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19 February 2007

Pretend you are principal for a minute:

Let's say that on a state End of Course test in a certain subject area (you make the choice), a school has been performing exceptionally well, considering the make-up of its student population, for four or five years in a row. The sections of this particular course were split among two to three teachers in the department, all of whom got almost identical results. If they had honors classes, their honors kids all did as expected. If they had college prep or general classes, the majority of their kids all passed, and even sometimes exceeded expectations. All three of these teachers usually expressed some surprise that the results were so good, and generally chalked it all up to the students actually putting forth real effort for once, and the test score formula being dumbed down a bit. But all three teachers also knew that they at least did their best to teach the course and get the kids prepared.

Oh, and let's say that the scores from this particular test go into the "report card" formula for the school's overall rating. And that potential bonuses are riding on this rating, as well as the school's safe haven from prying state Dept. of Education types.

Now, let's say that another teacher in this department has not been able to pass the Praxis exam for high school certification after a number of tries. Thus, this teacher is constrained, by the NCLB Act, in what he/she is supposed to teach. Through the past few years, this teacher has been given grade levels that don't have this End of Course test attached to them, but they are not the grade levels he/she is certified for. The one grade level that he/she is certified for, alas, is the level that does have the test attached to it. Sooooo...

Over the summer the new administration decides that, so as not to run afoul of NCLB, this teacher has to be given all the sections from the grade level he/she is certified for. Yes, this means that all the kids taking the End of Course test will be taught by this one person, and all their scores, rightly or wrongly, will be this one person's responsibility. Reports abound from students as to the past teaching methods, or lack thereof, of this teacher. The methods are reported to include spending great amounts of class time rumor-mongering, picking out the foibles of students and teachers, and leaving the class for smoke breaks or chats in the hallway. But apparently administration felt its hands were tied. Soooo... (bored yet?)

The first semester's scores come back in, and fully one-third of this teacher's kids fail the test. The number of failures already exceeds, by more than a couple, the total number of test failures over any one year period from the last few school years. Let's also say that one of the other teachers in the department was at the county office for some business, and ran into the director of secondary schools, who was also the former principal of his particular school. This director immediately became animated about the large number of failures, and said he told the administration not to make the change, and that he hoped the change would be remanded for next year. All this confirmed the visiting teacher's suspicion that the score results were really, really bad, and were an eyesore for the school and the county.

Now - you are the principal. Assuming a non-topsy-turvy educational world (hah!), what would you do?

8 comments:

Michael said...

Can I assume an IQ above freezing?

Diane said...

The obvious choice - the best one for the students, school and district - is to get rid of the teacher. I'm assuming that won't be done.

School Master P said...

Michael,

Do you mean if you were the hypothetical principal? If so, yes, and then I will assume what your logical conclusion will be.

But, by chance, were you asking about the hypothetical teacher in this story?

Michael said...

No, I was referring to the principal; anyone who can't pass the Praxis test after a number of tries is frozen solid.

School Master P said...

Agreed.

Michael said...

While I concede that it's possible to find multiple-choice tests confusing, a little practice should enable any thinking person to get over the confusion. What drives me crazy are the students I hear walking past my office who say, "I just don't test well." The thing is, they're talking about essay tests. And they're college students.

School Master P said...

That really is an asinine comment from a college student about an essay test - one I'm sure they were prepped for thoroughly. They might as well say, "I don't think well," which would beg the question of how they got into college.

But even on the high school level, my experience with multiple choice or essay question tests is that those who do well in general almost always do well on tests. Those who don't, don't. Maybe SAT-type tests don't prove everything, but tests with more specific content, particularly addressing what should have been learned in the classroom, prove an awful lot.

Michael said...

When I teach a survey history course for freshmen, I give a weekly quiz on the reading. By week eight they're generally bombing them to the point of loud complaint, so I ask them how many hours of work (study, research, reading, writing, etc.) they're devoting to their classes per week. Most of them are taking fifteen hours. I have yet to find a class of forty in which more than three are working more than ten hours per week. I then tell them that when they're working thirty hours per week (I'd prefer more) they can complain, but then they won't need to, because they'll be passing the quizzes.

Michael