Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Frustrations in Teaching


I was working with some teachers at one of my schools the other day and our topic of conversation turned to the “grade” their school received from the state.  This grade was given as a result of their standardized test scores from last spring.  They were upset and frustrated because it was lower than it was the previous year. 

We then went on to discuss a couple different students and the scores they earned on the written response section.  I want to make a point to say that these scores contributed and were a big factor for the grade the school received.  One student, who is a 4.0, has always done an excellent job with writing, got a score of 0 out of 2 on one of the questions.  Another student that struggles with writing, has a low GPA, and tends to have sentence fragments got a score of 2 out of 2 on the same question. 

The teachers were livid and wondered how in the world this happens?  The problem lies with the grading of these tests.  Multiple people grade these questions.  There is a rubric that is supposed to be followed, but even with a rubric, different people have their own pet peeves and knit pick about different things.  My point being, unless the same person grades every single written response test, then there isn’t any way that they are being graded the same way.  I have even been in a room with several teachers that were being trained.   They practiced grading written response questions with a rubric.  Because the grading of the question is so objective, the teachers hardly ever all agreed on what the final score should be for the essay.

Each school, as a whole, also has to show growth each year regardless of the group of students that comes through.  For example, if every student at the school gets a 95% on the test, then the next year when they have new sixth graders and the eighth graders from last year are gone to the high school, they still have to do better than everyone getting a 95% the previous year.  If they stay the same, which everyone would still doing awesome, the data shows that the school didn’t show growth academically.  Lets say this year that all of the students got a 94%, which is still off the charts good, it shows they went down and showed negative growth.  So even though your school is doing outstanding, the stats show that you went down and that takes your school’s grade down as well.

To me, this is a system setup for failure.  It is almost like, you want to do well, but if you don’t do better the following year, then you get basically get penalized for doing so well the previous year.  If a school miraculously had every student get a perfect score, then there would be nowhere to go but stay the same or go down.  That school’s grade would go down because of that.

You can imagine the pressure that a principal has on them for their school to do well.  Their job is on the line for the school to show growth each year.  That pressure gets trickled down to the teachers.  Eventually, the teachers are teaching to the test and not deviating from that.  Basically the students from K-8 grade are completely focused on the standardized test.  This leaves no room for creativity or innovation for students in your classroom.  These are sad times in education.  What is it going to take for the folks that have put standardized testing in place to understand how it is ruining education?  Those of us that do understand need to speak up and speak out.  It is time for an education shift.  I have said this before; humans are not all alike.  Human beings are not standard.  If we were, then the world would be a pretty boring place.  We are no longer training students to work on assembly lines like we did 60 years ago.

I feel like I could go on and on with this topic.  I am going to stop for  now, but this post is “To be continued…”

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