Friday, June 12, 2009

No Child Left Behindathon

Who remembers the famous Felix Unger speech about the word 'assume'? I am starting to take on the same view of the word 'assessment'. In between creating a transportation museum with the kids, tying eighteen pairs of sneakers several times a day, singing lively rhythm and movement songs for 40 minutes when our broken down CD player insists there's 'no disc', ensuring everyone in my classroom is getting all of their spiritual, educational, creative, and intellectual needs met, a stack of report cards waits to be completed. By me, I believe. Since taking over this pre-k class at the end of April, I've pretty much been left to my own devices. I have no complaints with this, as I am used to being the captain. However, had the swine flu scare not robbed my principal of much precious time, I believe I would have been given more instruction and encouragement on this one task which is pretty much the nation's barometer for the educational health of a school. So rolling about the recesses of my brain has been the contents of those odd-sized manila envelopes quietly resting in a rusty file box in our locked closet. One day several weeks ago, I asked my para Ms. B. if she knew where they resided. She unlocked the closet, ferreted around, and provided me with the treasures. I leafed through the first four page document hypnotised. Wow. That's a lot of information to gather on one kid. I wondered who was going to assess these eighteen kids in June. I tried not to think about it too much, because I had a lot of other things to focus on that were in my mind a lot more important and immediate. So that's what I did. Then two weeks before the end of school, one of the literacy coaches hands me paperwork for assessing the children's ability to rhyme. I think I was starting to understand where this was all heading. Still trying to keep an optimistic view that some mythical report card assessor would be called in (possibly from the 1,000+ absent teacher reserve pool), I started the preliminary efforts of a person attempting to conquer the first step of a very long race. Armed with a two page document simulating benchmarks on their last term's report, I brought Alyssa out into the hall to begin the testing. We're not supposed to call it a test. Just like 'time out' is not 'time out'. That's corporal punishment. The concept can be the same, but you must rephrase it. My 'time out' is called 'think time'. Anywho (!) Alyssa smiled at me suspiciously as I ruffled through the right set of papers for her. She often does that, but she had a good reason to this time. Halfway through her identification of the alphabet, she started adding terse but polite comments to her answers. I pointed to the 'r', she recited, 'r, please'. She was getting annoyed with the predictability of this game. She also didn't much care for my placement of an 'X' on her missed letters. Do these kids really need to have a sense of failure as they're working on their emergent reading skills? She was frustrated when she didn't know a letter, and when I asked her what it was, she started replying with a cute little smile, 'nothing'. Then it was time for her to demonstrate her ability to write the alphabet. After a few letters, she told me, 'I don't know how to do that, but I can make a smiley face.' I let her draw a smiley face. When I asked her to retell a story, she started telling me about the Gingerbread Man. 'The Gingerbread Man.. HMMMM, HMM HMMMM HM HMMMMM'. George Costanza popped into my mind. Alyssa was done with these shenanigans, and wasn't humoring me anymore. I didn't blame her one bit. Where was the section on the report card that indicated 'Smart enough to rebel against being treated like a statistic'? I love the whole school environment, the dedication and good intentions of the teaching community- but students are individuals with diverse abilities to process information and demonstrate their knowledge. Why do we have one test for every student across the board? Isn't it sort of like a shoe store offering size 7shoes only? Your feet are a size 10? Adapt. I would be in big trouble if that were the case. I don't know what the answer is. Tomorrow I am going to run a 5k race on a very humid day. Maybe something will come to me magically. And maybe those report cards will fill themselves out. And maybe I'll break 20 minutes.


paz13 said...

tamar: Interesting to hear how you are doing with your class and the assessment you have to do. Be interesting to hear how you made out with both the assessments and the humid 5K.


Jon said...

"Where was the section on the report card that indicated 'Smart enough to rebel against being treated like a statistic'?"

VERY well put, and I doubt there will ever be a section for that, unfortunatly

tamar said...

Kevin- Thanks for asking! The assessments somneone went really well- I think anyone who has run a marathon is capable of those big impossible-feeling tasks. That 5k went ok- not under 20 but under 21-by less than a second!

Jon- How's it going? Thanks for visiting! Us sag's are the biggest rebels, aren't we?