Thursday, January 17, 2008


It's that time of year again. The time of year in Illinois when all young school children frolic in the snow. Sledding. Snowmen. All that jazz.

Oh wait, this is central Illinois. No snow. We're experiencing flooding. What's up with that?

And those young children I was speaking of? They are now diligently being preparedfor a very, very important event.
What's that? The Illinois State Achievement Test. This is a test given, in predetermined grades, to Illinois School Children. Illinois schools live and die by aISAT scores. If a district does not make "adequate yearly progress" the district runs the risk of losing funding, being put on "probation" and all sorts of other shitty things.

So, to combat this and ensure that our children perform well, our teachers are forced to "prepare" the kids for the tests. Yes, that's what we all call "teaching to the test". The test is supposed to measure whether or not students are learning what they are supposed to learn and whether or not teachers are teaching what they are supposed to teach. Except it doesn't work that way. See, if part of what you teach is how to do better on the test (rather than just teaching the material) you aren't really measuring a student's true knowledge.

"Teaching to the test" is an old concept. It's been around forever. But it doesn't really teach a child anything. And this type of b.s. doesn't really asses how well a teacher or district educates students, either. Here's a little example:

"No Child Left Behind Football Version

1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions and coaches will be held accountable.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically,genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.

3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, havelimited athletic ability or whose parents don't like football.

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in 4th,8th and 11th games.

5. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals.

If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.

This example is NOT a stretch. This is exactly what happens. Those tests don't tell you if Little Johnny who is in the 4th grade had to listen to his dad beat the hell out of his mom the night before the test. This test does not tell you that Janie in the 8th grade just lost her mom to Leukemia a week ago. They don't measure the teacher who has battled bullies in her class or the 5 students whose parents parents are getting divorced in his class.

This is what the No Child Left Behind legislation has done. And to those who will say "Wasn't it Ted Kennedy who initiated NCLB?" I respond with: "Yes, but it's Mr. Bush who fails to adequately fund it."

My #2 son has brought home ISAT preparation homework for the last two weeks. He's supposed to solve a math problem and then explain HOW he arrived at that answer. That's on top of the 25 spelling words he must alphabetize, "vowel color" [write the vowels in a different color], and spell out loud; then there's the fractions to simplify and southern states whose capitals he must write. Each and everyone of those skills is important. I believe in meaningful homework. I'm a teacher. I get it.

But the pressure that is put on teachers and administrators to have their students PERFORM LIKE MONKEYS is asinine. This is how drop-outs and burned out teachers are created. Teaching is NOT about learning anymore.

We've all become drones who must have the "Meets Expectations" box on our performance evaluations checked off...even our children.

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