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Is teaching like this EVERYWHERE???
Old 12-30-2009, 09:49 PM
 
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So here's the deal. This is my fourth year teaching in a large district. Since I've started it seems that the focus of everything has been on state testing. Now, I know there's nothing we can do about it and so we need to get the kids ready to take it. BUT I went into teaching because I like working with kids and love being creative and creating things. I just feel like my district, and everyone around me is so test result driven and has the teach to the test mentality. I teach the standards and get the kids ready for district and state tests, but I try to do it in a interesting/creative way, but even that is being taken away. We are being told to "spend your time analyzing the data and oh by the way you HAVE to use this specific strategy". I just can not get out in words how depressing and frustrating it is that EVERYTHING is about test results and data. We have lost what the focus is - creating student/teacher relationships and giving them a base of knowledge that they can grow on.

Has it always been like this and I'm just now realizing it? Is every district like this or are small districts different? Am I the only one who feels this way or am I just crazy and need to realize that teaching is all about numbers and test scores? The fact is I'm not happy doing what I'm doing and I need to know if it would be different if I moved school districts or if this is what schools are coming to (or have always been). Everyone I've talked to doesn't understand because they are the "business" or "numbers" kind of people, which is fine - but they just don't get what I'm saying. Maybe no one does. Well I guess I'll find out. Sorry for this long vent, but I've been desperately seeking other job opportunities because in my mind this is not what teaching is. Thanks and sorry if there are any typos!


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I'm in a smaller district
Old 12-30-2009, 10:04 PM
 
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I agree that all this emphasis on testing is scary. Someone somewhere is forgetting that we are also helping to shape creativity and expression. Some of that testing is helpful and useful, but if that is all that drives the teaching - how joyless is our job, not to mention the learning for the student.

Our smaller district is not as bleak as the scenario you describe, but we do have decisions being made often that limit our creative ideas.

Hope we don't lose another creative teaching mind ....
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4 years now
Old 12-30-2009, 10:19 PM
 
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It's been steadily getting worse for the past 4 years. I suppose it started with NCLB.
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Old 12-30-2009, 10:58 PM
 
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My district is the same way. I feel the way you do, but I have come to the reality that so much of these kids' lives will be based on standardized tests - state tests in elementary / high school, college admission, professional exams, etc. They need to know how to take tests the way things are today.

I will say that when I worked in a charter school, there was a lot of freedom to teach to the kids' needs and they emphasized GROWTH over test scores. Their workload and data analysis requiurements were insane, though.

Not every public school is quite so bad. Honestly, my school is very test oriented. However, teachers are free to teach as they please as long as their students perform well.
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Sorry, it's all about the tests now
Old 12-31-2009, 02:29 AM
 
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Just know that you can be the best teacher in the world and if a kid doesn't care, you can turn straw to gold in your room everyday and the kid will still not make the standard. Instead of blaming the kid or checking the curriculum, you will be hung out to dry. All I could come up with was to teach as many strategies as possible and remind the kids everytime I taught a major standard that it would be on the big test the following October. ( I know that by August they have forgotten everything, I'm not in charge of the world)

As scapgoating is the way of man, teachers are put under the bus for a failing society. The voiceless are the first to be pushed under the bus. We have no voices. Even those of us with unions are losing portections that were fought for long and hard to protect meager earnings and what health care they can. The admins and the states are winning. Testing just expediaties geting 35 kids in every room and scripted programs. Once that happens then they can replace teachers with robots that the kids will promptly reprogram. Welcome to Orwellian times.


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Old 12-31-2009, 05:07 AM
 
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Yep... just like imafive said... thank you NCLB
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Old 12-31-2009, 06:06 AM
 
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I think ALL teachers should ignore the testing and teach. Have students take the tests and get real scores for what they actually know instead of what they are spoon fed in order to pass the tests. I think student behavior has gotten worse since the stupid NCLB was started. The children are often made to learn topics beyond their developmental level. It makes children feel dumb when they do poorly on all of the tests. And then of course there are Special Education student and second language learners who receive all kinds of modification for tests. What is wrong with that picture? It's a lie, that is what it is just so the scores look good. All the testing throws out basic, sound theories of instructing children. But, oh, the numbers are so important. So sad.
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testing
Old 12-31-2009, 06:24 AM
 
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I think the testing dilemma is far reaching and getting worse everywhere. I also think that as creative teachers we need to keep pushing back in our creative ways. The importance of building relationships with students can not be underestimated. If creative teachers give up and leave there will be no one to push back, no one to build relationships, no one to really care about the kids. I made a deal with my admin. I told them that I could get my test scores high doing it my way. My admin didn't think I could so we made a deal. I could do it my way that year, if the scores were up significantly (he set a percentage) then I could keep doing it my way, if not then I would have to become a data hound. I eagerly took the deal and I won! I'd suggest you try it with your admin and see what happens. I'd hate to lose another creative teacher too!
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Old 12-31-2009, 06:58 AM
 
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My admin won't let us. I had every one of my Title 1 kids pass state testing with a 3 or higher last year (1-5 scale, most of them were 1s and 2s the year before) using my creative methods. Princ was excited for me to share my methods until a directive came from the district that said all teachers much be teaching this on this day so you can test on this day. It is a BIG deal to have these tests in the computer system ON THAT DAY, which left no time to do it my way. Of course this year's kids don't understand anything because we are moving too fast and they can't master the basics before being forced forward. This will be my last year in the classroom due to all this NCLB junk. My princ is upset but his hands are tied.

OP, it wasn't this way when I started teaching almost 10 years ago. We were creative and covered curriculum the way we wanted to. Standardized testing madness has ruined it.
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My thoughts
Old 12-31-2009, 07:57 AM
 
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First, I would like to address something Read&See mentioned.

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And then of course there are Special Education student and second language learners who receive all kinds of modification for tests. What is wrong with that picture? It's a lie, that is what it is just so the scores look good.
It is not quite like that. The accommodations are there to level the playing field, not make the numbers look better. I teach special education. It is pretty rare that these children will ever be proficient and at grade level. The scores they get are what they are truly capable of producing.

As for the OP, I do believe there is a mentality across the nation of teaching to the test. Just look at NCLB and the new Race to the Top. All are based on standardized testing. I wish I could help you and think it is a crime that they are taking your creativity away. I believe it is just a matter of time for all of us in that arena.


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Change grades........
Old 12-31-2009, 07:57 AM
 
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Can you request a non-testing grade? At my school, it is "teach to the test, test, test". It is not AS bad in the non-testing grades as it is in the testing grades. I would NEVER teach a testing grade at my school.

We do have scripted, inappropriate, outdated curriculums imposed on us, but I just "close my door and teach."

It is so sad that imagintion, creativity, and relationships are not valued more! Too bad those things aren't on the test!
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Old 12-31-2009, 09:02 AM
 
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Also, what makes it worse is the recession. Our low income population doubled last year... and those students did not meet or exceed- therefore our school did not make AYP. Then, our supt. came in and yelled at us (entire staff) saying there is no reason for us to not meet AYP. I have honestly looked into getting out of teaching, but I just love my students so much, that I don't know if I could. Some days I am brought down with all of the pressure, other days, I say, "I am doing the best that I can."
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Old 12-31-2009, 09:20 AM
 
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Read&See......
Language modified tests and modified sped tests are NOT a way to make the scores look better. It is a way to make sure that every child gets the chance to show what they know. If a student with a language barrier KNOWS all about the life cycle of a butterfly in their native language at their grade level, but cannot express it in English...that does not give them the chance to SHOW WHAT THEY KNOW. Language modified exams help them do this. A language or disability barrier doesn't mean they're stupid or not learning...it just means they are unable to express what they know in the same way the 'mainstream' student may be able to.

Standardized testing has made ruins of the education system, not made it better. It assumes every child is the same, at the same level, in the same way...and we all know how wrong that is.
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different states
Old 12-31-2009, 09:33 AM
 
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I am wondering if different states have different mentalities. I know that years ago we had to abort good teaching strategies to make way for our state adopted texts. Today, we have little choice in what we use. (California)

Gone are the best practices of writer's workshop, reading workshop, guided reading, independent reading, wordwalls, and the list goes on. Some would argue that some of these practices are imbedded in the program, but nothing to the extent of where it was 10 years ago when I was calling the shots on my next minilessons and my students were actually enjoying the fact that they were readers and writers.
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Old 12-31-2009, 09:40 AM
 
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In my school and district the non-tested grades are just as test driven and even more scripted than the upper grades. I'm one of like two creative teachers left in my school. Everyone is nice, but so businessy. The teachers who are on the "committees" that make the decisions walk around like CEOs and at staff meetings present all the "great" creative strategies that they are doing and using in their classroom, when any time I walk by they're at their desk - they're not doing what they claim. AND to make matters worse since they are the movers and shakers in the building and voice what they do the principal and others think they do a great job, but someone like me doesn't get the time of day. I don't want to be recognized for what I'm doing, but a "you're doing fine" would be nice. I've even been looked down on because I like to decorate my room nice, like since I spend time on that I'm not "preparing my students for the test" even though I've always had 95% of my class pass every year. *sigh* I'm down to two choices - I either go to another smaller district (IF they are less test driven) OR I'm done teaching altogether. I can get a job as a secretary at a church where I can still do some creative computer and pursue some of my hobbies. I know no one can make that decision for me, but I need help deciding if another district may be better. Thanks for all the comments - good discussion!
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Old 12-31-2009, 09:43 AM
 
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Which wing of my school do you teach in?
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Old 12-31-2009, 10:22 AM
 
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I went into teaching 25 years ago for the same reason you did. Unfortunately, because of NCLB I don't see things changing in the near future. I think we have gone from one extreme to the other. I'm tired of administration looking at the data instead of the whole child. Thankfully I don't have many years left to teach. I don't think I could continue this way if I were a new teacher. I'd probably have to look into a private school instead, but there are drawbacks to private schools too.
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Old 12-31-2009, 12:04 PM
 
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Kentucy was one of the first states to "reform" education, so we've been in the NCLB-type testing-driven boat since 1990. That's when KERA or the Kentucky Education Reform Act went into effect. NCLB honestly didn't change things a whole lot in that respect.

I have standards that have to be taught. I have a testing format that has to be taght. I have targeted groups of kids that have to be helped more than others. There are certain strategies that are seen as more effective than others, so they are encouraged. Even within those parameters, I have enough opportunity to be creative to keep me interested. Plus, after 17 years, I've learned that things come and go. Play the game and wait them out.
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From what I can see,
Old 12-31-2009, 12:35 PM
 
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here are some answers.

Quote:
Has it always been like this and I'm just now realizing it?
This is my 18th year teaching, and without a doubt, NO, teaching has not always been like this.


Quote:
Is every district like this or are small districts different?
My experience is that most public school districts are like this, primarily because of the federal NCLB. The size of the district makes no difference.


Quote:
Am I the only one who feels this way or am I just crazy and need to realize that teaching is all about numbers and test scores?
No and no.


When I began teaching, I began to experience the trickling in of the data-era. It started as a way of making teachers more accountable. Some very wise teachers alerted me in the beginning of my career that education in the US is like a pendulum with very wide swings.

I would hazard a guess that we are nearing the widest arc of the pendulum in the numbers game. I don't think we've hit the extreme yet. I think there will probably have to be some additional large school failures, or an influential legislator, or other experience of that sort to finally cut the knees out of NCLB.

There are many sad parts to this part of educational history in the US. For one, we are so engrossed in data, that we have lost sight of the whole child. When people ask what I do, I like to say "I teach children" as opposed to saying "I teach 5th grade". To me there is a huge difference.

Teacher creativity for sure is something else that is being sorely tested. Teaching children the love of reading, writing, working with numbers and mathematical and scientific concepts and on and on. The love of learning is falling by the wayside.

I don't know of a single teacher who does not want to be held accountable. Let's figure out a better way of doing that, though.

I can speak for the non-testing grades, too. We ALL feel the pressure.

This is such a difficult subject partly because it's so complex. I do not believe there can be a viable solution in my lifetime simply because the problem is so vast. There are the overarching concerns of being so data-driven that cover everyone, but I also have to believe that there are separate concerns for different geographical locations of the country (California has different problems than does say South Carolina); urban-suburban-rural each have their specific concerns also; the school year calendar; funding; teacher education; teacher accountability; and on and on.

Even with all of this...I still believe that we can carve out little niches here and there where our influence makes a difference, where our creativity is needed and can flourish, where we are meant to be.
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Old 12-31-2009, 12:40 PM
 
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I teach in Tennessee and my experience is much like IMA Teacher. Tennessee has been into standardized testing since the early 80's, so the examination of testing is not anything new here. I will say that the discussions over test scores are more frequent and perhaps we do more with it than in the past. My district does benchmark testing which I HATED the first year but now I find the results beneficial. My district does have a scope and sequence but it is more of a guide than anything. As long as your not way off then things are alright. As far as strategies, my district is big into Marzanno and Kegan. We are a standards based district, so there are certain things that the central office staff expect to see when they are out and about. I won't lie, there are times I complain right along with others. However, I do think a lot of the practices adopted by my district have proven to be benecial to students.
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I agree
Old 12-31-2009, 01:34 PM
 
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NCLB seemed to be the catalyst in our district.
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I so agree with guest's post
Old 12-31-2009, 01:39 PM
 
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We are expected to teach for conceptual learning and encourage high order thinkink skills where as so many teachers now seem to be teaching to the test. In Australia we have national testing and are working towards a national curriculum. I think we are going to go backwards instead of forwards if the emphasis is so great on national testing results rather than on the whole development of the child.

Sally
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Do we need national standards??
Old 12-31-2009, 03:10 PM
 
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I find it so frustrating that we have different standards for each state and different state tests too. Why do we not have national standards and one test for all the states?

Unfortunately, I think the biggest factor is money. Who makes all the money? test makers?textbbok companies?

I feel sorry for the kids the most. School should be exciting and full of learning. However, it is not that way anymore. Our kids are stressed out and not enjoying school. They are having test taking skills lessons instead of real learning. They are told they are behind and need to study harder to pass a test. Some of our elementary kids have to take 3 state tests each year and countless benchmarks test throughout the year.

What are we doing to our kids??? I hope something changes.
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Old 12-31-2009, 04:48 PM
 
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Quote:
I will say that when I worked in a charter school, there was a lot of freedom to teach to the kids' needs and they emphasized GROWTH over test scores.
I'm in a private school and don't have the testing nightmare you all describe. The teachers strive for growth in test scores, but it's not something we practice for. I actually wish we did a little more 'practice' in how to take standardized tests.

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I find it so frustrating that we have different standards for each state and different state tests too. Why do we not have national standards and one test for all the states?
But wouldn't this still keep the emphasis on the tests and not on real education? I can go for almost anything besides national control.
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Is Teaching Like This Everywhere?
Old 12-31-2009, 05:06 PM
 
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Yes, I am afraid it is in some degree or other. We had our monthly faculty meeting two weeks ago and were informed that half of our evaluations next year will be based on student performance. Data will be pulled from each student on how well they did and if they did not perform well then you are not a good teacher, and if they did then you are a good teacher. So, we all know how some of those years go when you have a terrific class and things are great and kids fly through and do great and then there are those years when you just keep your head above water and pray that August passes till June in the blink of an eye.
The funny thing is in our state they tried to push performance pay on us about a year ago and our union and teachers eventually fought our way through that battle. Now they have circumvented us and thrust this upon us. I am sure they were laughing the entire time they were writing the new evaluation documents up. I don't know where education is going. I just know it has changed drastically in ten years since I started.

I began teaching in a moderate size district in Northern Ky where creativity was hearaled and applauded. Yes we wanted good test scores but they were second to teacher and student-driven curriculum. Now I teach in FL and the importance is all on the test and the data. DATA is the student's name. I am not saying that data is not an important component of our profession. It is "a" component, along with the many other components that make up our profession. It is just so sad that as the one writer put it about the pendulum not being balanced yet. This happens far too often in education. It has to go to the extreme before we get balanced.
I wish I had the answers for you, many times I ask myself if this is all worth it, I know the stress affects my health, the ten and eleven hour days and knowing that what I do is never good enough and my work is never, ever, ever, ever finished is enough to send me into a tailspin sometimes. But, I know that I love the kids. That is the number one thing that keeps me walking back in that door each and every day. Knowing that I will make a difference. Just remember the times a child tells you they love you and how much they appreciate you and that is all it takes for me to keep me going back.
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Old 12-31-2009, 05:17 PM
 
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That was so well written, I requested to be your friend!
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Nationalized standards and testing?
Old 12-31-2009, 06:22 PM
 
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I've been thinking about that, and concluding that it would be ill-advised and against some of the very principles that our nation was built upon. That every child has a right to an education is a federal issue, but how it is done has always been at the state level. One of my dear friends teaches for a certain federal preschool program that we all know and love. It is jaw dropping how much paperwork and assessments she has to do, and how many audits the programs have to go through. She feels like she has to spend more time on checklists this year than ever before. I swear she has more paperwork than I do, and I am a sped teacher (another element of education that is under federal laws.)

As flawed as it is my vote is for keeping the decisions about which tests and which standards with the states.
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Old 12-31-2009, 08:30 PM
 
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Thank you imafive. I tried to accept your request. I hope i did it correctly. I really do love the children. I have a passion for teaching as well that keeps me going. I don't know how long I will be able to do it but I keep on keeping on as long as my health holds out. But the stress does take its toll as you age. I was a stay at home mom and didn't start in the classroom until my children were in high school so I was a late bloomer so to speak. lol
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I wish
Old 12-31-2009, 09:05 PM
 
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We could just pass this whole entire thread on to someone in charge. I feel like they just don't get it. Nothing that anyone does (admin) makes any sense anymore!
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Old 01-01-2010, 12:02 AM
 
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I've been teaching for over 30 years. Teaching has changed!! It isn't as fun as it used to be. We used to be creative and have much flexibility as to how we present our curriculum.

As far as national standards, I am against it. I don't want the federal government involved in education any further. I too believe that it should be left up to the states. Can you just imagine all the paperwork we would have to do? It seems the more power the feds get with education the worse it becomes.

I wish I had an answer as to how to improve our system. How do you determine a good teacher? How do you determine who should stay in the classroom or be told that they need to find another profession?

So many questions. So few answers.
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Old 01-01-2010, 06:35 AM
 
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That is what I mean about what is "wrong" with this picture. Why aren't the children excluded until they can take the test in English which may actually be 12th grade for some after they have a lot more background knowledge? Actually, why have the tests in the first place? Why do they have to get modifications? "Other" students might be helped with smaller group sizes, have questions read aloud, have breaks, get to mark in the test booklet and have their answers transferred to the "bubble sheet" but are not allowed these. Why so many accommodations since they aren't able to take the test in a regular way? Yes, I know the acc. are so they may have a chance but there are way too many exceptions because they should not be taking the tests in the first place.
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Old 01-01-2010, 06:46 AM
 
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What you said is what is at the heart of the problem. Teaching is not a one-size-fits-all type of arrangement. The same standards don't work everywhere.

I also think teachers work too hard to help students pass the tests and instead should allow for more failure so maybe this can falter.

"I think there will probably have to be some additional large school failures, or an influential legislator, or other experience of that sort to finally cut the knees out of NCLB." as you said.
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:34 AM
 
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Unfortunately test results is the driving force behind so much of what we do because in the end it does come down to money. I know that where I am, the adminstrators' bonuses are tied into performance. Normally, teachers would get bonuses, too, but the budget cuts of this past year have suspended this (temporarily, it is claimed). My district is now investigating pay for performance and quite honestly, this thought makes me sick to my stomach.

I have also noticed that many of the young teachers I work with tie their preformance as teachers to the test scores. High growth and good scores, in their minds, means that they are already "master" teachers. I think that this is an unfortunate perception on so many levels.

I switched careers to become a teacher. I hate that so much of what I do on a daily basis will be judged, in the end, on how well my students do on a test. This doesn't measure their growth as an individual at all. I keep thinking of something a mentor\professor told me a while ago: "I am a teacher of students, not just a teacher of English". I HATE teaching my students how to pass a test rather than how to think.

I truly hope that the there will be a shift in the test driven mentality as the powers that be eventually realize that high stakes testing will not be what creates better learners, students and citizens. I don't have the answers, but I do believe that the path we are on currently will not benefit any of us in the end.
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Old 01-01-2010, 10:38 AM
 
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we'll have to wait long for a big district failure on the state tests. There's not much more we can do. I'm at a title 1 school and we are already at 93% in math and like 89% in reading.

They really think that all kids are going to get 100%????? Adults aren't even expected to be 100% correct in jobs, why would we think kids can do that?

Frankly I don't want to be in the teaching profession when the big districts start to fail. When a school in my district does not do as well as they would like on the state test, high up district people are in that school all the time, overseeing what is going on. I've heard teachers say that they have had district officials stand in the back of their classrooms all day making sure they are teaching what the district wants them to teach. These are teachers who are continuing their education, work at doing the best practices, ect. - NOT teachers who need to be put in a fish bowl and judged like that.

This may sound dumb but I'm really hoping to start a family soon, stay home with my kids, and maybe come back to teaching when they go to school. Maybe by then this will have all blown over and the "pendulum" of teaching practices will have started to swing the other way.

I'm just depressed that I have to go back to work on Monday and have THREE days of district meetings where they will undoubtedly give us WAY too much information and things that we HAVE to do. I can almost guarantee you that all three days will be about state testing and data and letting the data control your teaching. Belch! :P
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one of the reasons I like my school
Old 01-01-2010, 11:41 AM
 
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I have taught internationally for most of my career and I love that most international schools are not as test crazed! We have a lot more freedom to actually teach students using what we think is best practice!
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Old 01-01-2010, 02:41 PM
 
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You have raised some good questions for us, and wonderful points have been added.

I just wanted you to know that even though education in our country needs gigundous reform, we will get through this, maybe a little scraped and bruised, but we can do this. Those differences we make may seem small, but they also might be huge to even one individual.

You probably are right about your 3 days' of meetings next week. When it starts to get to you, remember to come and vent with us. We understand and may even have some coping strategies for the tough times.
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I close my door
Old 01-01-2010, 03:01 PM
 
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My district has had a longer school day the last few years, but I feel I have less time to get through the heaps of curriculum that is shoved on us. I have made some positive changes with new teaching methods in order to adapt and to differentiate. But nevertheless, there are times I just close my classroom door because I am not always doing what the data data DATA tells me I should be doing. We have to relax and remember we are teaching children, not just boosting numbers for a winning score.
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Old 01-01-2010, 07:03 PM
 
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I am in my sixth year in CA where we have the California Standardized Test every year. When I was a kid (I'm 35) we took the California Test of Basic Skills (CTBS) and I don't remember it being a big deal. As a teacher, I am always torn as to what to do about the test. This test is vital and 3rd grade standards are unrealistic, but you don't want to stress out your students.

Fortunately in my district we are not "babysat." We are still given freedoms. I like the scripted curriculum to use as a guidline/suggestions. I have never done everything nor do I say everything word for word. In third grade I used the textbook a lot. This year due to having two new grades and no one to plan with, I am using a lot of different things. I try to come up with extensions and creative ways to do things. We have had lots of things we are "supposed" to do. The big thing for the last couple of years is guided reading.

What all these "admin"/"politicians" don't get is you can not force a child to learn. My test scores were not the best for last year. I had a very difficult class last year. I had major behavior issues in my class. Overall they were at grade level, but if they don't do anything all year then they won't be at grade level/score well. I told my principal/vice principal all year I was struggling and I referred 5 out of 20 of my students to the Student Review Team. I got no help at all. Parents were mostly uninvolved. I could not do a lot of teaching due to always stopping because a student was not behaving. I was in tears quite frequently. I felt awful for my "good" students because we kept running out of time to do the fun stuff. They were also a very young class (11 of 20 turned 8 from August through December 2). Yet, the year before it was the exact opposite and test scores were good.

I get very frustrated with teaching, but then a student will do something and that is when I remember why I teach.
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Thank You
Old 01-02-2010, 11:38 AM
 
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I just want to say a big thank you to all who have contributed to this very interesting discussion. I really have nothing to add, except to say that I now don't feel quite so alone

Sara
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Pendulum swing
Old 01-02-2010, 02:26 PM
 
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I think it's like everything else in education: the pendulum swings one way or another, there really is no middle ground-it's the same with open classrooms, whole language vs. phonics. etc.

I am waiting to see when NCLB is going to implode and what the fallout is going to be. I don't think it can be sustained (it isn't even being funded properly) for a long period of time.

First of all, it is expensive. And, with the expectations, by '12 100% of students will be expected to meet and exceed and that is just impossible so it will be interesting to see what will happen in just 2 short years. Also, it is driving a lot of creative, enthusiastic educators out of teaching. I think we are going to be looking at a teaching shortage much like we saw in the 90's.

Everything else has been said. No, it wasn't this bad 4 years ago. None of us are alone out there. I prefer to close my door and do my thing!
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Old 01-02-2010, 06:13 PM
 
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Very well said 9love2teach9!!
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Old 01-02-2010, 06:39 PM
 
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I am with you. I too have taught 33 years and have had it with DATA meetings and NCLB. You can't be creative for teaching testing skills or test material. I hope the pendulum swings back quickly. I have 3 more years and want to enjoy it more than I do now. It's just too stressful.
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Old 01-02-2010, 07:29 PM
 
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Something that I will add from my previous post is that I think special education teachers really get the short of the stink on this one. Obviously, the students under their direction do so for a reason. I know our cognitively delayed teacher at our school is constantly frustrated because he is expected to ensure that his students are scoring in the same range as their grade level peers. As we always say if his kids just turn the learning on like that, then they would not need special education intervention. DUH!!!!! This is not to mean they can't make huge gains but a child who can barely talk and form a sentence orally is probably not going to score in the same range as their 4th grade peers.
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testing stinks!
Old 01-02-2010, 08:46 PM
 
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What an interesting thread! I too, am glad to know that my district in not the only one that is "data" driven and that the great pressure to prep for the test exists elsewhere.

Greyhoundgirl: I hope you are right and that NCLB will implode one day.

My fear is that it won't. I think if parents realized how the educational system is deteriorating that they would protest and then the legislators might pay some attention.

There were many great comments and points made.
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Wow...
Old 01-03-2010, 06:15 PM
 
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I am sorry, but somewhat relieved, that so many others are expressing the same sentiments that my colleagues and I have been. I am only a third year teacher and am seriously considering a new profession. It has gotten to the point that I am extremely anxious about going to work each day because there is so much on our plates. Our county just recently mandated that each teacher complete paperwork that presents how students are meeting each of the states standards and objectives. I have 60 science students and 20 reading students!!! It's just not what I thought it would be, and I find that utterly depressing. What else am I qualified to do??? I am looking into changing schools and maybe moving into a non-tested grade, but I am sure the pressure is just as high to make sure the students are ready when they do get to the tested grade. We'll see!
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Old 01-03-2010, 06:37 PM
 
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I am right along with you, only I'm a SECOND year teacher!! I came into teaching with so much conviction and passion. I knew this was what I wanted to do and each day in the classroom I know how much I care for my students. It breaks my heart that all of this data from state tests and the common assessments we do throughout the year to prepare for state tests are all admin. notices about the children I see in front of me each day. The children have become numbers. I know that my daily teaching does not matter, it is how students perform that matters. I feel like giving up because as you said, this profession is just not what I thought it was. I love planning exciting ways for my students to learn. My creativity is not valued or wanted. I'm required to teach every subject area in small groups due to RTI. There are at least 10 adults in my room throughout the day due to the needs in my class. It is just chaotic and very difficult to communicate with all of the specialists and coaches, etc.who are trying to help our special education population pass the state tests. I am falling behind because I am afraid to be "caught" by the principals for teaching the wrong way by doing a whole group lesson. What is sad is that I am behind because we are forced to teach so much curriculum to prepare students for the tests! I am seriously looking into other options.

I thank you OP for opening a dialogue on this topic. If anything, it helps to know I am not alone in this.
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Old 01-03-2010, 11:28 PM
 
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Yes, I will do what my district asks of me test-wise...I will teach strategy and skills and such, but I will not do so without putting my personal stamp on it. I want to show my viewpoints to students and share my experiences and likes. Without this personal stamp, we all may as well be replaced by robots.
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Special Education testing Modifications
Old 01-03-2010, 11:58 PM
 
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Read & See I was wondering if you have ever actually looked at a released TAKS M test? Or spoken to your special education teacher?? I teach Resource in 5th grade and have to administer those tests to students who read and work on a 1-3rd grade level. The new testing thanks to NCLB makes my students who have reading levels between 1st and 3rd take a reading test that is on a 5th grade level. Yes the wording is simplified, and yes they read a few paragraphs and then answer some questions instead of reading the entire paragraph at once, and math tests have 1 less answer choice and bigger graphics to "aid" my students. Well let me say this, I don't care if you take out the field questions, and give them one less answer choice the testing is still above their level and is just as confusing and upsetting to them as to their regular education counterparts. So even with their "modifications" to testing my students are just as upset and stressed as their friends. Now I am sorry if I have sounded rude or tacky, that was not my intention, but I wanted you to see that your students are not being treated or tested any harder than mine.
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Keep your ideals!
Old 01-04-2010, 12:21 PM
 
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If I were just starting out in teaching, I would look for a charter school (or maybe a private school) that had a philosophy I could buy into and strive to go to work for it. If you have lots of energy, maybe you could start that kind of school. When you can't believe in what you are being asked to do, it demoralizes you and makes you ashamed to be a part of the system. What you are involved in at a microcosmic level is part of a vast societal breakdown. I know that almost sounds like some kind of conspiracy theory, but it's true. Public education is under the control of politicians. Politicians need votes to stay in office, and the kids you teach have parents who are VOTERS. Do you think those parents are ready to hear their elected officials slam them for the collapse of the home and family? Do voters want to hear from their representatives that they are screwing up their kids? So, who gets the job of "fixing" it all and the blame because they can't fix it? Schools do. Schools don't vote, so they are in a perfect position to be scapegoated by politicians for kids' educational (and other) issues. That's why they want you to teach tests and why they want to micromanage how you teach. They are under tremendous pressure to show positive results, even if they have to contrive all kinds of conditions to get those results. Also, educational researchers depend on government largesse to fund what they do and the universities where they do it. What that means is it's in the best interest of education departments in universities to constantly come up with new research that focuses on some new reason why kids aren't learning (with another new label for it), or with some revolutionary new way of teaching that will reach some child who isn't learning. The researcher writes a few books, gets rich, maybe gets a big position in the Department of Education, and his/her university gets lots of "attaboys." All of it takes the focus off of the family/home breakdown and puts the onus on schools and teachers. The education departments of the universities and their researchers keep getting funded and the politicians keep getting reelected. It's an ever-widening, spiraling cycle. Obviously not all research is done for wrong motives, but I challenge you to take a look at the overwhelming amount of research and the billions (trillions?) that have been spent on it in the past 30-40 years. Compare that to the results of the public education monolith in the U.S. today. What common sense conclusion should we draw? Thank God we still have some idealistic teachers who go to work every day, busting their butts and believing that in their own classrooms they can still make a positive difference. I believe they are about the only glue that holds our schools together.
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Old 01-04-2010, 02:34 PM
 
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Quote:
What you are involved in at a microcosmic level is part of a vast societal breakdown. I know that almost sounds like some kind of conspiracy theory, but it's true.
I agree. Thanks.
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Dear MrMcGeezer,
Old 01-04-2010, 05:12 PM
 
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I've rarely read anything so poignant and wonderful as your response on this website. You make so many thoughtful points that absolutely ring with truth. If only the politicians and the public could read this, then we might see some change. But, then again, as you say, it's so easy to scapegoat us.
I really think that the only thing these fools will understand is when we have just finally had enough and decide to leave in droves. And it might happen if these idiot politicians try to tie our pay to our students' test scores. I know that that is the day when I'll walk out of the classroom.
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Old 01-04-2010, 05:56 PM
 
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Just to reiterate what everyone on this post has said - my principal was sitting in on a grade level meeting today and we were talking about how the kids just don't get context clues. He says "What do you think you can do to help them know how to understand how to answer these questions?" My coworker mentions doing some vocab. work and answering "test like" questions. Which is what we are doing and is a good idea. My principal is like "good, good". I tried thinking of using something we already have so it's less work and some real world skill that the kids can really use. I mention using whatever read aloud book we are reading in class and discussing vocabulary words, context clues, ect. while reading. My principal just looked at me and said nothing. What? Just because it's not a test like paper pencil question I can't do it???? I can't think out of the box a little????
EVERY creative idea I share is met like this - nothing is said - almost like without saying anything their thinking "creative weirdo". Yet every idea that is test "like" and related is drooled over. I'm so glad at least my co-worker appreciates the creative stuff I make. It just makes me feel inferior to those people who are so data and test driven. Like I'm not as professional.
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Testing and More Testing
Old 01-04-2010, 08:17 PM
 
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Short answer Yes, it's pretty bad in California too. I have been teaching for 7 years. The first 3 were in a medium size District, but I was insulated from testing because I taught 1st grade. The last 4 years, have been at Charter schools. I started working at my current Charter school this year and everything we do is targeted to get the students to be successful in the State test. We were recently told by the leader of our Charter to just focus on Language Arts and Math (Science, Social Science only if they are tested) I could not believe my ears when I head this.

No your are not going crazy, and it is difficult because administrators are just looking at numbers and not how the child is developing and how much growth they have had. They need to be proficient or above. Very discouraging.

I hope your find a place to teach that allows yo to be creative and feel good about teaching again.
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Old 01-04-2010, 08:24 PM
 
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I keep returning to this post because it's just so interesting.

???, the suggestion you made in your grade level meeting today is so common sense. I'm sorry your principal doesn't get it. I believe it is just human nature to get a pat on the back every once in a while. The kids crave it. We crave it. Perhaps this particular school is at best a good learning experience for you and another more suitable school is down the road a ways.

Mr. McGeezer, I wanted to reply to your post, too. I have thought of this post several times, just reading. You have a plausible explanation of what's going on with education when you explain educations' two-headed monster, i.e. money and power. Frustrating at times, isn't it?
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Old 01-05-2010, 06:47 PM
 
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In my community, a pretty conservative midwestern city, there a number of former public school teachers who have taken their children out the public school system to homeschool them. An attendance record is the only document that homeschoolers needs to have on hand. So these home educators have lots of creative freedom to teach, and most of them do very well at it. I think if the pendulum swings back to developmental appropriate activities, parents will be ones to engage in the fight. Therefore, if we as educators now the problems that are occurring, maybe we should be the 1st ones to take our children out. I think government might start to notice, if teachers don't even allow their children to step into a public school
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Old 01-05-2010, 07:10 PM
 
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there a number of former public school teachers who have taken their children out the public school system to homeschool them. An attendance record is the only document that homeschoolers needs to have on hand.
I wasn't going to bring this up, but since somebody else did...
Homeschooling has differing regulations in different states, but the parents are basically free to educate the way they see fit. I've noticed that the homeschool publishing companies are 'ahead' of the regular school publishers when it comes to creativity. It takes so long for a school to change it's mind and go a different direction, but a parent can change in less than a week.
I know of several teachers who are homeschooling.
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You have a very interesting
Old 01-05-2010, 07:19 PM
 
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point. I hadn't realized it was so easy to start homeschooling your kids. I have been saying this for years, that I would never allow my kids (she's now 31) to be in public school with the way things are now. My main problem is with the behavior problems that are allowed to run rampant and the teacher's hands are tied, myself included. I have nothing against teachers as most of the teachers I know are fine educators. But the system is completely broken.
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Old 01-06-2010, 06:43 AM
 
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Very interesting thread! Things are not like that here We have provincial testing at grades 4 & 7, but all teachers still have autonomy in the classroom. Our testing is a total of 4 1/2 hours and the results of the testing are not used to rate teachers or schools (although an independent ultra-right-wing think-tank does attempt to rank schools using this info, but we know they don't take into consideration any external factors). The assessments (not exams) are created by a committee of classroom teachers and are based on the skills, not so much content, that should have been learned by grade 4 or 7. My classroom is MY classroom and as long as I am teaching the curriculum, how I do that is up to me.

Teaching is still fun and I can do pretty much what I want to do. I feel for you and your students!
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It's all about the test now
Old 01-06-2010, 11:44 AM
 
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Ever since No Child Left Behind things have been getting worse. When I started teaching it was enjoyable and my students were succuessful. Now all we look at are the numbers. there is no time to be creative even if it was acceptable. My school has gotten to the point that all the teachers are teaching the same standard for the same time and pretty much the same way. Sorry to say that the test is what is important now. I think it is the same everywhere.
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ladybug19 ladybug19 is offline
 
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Not all ELL's get accomodations
Old 01-06-2010, 11:49 AM
 
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Our ELL's only get accomodations on the test if they are more than 2 grade levels below, have 100% of there assignments and classwork read to them, and have a plan that states the accomodations.
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Becca Irene Becca Irene is offline
 
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Becca Irene
 
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Hope for Change
Old 01-06-2010, 06:56 PM
 
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I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments. It makes me feel less alone knowing that others are feeling the same frustration as I am feeling. I have been teaching ten years. I can honestly say that things are changing radically and quickly. It's amazing how different my job is today than the day I walked in my first classroom. It's depressing. I, like many others, feel that I cannot 'teach' anymore. I just spit out facts and information; there's no time for the fun activities to reinforce skills or time to put it off if the kids aren't ready. I miss having the freedom to teach the way I want to and the way that works best for me. All I can say is that I start each day with a prayer asking that I make SOME positive difference in my kids lives and that God will help me still be an effective teacher. I used to love this job! Now, all I can say is 10 down - 20 more to go. Pray for change.
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Old 01-09-2010, 08:09 PM
 
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This is just the most popular thread! I wish some of our local, state, and national representatives would read all of these postings and then come spend a day at school with any one of us! The fact of the matter is that testing is here to stay until someone with political power says enough is enough. Sad, but I think it is true. State leaders love to say they support teachers and education, but then they vote for more unfunded mandates, cut existing funds, and perpetuate unfair school financing based on the wealth of a certain area. If you want to determine your legislators' priorities, follow the money! It is not typically education at the top of their list. If anyone has an interest in being proactive about changing NCLB or sending the message that education is not a series of multiple choice test responses, contact your representatives, join your local education political action committee, or join forces with NEA or another professional association. We have more power when we all join together to speak out.
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