Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Odd Day, Merit Pay, Chocolate HEY

Odd day. Not bad, but not "usual" either.

~ Dear Daughter's school was evacuated today after a bomb threat was received and a suspicious backpack was discovered. Interesting that we've been here less than a year and her school has had three big "situations," compared to last year when she was attending a junior high in Texas that five years prior had been *the* drug and gang school to fear... which didn't have a single issue for us to complain about other than 1) rude audience behavior at band concerts and 2) the TAKS.

Her school will be back in session tomorrow with "heightened security measures" in place.

~ Class photos were sent home today with students, and I'm not in them. The picture was taken the day my truck was stolen, so I'll have to set up a date and time that I can have someone play photographer/paparazzi during recess to get a photo of us all together. They won't be my students for much longer- only forty days left in this school year. Thankfully they'll always be my Super Stars.

~ The pre-schooler said "stop it" today for the first time. Up until now, it's been "top it." He *loves* his new class and his teacher's pet iguana, Lizzy.

~ I have "merit pay" whirling around in my head thanks to other teachers' recent blog posts. I've read and thought about many of the details and just can't find a good balance between the "feel-good reward goals" of the proposition and the reality of all of the abuses that will happen if and when a slipshod evaluation "system" is put into place that frankly, won't evaluate *teachers* at all. Test scores will be evaluated. Contrary to popular belief, test scores aren't students. Popularity is an issue in every workplace: will who-you-know translate into how you're evaluated?

Education isn't the great equalizer. It's a business, pure and simple. Thanks a lot, NCLB, the propaganda worked. Some states now require that kindergarten students be assessed with fill-in-the-bubble tests. It's inappropriate and appalling, not "necessary" as many politicians and curriculum publishers would have you believe. Still far too many parents passively allow this abuse to happen, probably buying the hype that the tests hold their child's teacher accountable...the tests guarantee that a child has a quality teacher, and that children will somehow be "better prepared" for school. The Merit Pay Plan tries to appeal to teachers by dangling money under our noses (it's a tempting carrot after all, we have bills to pay too) and to parents by offering an emotional sense of security by implying teachers are now being evaluated by someone capable and inclined to critique us on the actual skills required of us to do our jobs- which can't be the case if test scores end up being the only proof-positive that learning has or hasn't taken place.

As good teachers continue to argue against the abuses of NCLB and its mediocre, in some cases, horrific results, spin doctors immediately go on the offensive, insinuating that if teachers can't "prove" their teaching prowess via documented student gains, then my, my, my, perhaps those teachers really shouldn't continue to be employed by their districts. And do parents do the number crunching when it comes to evaluating all of the numbers, scores, rubrics, gains, and areas of need? No. Do they question the data reported in newspapers, magazines, in blogs or news broadcasts? No. They take it as fact, usually oblivious that while "figures don't lie, liars certainly can figure." Data can be manipulated, tweaked, fabricated. Good data can be misrepresented, under-represented, or even buried in order to further the goals of the Education-as-Business Machine.

It's the opinions of psychologists, sociologists, and behaviorists that interest me...why we as members of society always insist on wheeling and dealing, undercutting, depriving, lying, misrepresenting, damaging so much and so many in our paths on the way to rake in the almighty dollar, all the while claiming to be doing it all for the common good.

I need some chocolate.

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