There are some issues that are out of control of local BOE’s and school administrators. There are mandates from the state and federal government that require local BOE’s to focus funding on special ed and standardized tests. School officials are, to some extent, scared to death about CMT scores. If schools fail to make adequate yearly progress as a whole, and when broken into subgroups (such as special ed, minority students, students who receive free/reduced meals) they can be labeled as failing. No school administrator or BOE member wants that label.
The natural reaction to this issue is for the BOE to tell the Superintendent that CMT scores are a district priority. The Superintendent tells building admins that CMT scores are a priority. The building admins often have 3 year contracts, or perhaps shorter. If they don’t get the right results, their jobs are in jeopardy.
The reality is that there are some students who will excel on all areas of standardized tests unless their teachers are totally inept. There are many students who will do well enough on all areas of standardized tests with adequate teachers. There are some students who will do well on many, or at least some standardized tests only with the instruction/expertise exceptional teachers. There are some students, due to either innate ability or family environment, who will either struggle to pass any test or, in some cases, refuse to take them, or not attend school to take them. All these students are the responsiility of the building admins (thanks to NCLB).
It’s no surprise that some building admins, superintendents, and BOE’s panic and make these tests a priority.
In my opinion, the best aproach to educating students is to continually address important pedogogical topics in whatever subjects are being taught in an appropriate manner for the students being taught. When students learn important key concepts, they will do fine on standardized tests…unless they can’t handle standardized tests due to legitimate learning disorders, or if they can’t grasp key concepts due to legitimate learning disorders. The thing is, not all students are ready and/or capable of learning the same concepts at the same time, and in the same manner. Yet schools are being forced to panic and try to do just that.
All students should have a certain skill set when they complete a certain grade level. Think about that. All students should be capable of everything that every other student can do. I’m not suggesting that we lower standards, but we must reconize that all students are not capable of the same level of acheivement. My uncle is very gifted in math – his SAT score in math was perfect, or nearly so (I can’t remember for sure). He did miserably on the verbal portion.
What I’m getting at is that local BOE’s are charged with directing trained professionals on what to do. I want anyone in the private sector to volunteer to work for a company that is directed by people who have little or no knowledge of the company they run and who answer to folks who elect them who also may have no professional knowledge about the company. This is not an impeachment of any BOE, but this is how school systems are governed.
The core of the issue is that state and federal officials dictate that all students are square pegs and must be inserted into square holes. It works for many kids, but it doesn’t work for all of them.
As for teachers’ unions…documentation of issues need to be addressed – the job of the school admins and teachers. If there is an issue with a teacher, document it. Write down what happened and when. Report it to school admins. If there is an ongoing *documented* issue it can be addressed. If folks simply throw up their hands and blame the school or the union, nothing can happen. I’ve said it before – show me a teacher who nobody ever complains about, and I’ll show you a teacher who doesn’t challenge students.