Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can I Hear an "Amen!"

I look forward to new posts on Rob Rummel-Hudson's blog Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords. He is a good writer who is not afraid to "tell it like it is." His latest post hit so many notes with me on more than one topic that I may well end up doing more than one post referencing it.

The first part of today's post talks about federally mandated state assessments (NCLB). I agree with everything Rob states in his post. I won't repeat it here (go read it for yourself). I most liked his comments about kids with disabilities and how they are affected by these tests. You mean a kid on an IEP "failed" the reading test? Well DUH!!! I cannot come close to explaining the frustration I have as a special educator to be forced to put students into a no win, sure to fail situation. And then to be held accountable as the teacher for the fact that the child has a DISABILITY that INTERFERES with his ability to learn like other kids, take these tests, and in general, "meet proficiency" at "grade level." And I'm one of the fortunate (she says tongue in cheek because this is soooo not fun) few who gets to give the Alternate Assessments, which gives me the flexibility to basically pick and choose what my students do for their assessments (no bubble sheets or computer-based tests for us, just a small forest of trees in paperwork and way too much time away from kids). Every year I spend countless hours devising assessment activities, taking assessment data, compiling assessment data, filling out the forms, and putting together portfolios. THEN we get to score the things in a team of three. And what are we testing? Is it really relevant for a deaf-blind 13 year old with severe CP to be able to label his shapes? I mean, come on! The kid can't effectively communicate his wants and needs, why on earth does he need to know his shapes? Worse, these are a "point in time" assessment and can't be used to compare performance from year to year. Not to mention that we are basing our ratings on 3 pieces of "evidence" of 5 trials each, which is SO not best practice for determining student performance. In the end, the assessments are not an indicator on how well my students are doing with mastery of the state standards. Instead, they are an indicator of how creative I am as a teacher in making the "indicators" (tested items) work for my kids with a minimum of disruption to them (other than the fact that I'm stuck with paperwork for far too many hours instead of actually working with my students). The procedures are actually designed so that I can manipulate the data to make it look really good (good thing I'm an ethical teacher, but I do know other teachers who are "encouraged" strongly to do just that). I could go on and on about the absurdity and uselessness of the state assessments as they currently stand, and not just for special ed. I think they're pretty much a waste of time for everyone, except the bean counters. And if the Powers That Be read this, go ahead, audit me. I'm not worried. I know how to follow the rules. HA HA HA HA HA HA

OK, enough for that soapbox....

1 comment:

  1. We had the same system in Illinois for many years, and I made the same argument over and over! This doesn't measure what the kids know. Now we actually have to give a test, based on what we had been teaching all year - while some parts don't apply - why does a kid who can't communicate need to know which sentence is correct - but I control the time, place & how the question is asked to give them the best opportunity to do well. It's not perfect, but it's so much better than the portfolios!