidding with the resigned fatalism above. We're gonna change the friggin' world!!! Who's with me? C'mon, who's with me? Hello? Is this thing on? Testing...


Anonymous said...

I, too, was given a VERY hard time when I suggested the small increases at my school were simply statistical noise.

While my principal wanted to take full credit, with the staff, for one or two points, I tried very hard to point out that the same logic would mean that any decrease was, then, also the fault of the staff and principal.

This did not go over well.

Abuelita2 said...

I, too, am a strange talking (thinking) little weirdo. Sigh. Try to just ask a simple, logical question, or point something out, and the reaction is basically to ignore it, 'cause we gotta get on with planning how we'll do what they tell us to get the AYP up.

What I sense the main reality is, is that teachers and administrators are SCARED. Very scared. And I must admit, I have been also. Might still be. I have spent two years with hellish principals, and they can be horrible. That is enough to scare one. (Isn't it wonderful, how our classroom, in the company of just kids, is such a good place?)

But back to NCLB -- I'm with you. What do we do?