Saturday, November 29, 2008

How do the testing gurus solve this?

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This is one of the many reasons why I don't agree with the idea that student performance should be the primary indicator of teacher or school accountability. 

I've found that over 60 students have filed for hundreds of hours of Short-Term Independent Study for the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I have a dozen students that have applied for STIS that last over a week in my classes, and all of them are a simple explanation, vacation.  It is interesting how badly the Thanksgiving or Winter breaks are abused by parents.  Cruises are one of the more popular exploits of a November or December weekday, along with trips to Mexico and Hawaii.  Some Seniors are taking time to actually go and visit colleges (something defiantly worthy of a few days), except that every single one of my STIS students are Juniors, and most of them are in no grade shape to be missing a week, or two, or a month.  This has created a frustrated atmosphere from everyone involved from the teachers who are sick of preparing a month of work for a student that won't do it on vacation, to the counselor who is taking heat from the parent about frustrated teachers and taking heat from the teacher about parents that make bad choices, to finally the administration who is in the bind that they can't do much about it anyway.  So in the end, who is really held accountable? 

Why the teachers, of course.

It is becoming more and more tiring to hear speeches about helping that one extra kid, or about getting those "borderline" kids to pass the Exit Exams, or about making classrooms more engaging to students, when parents decide that Thanksgiving Break needs to be two weeks and Winter Break should be three.  It is also becoming tiring trying to prepare work for students that don't usually do it or parents that become resentful for assigning it during their precious vacation time.  So I stopped doing it.  Instead, I make Independent Study exactly that, time to study.  Packets are meaningless point inflators that impart no knowledge to the student and provide an idiotic amount of work for the teacher.  Hence the reason that I don't use packets.  I just assign textbook chapters and give the student the relevant state standard and say, "You will be responsible for all tests and quizzes on that information when you return".  Most do nothing and get clocked, and no it is not my fault and no I don't lose sleep over it.  I used to, until I realized that true education is a societal matter, not one that is relegated to a classroom that is supposed to take a family's vacation to Cabo into account when lesson planning.  The calendar is available for the next school year in the Spring.  If the vacation is important to book flights and hotels in advance, I'd check with your kids education as well.

The best, and most disgusting story that I've heard happened two weeks ago when a parent became so enraged that her kid was not given a decent amount of work for STIS that the parent demanded a meeting with the counselor and every teacher to get specific assignments.  A parent conference to take up more teacher time for the child's vacation?  Are you kidding? 

I've got kids to teach.      

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