In which I am proud and disgusted

I mentioned yesterday– or at least I think I did, play along if I’m wrong– that after work I had to go to a parent-teacher conference for my son. This was a regularly-scheduled event and not one of those “your kid is a shithead, you need to come in now” sorts of things, and I wasn’t expecting any particular surprises from it– my kid does well academically but is, I think, a moderate behavioral challenge when the mood strikes him, and most of his teachers have tossed a “he could get better at paying attention” type of line at us from time to time. And they’re not wrong; he could. And this is a thing that we work on; he’s not perfect. So I wasn’t expecting all candy and roses but I wasn’t expecting an unpleasant conversation either.

I have spent a decent chunk of the last couple of weeks administering a standardized math test to my students that we take three times a year. 90% of my students are done within two class periods and the rest of the time is catching kids who were absent or the occasional one who needs more time. This test is given nationwide and the norms are referenced nationally, so a kid’s percentile score, for example, is against all kids who took that across the country and not just the ones at my school or in my district.

And as it turns out, the kids at Hogwarts took the same test this year, for the first time. The teacher introduced it somewhat hesitantly, admitting that she wasn’t completely familiar with the data she was given, and … well, I don’t have that problem, both by training and by inclination, since I’m a huge data nerd and I love this shit. So, yeah, I know exactly how to read this report that you’re handing me.

And I was simultaneously thrilled and disgusted by the results. A bit more background: the way this score is tested is that all grades are scored on a continuum, so there isn’t really a maximum or minimum score but they expect an average 8th grader to have a score of around 230 or so and an average 2nd grader to be in, I dunno, the 180s or so. But it is possible for an 8th grader to score below that second grade level and it is possible for a 2nd grader to score above the 8th grade level.

And my kid outscored about 80% of my fucking 8th graders, in both reading and math. He was in the 99th percentile in achievement in both reading and math, and he was in the 98th percentile in growth for math and 80th percentile in growth for reading. So he killed this fucking test. My reaction was not quite “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me,” but it was close. I knew the boy was bright, but … shit. And the fact that his teacher showed me these results and then immediately began apologizing because she doesn’t think she’s challenging him enough … lady, if the boy showed up at the 98th percentile in growth, it means he’s hoovered up every single fact you’ve thrown at him all year long. I would kill for results like this from my students. And she’s acting like she’s embarrassed by it.

If my kid isn’t showing growth, then maybe the teacher has at least a justification for an apology, although as the teacher of a number of kids who are failing to show growth (and, to be fair, a larger number who are; my overall numbers weren’t bad at all relative to the other teachers in my building) I’m not about to be making a bunch of phone calls. But if the kid is improving by leaps and bounds like mine apparently is then it is a hundred percent fair for the teacher to crow about the job she’s doing with him a bit.

And it’s weird, because as a dad I’m proud of him, but as a teacher I kind of want to break things, because now I have to swallow the sentence “My second grader took this test and beat your score by thirty points” with a lot of my kids, and … gaaaah.

I just wish everybody could get the education he’s getting at Hogwarts, and I wish enough of my kids gave a shit that they had a chance of getting that type of growth from me. I had one kid in the nineties in growth, but she barely spoke English when she took the first one, so it’s not exactly a surprise. It’s a whole damn different world over there.

In which I force myself to complain

tumblr_lbwyf8TfKe1qzkrg9Perhaps the clearest sign that I am utterly burned out as an educator is the fact that tomorrow is the last day of the first round of ISTEP testing and I haven’t even been able to muster up the energy to complain about it.  Today was impressively rough; our principal is out of town, and literally the first words the AP said to me were “Get in here, we’ve got a problem.”

We’d just gotten a call from transportation that they were going to be two hours late picking up some of our kids– kids who had already been waiting at their bus stops for up to half an hour, and some of whom had apparently called the school to tell us that they didn’t have keys to their houses and couldn’t get back in.

This is a fuck-up of astronomical proportions before you get to the part where we’re out fifty or sixty kids on a testing day.  At that point we start looking around to figure out who’s getting fired.  It’s incompetence on a staggering scale, and the worst part is that it’s not terribly surprising, because transportation has been run by morons for literally the entire time I’ve worked in Indiana.

That aside, though: based on rumblings I’ve been hearing from downstate and the insane difficulty level of the “readiness” test they made our kids take twice leading up to the ISTEP, I was concerned that the thing was going to be impossible.  There’s still plenty of time for them to make the multiple-choice portion a huge pain in the ass, but this test looked no different to me in terms of difficulty level than any other ISTEP I’ve administered.  Which is to say: the math was too difficult for most of my kids, but it’s always too difficult for most of my kids, and this particular test was not more too difficult than it has always been.


Trying to fight off a long rant here

middle-finger-poster-flag-6185-pYou’ve read what I have to say about Rigor and High Standards, yes?  If not, start here.

The State of Indiana, in their infinite wisdom, has had the ISTEP test redone for this year.  And they have let us know that this one will involve High Standards!  And Rigor!  Lots of Rigor!  You can sprinkle it on stuff, like cinnamon sugar.

We take three practice tests over the course of the year so that we can get some idea of who might pass the ISTEP, because there are no other ways to figure that out other than testing.

The results of the second test are (mostly) in, and I’ve been looking at them all week.

Currently perhaps a dozen students in my building are expected to pass the ISTEP.  In the building.

That is not a typo or an exaggeration.  Historically we’ve been passing, oh, 70% of our kids or so, give or take a couple standard deviations.

But, hey, what do you want us to do?  Make excuses?

Ugh, pt. 2

exhausted_zpsa4303e7bWell, it’s not as if I didn’t know it while it was happening, but it’s now confirmed: last year did not go well.  I have official state growth numbers on all my kids, and there’s no way to sugarcoat it: they suck.  Indiana breaks kids into three growth categories, conveniently labeled Low Growth, Medium Growth, and High Growth.  In the two previous years that the growth model has existed, I’ve had over half of my kids in High Growth and between ten and twenty percent (well, okay, 10% one year and 20% the next) as Low Growth kids.  The rest, obviously, were in the middle.  These numbers either had me with the best numbers in my building one year or tied for second or third, depending on how you measured, the second year.

Last year I only managed to get a quarter of my kids into the High Growth category, with fully forty-five fucking percent of them low growth.  Even if I throw out a few of the kids who I don’t think it’s fair to count against me (in particular, the blind kid who transferred into my class in the third quarter and the handful of kids who spent large chunks of the year in jail or suspended) I’m still probably at a third low growth, which is way too fucking many.  I had a brief theory that I was in trouble because I’d jumped up a grade and I was effectively competing against myself; I haven’t formally run the numbers but looking closely convinced me that that was not the case.  Some of my highest-growth kids are kids I had two years in a row; some of my lowest-growth kids were kids I only had the one year.

I don’t have data on other teachers to compare myself to because I’m no longer in the same building; for whatever it’s worth, I can also see their language arts scores and by and large my students had better growth in math than LA.  However, someone else doing worse doesn’t really make me feel better for having sucked last year.  Even my honors kids didn’t really do that great on growth; I feel slightly okay with that because since it was the Algebra class, I didn’t fully concentrate on the 8th grade standards, and I don’t know that I can expect high ISTEP growth when I wasn’t concentrating on ISTEP skills over the course of the year.  But that doesn’t exactly make me look better either, although they did quite well on the ECAs at the end of the year, which is something.

The more I think about it, the less interested I am in potentially going back into the classroom after the expiration date on this job runs out.  I’m still most of a school year away at minimum (and may be four years away if I get lucky with a couple of things this year) but I still need to start thinking seriously about what is going to come next.  Because right now I don’t miss teaching.  I just don’t.  And I really need to figure out what The Next Thing might be.

I will be in Indianapolis tomorrow and Thursday, speaking of the new job, so it may be quiet around here.  I’m hoping to have a Big Thing to announce this weekend, so with a bit of luck I’ll make up for it.


A quick note

To whoever just found my blog by Googling the question “What if my child fails ISTEP science?”: 


Absolutely nothing happens, anywhere, to anyone.

No one cares.

The end.