Friday, October 24, 2008

Righteous Indignation, Part Deux

My rant of the week needs a bit of back story for it to be fully understood. In short, No Child Left Behind has asked schools to assess the begeezus out of students. We test them, and then our schools are ranked according to how well our students do on these tests. Our schools base their "label", also require by NCLB, on these test scores. So, in order to be an "Excellent" school, you have to meet certain criteria for a certain percentage of your students meeting and exceeding the standards and watch things like enrollment. This in itself is problematic and troublesome, but wait, it gets better.

Teachers make squat for pay; this is a well documented fact. Most other professionals with equal amounts of education make generally at least 1/2 again as much as teachers. For example, if a teacher makes $40K and has a Masters' Degree, most other professionals with a Masters' Degree would make $60K. Ok, fine, we don't get into teaching to get rich.

But someone thought we should reward good teachers for their performance, and the disaster called Pay-For-Performance was born. In Arizona, it is tied to Proposition 301. We get some of this money in our paychecks and we are supposed to 'earn' the rest by participating in what we call our SIP, or our Site Improvement Plan. Participate, and you get the extra money. Mind you, you don't get it until the start of the new school year, so you have to be sure to return to your school, or at least stay in your district.

So, each school has to devise their SIP yearly. As a school, they look at the data presented to them from last year's scores and they make decisions on academic focus in order to keep moving toward the goal of having every child at grade level in all areas (a goal, by the way, that is virtually impossible to attain, but I digress)

I will admit that I have been a bit out of the SIP loop this year. I have not attended the meetings I was supposed to attend, whatever, so called another teacher today for clarification as to this year's SIP goal and what part I needed to play.

This year, we are hand picking specific kids to use as a sort of research project, for lack of a better term. Our SIP goal will focus on working with a specific group of kids in Expository Text, meaning helping them master non-fiction works; newspaper articles, biographies, reports and so forth. Fine - not the most exciting thing about reading to teach, but alright - I can get on board with that.

What I cannot tolerate, however is WHO we are choosing as our subjects. The AIMS is tiered out into 4 grading levels: Falls Below, Approaches, Meets and Exceeds standards. Meets means you have mastered the grade level material. Approaches means, well, that you approach grade level. Exceeds, then by default, means you are above grade level. It is hard to get a student who falls below to meet, but it is really not too much of a stretch to get a student who approaches to actually meet standards.

But, in order for us to maintain our "EXCELLING" label, we need to move MORE kids from Meets to Exceeds. We are not going to spend our time and resources helping the struggling kids make it to grade level... nope... we will hand pick students who are on the cusp of exceeding standards and develop specific plans to help them make that move.

Does anyone else see a problem with this?

Oh, that's right - this is coming from the district that repeatedly refers to things as the "First Annual"... Dingbat - you can't call something ANNUAL until it has happened at least ONCE already!!

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