Apologies up front for being a bit ranty, but it will be cathartic for me. Yesterday, a colleague from another district shared a conversation he was having via email with one of his own children’s teachers. The event that precipitated the conversation was a high school math test his child had not been able to complete within the confines of the class period. The child had requested to stay after class (It was the end of the day.) and the teacher refused, saying it would not be “fair” to the other students who had finished. The teacher defended the decision, saying they had “worked hard” to get the kids prepared to complete tests by the end of the class period, and that this was preparation for taking SATs or ACT tests, the STAAR (our Texas state assessments), and for life in college, all places or events that forbid the awarding of extra time. She also said that her predecessor had always had the same policy, so there you go. Where to begin…
- Question: Why do math teachers deem it necessary to have 25, 30, 50 versions of the same problem on an assignment or test? Answer: Because their teachers did that crap to them, so it’s what they know. Nevermind the fact that mastery of the skill could be demonstrated in 1 or 2 problems accompanied by a student’s narrative description of the process. This has perplexed me my entire teaching life.
- Nowhere in any state standards I have seen are objectives dealing with getting kids “test ready”. Why? Because even the idea is so disgusting and ridiculous even a state board of education wouldn’t go there.
- If you don’t work for a college or university, your purpose in life is not to get kids “college ready”, either. That is a line that has been put out to k-12 schools by an industry with almost a half TRILLION in revenue in 2014. Does college open up some doors that might otherwise be closed? Of course. Is it the only path to happiness and success? Of course it isn’t. Our purpose should be to get kids LIFE ready.
- Assessments should be for determining mastery and directing instruction, not measuring speed. Don’t try to rebrand rigidity as “hard work” or rigor or high standards.
- Habit or tradition are terrible reasons to perpetuate a bad policy. Be bold, be original, be right.
- I don’t think you completely understand the concept of fairness or, at least, how to apply it universally. Blanket rules/regulations, zero-tolerance policies, etc. are for teacher/admin convenience, not the greater good of the students, we all know that.
Just to be clear, these aren’t directed at that specific teacher, who I only know from a few emails. I have been around for 25 years as a teacher, though, so I know these kinds of practices are commonplace all over the place. Am I being too critical or just way off base? Love to hear your thoughts.