Friday, March 20, 2015

Out of (my) control.

courtesy morguefile.com
First day of spring, as of this evening.  I'm wondering whether the line for free Rita's is wrapped around the store, as the snow continues to fall.  I awoke this morning expecting a two hour delay and praying that we didn't actually close.  Neither happened.  
As I stood in the Commons this morning as kids walked in the doors, there was a general sense of grumpiness and dissatisfaction.  I actually looked at one kid and said, "You'll be happy on June 8th, when you aren't dragging your buns out of bed for another day of school, the week after finals are finished!"

I'm not sure he was as amused as I was at my answer.

There is a certain expectation in public schools these days that a "Winter Weather Advisory" translates to an instant delay or cancellation.  Especially when the forecast, according to the National Weather Service, calls for 4 - 6 inches of snow.    And, I must confess, I did actually visit the online Magic 8 Ball of snow day prediction sites last night.  The snow Calculator assured me a 68% chance of a snow day, (which I was voting against!), and a "likely" delay.  It may as well have said "Reply Hazy..."

Out of (my) control.

As teachers, we want to assure success, and we'd like to assure that success while pleasing as many people as possible.  Sometimes that translates into annoying as few people as possible, while still accomplishing the task at hand.  We recognize the double edges of swords.  For example, standardized testing season is looming on the horizon.  Nobody is standing in line for free samples, like the folks at Rita's celebrating spring.  In fact, the only celebrating that is done is sometime in late May when the last box of tests is sent off to the bean counters and the last piece of "scratch" paper is shredded.  

There are a lot of Facebook posts these days about the negative influence of PSSAs, Keystones, and other standardized diagnostic tools, and an even larger movement of parents choosing to "opt out" and have their children exempted from taking the exams.  A friend of mine has investigated this, and has basically discovered that the only way to do so is to claim a religious exemption.  Hmmm.  Are moral objections to a process such as standardized testing actually considered religion?  (And aren't we supposed to be separating church and state in the public school system, anyway?)

There are rumors and theories that students who opt out are somehow counted, negatively, in the district's almighty School Performance Profile number, which may be true.  There is certainly logic in the argument that high ability students who might opt out would, presumably, do well on the tests, thereby lowering the average of the district's total respondents on the tests, but, again, I don't know for sure.

I do know that standardized tests are a necessary evil at this point, and that teachers are not the ones to be able to change the system.  We report for work, we are assigned duties, we perform them, and we leave at the end of the day.  Unfortunately, the success or lack of success of our students on these tests is directly tied to our performance evaluations.  (If enough parents opt their kids out of testing, I wonder what the "cut bait" point is that would make the connection between teacher evaluation and student performance irrelevant?)

So, my head is full of questions, with very few answers.  Even if I had the answers, I'm not sure what I'd do with them or why I'd even care.  I am glad that my own children have graduated, and I'm not trying to convince them that this ONE WEEK (or two, or three) they MUST eat breakfast -- AND NOT JUST A POPTART -- because someone at school will ask them, and I will look like the horrible parent that I am every other day of the year for not forcing breakfast on the unbreakfastable.  (It's a word.  Really.  I made it up.)  I'm grateful that my own kids did well when faced with the tiny circles and #2 pencils, and that none of them exhibited horrible test anxiety that we see in increasing numbers every year.

Can I affect change in my classroom through teaching?  I believe/hope so.  

Can I affect change with regard to this issue?  I can't even begin to define a starting point.  

So yes.  Standardized testing is coming, soon.  Kids will be stressed.  Parents will be trying to make bacon and eggs and still catch the bus, and teachers will be hoping and praying that the combination of protein and carbs is enough to get everyone through each and every filled in circle, without too many tears.