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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Year End Recap - 2012 - 2013

For the first time in my career, I was like most people - saddled with the heavy and unpleasant weight of 'I have to go to work tomorrow' every Sunday evening.  The 2012 - 2013 school year was a tough one, and not altogether pleasant.

Failures
My passing rate over the past 15 years has hovered around 80%.  I have prided myself and gained respect from students by not playing favorites or handing out freebies.  Students, contrary to fashionable opinion, prefer real accomplishments to cheap handouts.  This approach usually gets solid results.  I haven't figured out my passing percentage this year, nor will I.  The 4th period class, populated exclusively by students repeating freshman English, failed at about a 50% rate.  13 of the 29 students in pd. 8 failed freshman English.

What was strikingly different this year was the number of regular students who did poorly.  I had my best results from the period 2 class in terms of passing, but the class average was a 71.  My 'good' classes' GPA usually rolls in around the high 70's.  This was the first time I had large numbers of otherwise good students simply not do work.  There are always students who are no shows, or out of control in other ways.  These people never do any schoolwork and are passed up through to high school because of social promotion (it exists in case you were wondering).  Every class has a few, and they fail, and it's expected.  This time around, I had perfectly reasonable, otherwise mature girls fail 9th grade English.  I mention gender because the girls are always more mature and they 'get it' when it comes to the pragmatic necessities of school.

I had one perfectly and otherwise young woman do one homework assignment in the 3rd marking period, and NO homework during the 4th.  She also didn't hand in her project, a silly 3 page 'research' paper.  Why?  I have no idea.  When I asked her, she asked if I take late work, which I always do, then she said she'd email it to me.  That was a month ago, and now the school year is over.

Bureaucracy Run Amok
I work with the most religious people in the world.  They go to the Church of the State, and they sit in the first pew.  Here is the plan, and most teachers believe it: the State (NY in my case) is going to fix all that is wrong with the schools.  They are also going to hold teachers' feet to the fire.  How will they do this?  The Core Content State Standards will be adopted, and teachers will be measured by their Student Learning Objectives (SLO) scores and the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review).  For the student, this means that the 'baseline' SLO exam in the fall will be compared to the results of the follow up SLO exam in the spring.  If the scores are better, then the student is smarter and the teacher is a good teacher.  Who makes up the exams?  That depends.  We were told we were going to create them, but none of our material made it on to the tests.  What are on the exams?  Different things.  In my case, the 9th graders had 5 days of instruction removed in order to take these exams, and the follow up exam was a copied and pasted old Regents exam.  This strategy was patently absurd and useless because my 9th graders will never take a Regents exam, as the PARCC exams are scheduled to replace them.  Here's the best part:  the baseline exam in the fall was totally different in every way from the follow up.  How can you measure and compare results from two wholly different exams?  Naturally, my 'performance' as an English teacher is tied to these scores.  No word yet as to what the Educational Overlords, the creators of this farce, will be judged by.

There is actually a better part.  The person who made up the Spring SLO 'follow up' exam makes over $140,000 a year.  Copying and pasting a Regents, about 5 minutes of work, apparently qualifies as high dollar 'work' these days.  When the Educational Establishment in your area weeps and wrings its hands crying poverty, check the salaries of these people first.

Anecdotes 

  • From September to June, my afternoon class arrived, breathless and yelling, eager to drop off their bags (sometimes the bags had books in them), and then run into the hallway to participate in varying kinds of activity: chasing, drama, fighting (real and play).
  • My administration talks openly and vociferously about having technology in the classroom.  It is referred to by high minded pedagogues as "the technology piece".  In 11 years in my school, I am still using a slate board with chalk.
  • I am convinced that Bill Cosby was right.  What good is a 'quality education' if no one wants it?
  • My students are masters at Temple Run, Subway Surfer, and other games on their devices.  They never seem to be able to send me an email, as they copy the address incorrectly, or don't know how to use email in general.  Facebook and text are used, but not email.  
  • Lastly, we had a young woman - a 9th grader - caught giving oral favors to some of the young men.  They used one of the unused rooms.  This lasted for about an hour.  The only thing that stopped it was that the security guards in the camera room noticed the 'lookout' in the hallway standing there for a long time.  Naturally, the girl was in school the next day as if nothing had happened.  We have gone from Zero Tolerance to Zero Intolerance.

Conclusion
The Public School edifice has become a carnival act.  The rhetoric thrown around by the media, the politicians and the time serving hacks within the system is so far removed from the reality that the two are wholly unrelated.  I predict big things from sites like this one and this one.  Georgia Tech is now offering a Masters Degree in Computer Science for under $7,000 - online.  This is the wave of the future, and the brick and mortar Houses of Foolishness are going to go down.

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