Today, I believe, is National Teacher Appreciation Day. In honor of which, we received free sandwiches for lunch, and tiny flashlights to hang on our keychains. Oh, I feel the deep appreciation as it cascades over me. On this day of days, I would like to commemorate the occasion by saying, "#@!% you, George Bush, and your stupid #@!%ing No Child Left Behind Act!" ::extends the International Symbol of Goodwill::
Of all the things which could possibly prove not beneficial, but detrimental, to our nation's public schools, this is one of the biggest (right up there with vouchers, but don't get me started). Since when has it ever been a good idea to skip important concepts like, oh, critical thinking, in order to Teach To The Test? Since when is it a universally accepted truth that standardized testing is an accurate means of assessing a child's intelligence? Since when does it make sense to reward people who do well on these standardized tests (usually white upper-middle-class suburbanites in wealthy school districts) with *more* money, and punish those who do poorly on these standardized tests (usually very urban or rural students in poorly funded school districts) by TAKING AWAY their money? Since money is obviously a main indicator of how a particular district will perform, wouldn't it make even an iota of sense to give more money to those who need it most?!
I have some issues with standardized testing. I've seen the tests. I've administered the tests. These tests, on the whole, are not adequate to accurately measure a student's ability. And there's no hope of measuring progress, since a different group of students takes the tests each year. The only thing these tests are capable of measuring is the extent to which one year's class is better at taking tests than the previous year's class.*
I teach in a severely underfunded school district. I mean, underfunded to the point that I had to beg three different people to have my heat turned on. In November (which is a cold time of year, here). Our school is can't-afford-the-electric-bill poor. And my students know this. And they know that the reason that we have our budget slashed every year is our mediocre performance on these federally-mandated standardized tests. And they feel bad about that. (Oh, good, let's make the kids feel guilty for something that isn't their fault. Way to build the self-esteem and model responsible behavior.)
Late last October/early November, I taught (as part of my state mandated and approved curriculum) a unit on propaganda, bias, and faulty reasoning. (I, conveniently, got to choose the timing. ::grins subversively::) As our assessment, I had the students design political ads using one of the techniques we had covered. I had some really great ones (from those who got it), and some pretty crappy ones (from those who didn't), but my favorite slogan of all came from a team of sophomores. I still have a bumper sticker of it in my room; it says "No Child Left Behind! We'll come get them... later."**
At any rate, I feel as though we're failing our students on so many levels. It's an uphill battle just to make a dent, and so many of them seem to slip through the cracks of the system. So, today, as I sit here feeling underappreciated, underpaid, and unequal to the task of molding these children into adults, I want to send a prayer out into the universe for the health and wellbeing of our public schools. I love my job. I love teaching, and I wouldn't want to do anything else, but it would be nice if I felt as though we were moving in the right direction. But I can't say that I do. And that saddens me.
*These tests are also capable of accurately measuring, to within a hair's breadth, the amount of smoke our government can blow up the ass of the general public. At least they're good for something!
**There was also a really lovely poster that went with this... If only I knew how to scan things and link them... perhaps at a later date. ::crosses fingers::