Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bending the metrics

Here are a couple of examples that I observed that you won't be able to detect no matter how much time you spend online looking at CA STAR test results or greatschools.org.

My daughter's third grade teacher did not originally impress me.  For one, she was always late picking up her kids before school or at the end of recess.

But, when Bad Dad and I walked around open house and looked at the writing samples on her classroom walls, we were astonished at the sophistication of the writing for third grade.  The kids actually developed their ideas logically in addition to mostly correct grammar and spelling.  We strolled through other classrooms to compare.  Nope, the other classrooms showed more uneven writing samples.  What was different in her classroom?

A chance conversation with another parent cleared up the mystery.  She explained that this quiet teacher was the best teacher her children had in the whole school; she worked individually with every child to get them a solid start on writing.

How did she find the time?  She met one on one with the kids before school, at recess, at lunch and after school.  We were aware that she had worked one on one with our child, but we didn't know she made the time for every child.

Writing is not tested in third grade.  Her work will not be recognized on the battery of standardized tests.  If exceptional teaching is not tested, does it still exist?

California tests kids on science in the fifth grade.  I don't particularly care for the laundry list or the rote memorization aspect of the tests, but I have to give the tests credit for ensuring that every school in California now teaches some science in elementary school.  Before that, many elementary school teachers skipped teaching science altogether.

I was initially puzzled by the way my daughter's fifth grade teacher taught the textbook chapters out of sequence.  She started with the physical and earth sciences in the middle and back of the book, and then went back to the life sciences at the beginning of the book in the Spring.

I figured it out when the test scores came out.  Many classes don't get to the end of the book.  The standardized tests are front-loaded; there are more test questions from the beginning of the curriculum.  A teacher confident that her class will be able to cover the entire book can safely teach out of sequence, knowing that she will have the time to cover the life science at the end.  This way, the material is fresh on the kids' minds and they will ace the test.

I don't consider this cheating.  I think this just proves Iris had a smart teacher.

1 comment:

  1. This is really interesting. I hope we get some good teachers like this when our turn comes!

    ReplyDelete