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Author Topic: Education's Ending
Johivin
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I am an educator. I teach 8th grade mathematics. I have seen many things during my years. I have had students who needed me very little and who understood all that I taught. I have also had students who spent hours each day trying and struggling to grasp the concepts I taught. I have also taught my students not only the concepts of the subject, but also reasoning and how to survive in the world.

That which I say today will most surely be disputed, but I will say it because few have said it anywhere. Those who fought this issue have not succeeded and have fled the fight altogether.

The idea was simple, that all students should be able to pass the standardized tests regardless of any condition, circumstance, or ability. This is the theory behind "No Child Left Behind". A theory that by 2014 will leave more children behind than any parent would want. The premise is that by 2014 that 100% of students will pass the state assessments regardless of any issue.

IF the school district does not meet the requirements, the parents receive additional room to make changes for their students. This can include additional support at the school's expense, allowing the student to switch schools within the district at the school's expense, and after the required number of years allows the parent to withdraw their student from the school and send them to a private school, again at the school's expense.

Few schools are able to muster 100% of students passing the tests and to expect that of all school districts is absurd. 'No Child Left Behind' is an excellent 'theory'... but then again, so is communism. If we allow this to continue, you will see the end of public education. There is no denying that. Sure some schools may be able to remain standing, but not enough to make an impact. So what then is the alternative?

An immediate end of 'No Child Left Behind'. Allow teachers to teach students freely and stop forcing them to teach to the test. Districts now spend so much effort teaching to the test, that the students are losing out on their education. I have students who have been so corrupted because of the district's idea that it is necessary to teach to the test that my 8th grade students haven't mastered basic operations. This needs to end, and it needs to end now. For the good of the students and the good of the future.

Johivin Ryson

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Coccinelle
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quote:
Allow teachers to teach students freely and stop forcing them to teach to the test. Districts now spend so much effort teaching to the test, that the students are losing out on their education.
This week marks the beginning of spring testing season in my state and it saddens me to see the pressure on both teachers and students to perform well on just one test. In fact, the pressure to pass the test is so high that all non-TAKS classes were placed on hold for the past month so that students could learn the test.

Despite this, I know that there are teachers who still teach students and not tests. Unfortunately, it's difficult to find these teachers in a low-performing or alternative school where students would benefit from superior teaching.

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DarkKnight
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quote:
Allow teachers to teach students freely and stop forcing them to teach to the test. Districts now spend so much effort teaching to the test, that the students are losing out on their education. I have students who have been so corrupted because of the district's idea that it is necessary to teach to the test that my 8th grade students haven't mastered basic operations.
I hear that lament all the time, what does teaching to the test mean? Do you have the answers to the test and have the students memorize 1)a 2)c 3)d?
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ctm
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"I have students who have been so corrupted because of the district's idea that it is necessary to teach to the test that my 8th grade students haven't mastered basic operations."

I'm assuming the test are testing basic operations so this seems so odd. Do you feel that the emphasis is too much on getting the right answer for a problem and not enough on the concepts, when and where and why to use a given operation?

Mind you, I'm not disagreeing with your assertion. The school district we used to live in definitely focused on teaching for the test. They did well on the tests, and kids got good grades (in fact, there seemed to be a real Lake Wobegon thing going on, with 30 or 35 students out of 40 being on the honor role. All the children are above average!). But I taught religious ed at our church, and so many of the kids could barely read, and their comprehension was not good either. Writing skills? Not good either.

You aren't the first teacher I've heard say these things. But what can we do? Refuse to let children take the tests? Write to our senators and congresspeople? March in the streets?

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MandyM
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I have to say, as a middle school language arts teacher in Texas, I agree.

The TAKS test is the end-all, be-all in some places and even teachers (like me) who don't want to "teach the test" are forced to by principals whose jobs are on the line based on test scores. I teach in a lower income school that is predominately minority. I will be happy if 70% of my students pass that writing test we took this week.

The majority of my students improved their writing skills significantly this year, but there is only so much I can do in the time I am given. Part of the problem is that since writing is only tested at three grade levels, that is the only time it is taught. The lower grades have been told to focus on reading and math only and their test scores are ok so why should they change their curriculum? Never mind that my 7th graders come in without knowing parts of speech, how to write a complete sentence, much less organize a paper, but I have to get them ready for a test asking them to write a complex narrative essay with few errors and revise passages full of errors they can't recognize.

Then in 10th grade, when they take the writing test again, it is a completely different format. Do I have the time to start preparing them for that type of writing though? Not a chance! I am still trying to catch up what they didn't learn in elementary school so I know the 10th grade teachers are feeling the crunch too. You know the 8th and 9th grade teachers are doing little to reinforce what I have taught and the 10th grade teachers have to basically start from scratch. Tenth graders get three chances to pass that test but if they don't, they don't graduate.

Bush did a disservice to Texas schools when he was governor and he is killing the national education system as president.

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Coccinelle
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If they only had to memorize answers, it would be a breeze!

In Texas, teachers have a list of minimum standards that must be achieved. Excellent teachers use these as the base for what they teach and expand on it. Some teachers teach students the exact skills that they will need to know to pass the test and nothing more. They use practice tests to benchmark the student's progress and once the student passes those benchmarks, they've done their job. Teachers may also focus on test-taking skills.

Let's take English for example. [the following is a hypothetical situation] The graders of the written essay like to see five paragraphs, each with five sentences. Each of the middle paragraphs should begin with a transition. The concluding paragraph should only restate the three points made and then restate the thesis. From fourth grade to high school students in are taught that this is the way to write an essay. Now, you and I both know that an essay can be longer than five paragraphs. Paragraphs can be longer, or shorter than five sentences but since this is the magic formula to pass the test, that is the only way writing is taught. Of course the student has learned to write an essay but if this is all a student learns about writing form, it definitely puts him at a disadvantage.

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MandyM
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DarkKnight, teaching the test involves having the kids do drills of the test that we would not normally do. In my case, the kids write essay after essay that I would not normally have them write. We would focus on more types of writing rather than perfecting a narrative that most kids will not have to do again in real life. The high school essay is even more narrow.

Also in the weeks before the test, I have to give worksheet after worksheet on the revising portion of the test. It is an awkward, unrealistc format and the kids are unprepared for it so we have to practice a lot. That means I can't do more meaningful curriculum with that time.

ctm, the problem is that previous grades have only taught what is on the test and nothing more so there are plenty of skills our kids aren't getting. They are getting skill-and-drill instruction that is not meaningful to them or fulfilling for the teacher, all in the name of passing the test. So while the test does focus on basic skills, some of those skills have never been taught so there is nothing to build on. In math, the whole test is word problems so if the kids have missed out on basic math computation, the word problems are meaningless. In writing, many kids are not taught how to recognize a complete sentence so I have to start a first grade skill in seventh grade.

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DarkKnight
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MandyM, your issues do not sound like they have anything to do with meaningless catchphrase of "teach the test". The problems sounds much more like teachers at lower grades who are unwilling to change their curriculum. That is not a tests' fault, rather it is the Elementary teacher/principal and the Middle school Principal's fault. Seems like there is no communication between the MS and ES on what benefits the students most.
You are spending your time correcting the failures of the teachers below you, which has nothing to do with the test.

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cheiros do ender
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The fact is that most students that take tests forget half the things on the test within a month anyway. Tests are boring and stupid. It's hard enough getting jobs based on school certificates from subjects I found boring already. If future generations are going to be judged solely on test scores, then the worth of formal schooling is dead as we know it.

Of course, that doesn't really bother me. I've known lots of great teachers, but great students are rare. And I judge things by their fruits. The students are the fruit; the tree is rotten.

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Coccinelle
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quote:
You are spending your time correcting the failures of the teachers below you, which has nothing to do with the test.
This has everything to do with the test. If students don't have a proper foundation, they cannot pass the test for their grade-level. MandyM's situation is not unique. I've taught in two school districts in Texas and I've seen the same thing happen.
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DarkKnight
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Coccinelle, Every state has standards that they have to teach to, and the standardized tests are designed to reflect knowledge of those standards.
Your example of the English 5 paragraph 5 lines shows more of a failure on the teachers part, not the test. The test may be set up that way, but that does not mean the teacher has to follow in the same lock step method. In any case, if the state test is truly that rigid, then your job should be much easier, right? Test scores should be much easier to meet because you know exactly how the English paragraph portion will be

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DarkKnight
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The students should absolutely have a proper foundation if all the teachers are teaching the stnadards.
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MandyM
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It is not the fault of the principals and the teachers in the lower grades either. They are covering their own butt since there is pressure at every grade level. They have their own tests to prepare for and I have seen their standards and curriculum and it is packed. There is nothing more they could possibly pack in to their days. If there were no standardized tests and less pressure, they would have the time and the flexibility to teach writing and everything else they have to leave out of their curriculum. There is a push for perfection in a particuluar skill set in order to pass the test but that is not how education is supposed to work. You have to understand, lower grades should lay foundations that higher grades can build on. This test limits the ammount of foundation the lower grades can build but he upper grade tests still require that they know that stuff. There is just no time to teach it.
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MandyM
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But DarkKnight the problem is that the way the test is set up is artificial and it is NOT the way teachers would teach writing if we had the chance. At the same time, I have to get them ready to pass this test or it is my job on the line, so I have to throw some "real" writing instruction out the window to focus on the "test" writing that is meaningless or at best limited.

And teachers would be meeting standards and all kids would have the proper foundation in a perfect world. This isn't it. There are many obstacles that prevent kids from learning and this test is one problem that could be fixed.

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cheiros do ender
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You have to understand that it's not lack of ability that the majority of failing students have problems with; it's lack of interest. That's one of the reasons I opted out. Preperation for tests are the most boring, repetitious, worthless wastes of time I've ever spent.
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DarkKnight
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So if I understand you correctly, they have too much to teach now and there is no time to teach anything else because of the standards. But if we let teachers decide what to teach, when to teach, and how to teach then all students will learn everything they need to for higher grades? Doesn't that mean that the current standards are wrong? The standards for the lower grades are wrong and that is why students can't learn because we are teaching students too much to fast?
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DarkKnight
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So there is no testing unless it is a standardized test? Teachers don't test their students except for standardized test? A test is a way of showing what the students have learned. So if the students are uninterested in the teacher's presentation, that is the fault of the test?
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cheiros do ender
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I was about to answer your 9:46 post, but then you decided to twist my words in the one after, so I won't bother.
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DarkKnight
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Cheiros, slowness in responding can cause these mix ups. I did not respond to your 8:46 (I'm EST here) post. My 8:46 post was in response to ManyM's 8:39 post
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cheiros do ender
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Actually, I was referring to your 8:48 (your time) post. Am I not right in assuming that was aimed at me?

Anyway;

quote:
So if the students are uninterested in the teacher's presentation,...
Teachers don't get complete control over how they present things so I don't see your point.

quote:
... that is the fault of the test?
No, it's the fault of the people that instill the teach the test system. Why would I, or anyone, blame a piece of paper???
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Will B
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I sympathize, Johivin. We have something worse in Virginia: a detailed set of testing standards that requires the whole year be spent teaching to the test. These standards are called Standards of Learning -- SOL's!
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Bob_Scopatz
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I have an answer for you.

Vote the jerks out.

No child left behind was the brainchild of a man who cooked the books in the Houston school system. He became GWB's first education secretary. When the story broke that his "miracle" in Houston was faked, he was supported publicly by the President, and then quietly left his post months later.

But the damage is done. Everyone figured the "quick fix" in Houston was a one-size-fits-all solution that would work nationally. They implemented it without any data to back it up (except, of course the faked data in Houston), and now we're stuck with it.

Let's just vote the irresponsible "quick fix" jerks out of office.

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DarkKnight
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Cheiros, OK, I'm with you now, yes that one was for you. Quotes are something I need to include more [Smile]
quote:
Teachers don't get complete control over how they present things so I don't see your point.
I would think teachers do have complete control on how they present things. They do not have complete control on what they present as that comes from standards
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Coccinelle
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quote:
Let's just vote the irresponsible "quick fix" jerks out of office.
Sounds like a great plan to me!
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cheiros do ender
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No march? [Frown]
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Johivin
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It is great to hear support for this. I have myself contacted the NEA regarding the process that would be necessary to get rid of No Child Left Behind. As well, I have contaced my congressional representatives. As of this point, the NEA has told me that they understand my concern and my representatives have told me that it is 'nice to see people participating in government' (of course they won't say anything else).

The problem is that there needs to be more hasseling of government officials to change it.

I implore anyone willing to contact your representatives and senators in the hope that we can get back to teaching students so they can succeed, not only so the students can pass the standardized tests.

I thank all of you for your time and hope that we can make a difference for the future of the country and public education.

Johivin Ryson

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Dan_raven
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One other fault that insures NCLB is built to fail: My wife works for The Special School District. It is a school full of children with mental and physical problems, some 15 year olds with the learning capacity of 6 year olds, and they are all supposed to take and pass the same exams as normal students. I think it is 90% of all students, despite handicap, must pass these tests or the whole district fails.

The idea behind this is simple. If you give a pass on kids with special needs, than any failing child will be pushed into special needs. Instead we will have a public school system of special needs kids while other parents will take their children, and government money, and put them in private schools once the public schools fail to meet impossible marks for 6 years running.

DK, one clarification. Concille's orignal example had kids not learning to write English in the earlier grades, so she had to spend all of her time teaching them this one thing in order to pass the test. You suggested that the problem was not with NCLB but with the teachers in the earlier grades. The problem you didn't understand is that those teachers in the earlier grades couldn't teach writing, because they had to prepare the kids in those younger grades for their own tests, which didn't include writing.

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DarkKnight
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DR, in your clarification, if younger grades do not teach writing that is because writing is not a standard for their grade level and thus should not be taught at that level. I somehow doubt that writing is left out of those standards
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DarkKnight
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quote:
I implore anyone willing to contact your representatives and senators in the hope that we can get back to teaching students so they can succeed, not only so the students can pass the standardized tests.

What is your proof that students were succeeding and doing so much better before NCLB? If everything was working so well, why did anyone try to improve things?
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MandyM
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Well of course, Bob, but what do we do until the next election? Besides, we can't control who the president appoints to help him.

DarkKnight, I know you are trying to understand our beef here but there is a lot involved that you don't seem to understand. You are right though that in some ways, the standards are too high. We are pushing more instruction on our kids at an earlier age before they are developmentally ready for it. What we learned in the first grade is now being taught in kindergarten. Six year olds entering first grade without knowing how to read are behind in class, even though developementally many are simply too young to decipher text. Some abstract math concepts are too difficult for students in 8th and 9th grades which accounts for some of the algebra failure rates.

Add to that problem, the fact that parents are not reading at home and do not value education; students come from less than ideal homes both emotionally and economically with behavioral problems, learning disabilities and just plain apathy; teachers are exhausted, underpaid and undertrained and the state requires us to pour as much of the test material in their heads as possible and you have a mess.

Of course teachers test their students, but every teacher has a different test so how do we know they are all at the same level? The TAKS test knows but it is biased and too heavily emphasized. If teachers just relaxed and taught the curriculum the way we should, and the test actually reflected learning, more kids would probably pass the test. But the pressure starts in kindergarten with benchmarks and if they don't pass those (even if the tests are too demanding) then teachers are pressured to work them harder. The kids are beaten down when they don't do well, since they are not successful on something they (and we as teachers) see no value in. There needs to be more focus on real world application rather than, "you need this for the test." Teachers jump through hoops to make the most boring curriculum interesting. We can't have a dog and pony show all the time. It is not the fault of the teacher that a kid does poorly on a test, either given by the teacher or by the state. I can put a pencil in a kid's hand and hover ove him but I can't MAKE him do the work.

Amen Dan! That is already happening with speacial needs kids. Kids who fail benchmarks are funneled into special ed unless they have a Spanish sirname and then they are sent to ESL, even if Spanish isn't spoken in the home! Then when they get to middle school, they are behind and have run out of exemptions so they have to take a test they are unprepared for.

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DarkKnight
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MandyM, I think you are getting very close to understanding my point as well. The problem here is still not NCLB. NCLB is only shining a bright light on the existing problems. NCLB did make any new standards that schools had to meet. NCLB says that schools have to meet the standards that states set for themselves. The states came up with their own standards and they are now complaining that they are not meeting the standards that they set for themselves. The real issue now is that in the past the states could set challenging standards and then not care if they met them at all. There was no accountability. NCLB came along and said states will meet the standards that they have already said that they are going to meet. That is the biggest difference. States are being held accountable to things that they have said thta they are accountable for. Changing the President will not change your standards. Working to change your standards will, obviously, change your standards.
If the standards are too high and that is truly the problem, why are worried about who is elected President? The President does not make your standards.

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Johivin
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You questioning is illogical DarkKnight. Whether or not the schools have improved is not related to the final step. That being 100% of students passing the standarized tests. As well, catering to tests is foolish as it doesn't do anything but temporarily give students knowledge that they afterwards forget. There is no attempt to help them maintain it when one is teaching to the test.

If you'd like to know MY reasoning for NCLB, it is simply a ploy by those with money to be able to take the money they pay which in many states amounts to roughly 70% of their tax and be able to apply it to private school uses and afterward, to keep for themselves. The problem is, without that money, the public schools will close faster. It is simply a way to show that the schools are incapable of providing adequete education and push for private schools which not all can afford. As well, private schools are exempt from public regulations for the most part.

Johivin Ryson

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Shanna
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quote:
From fourth grade to high school students in are taught that this is the way to write an essay. Now, you and I both know that an essay can be longer than five paragraphs. Paragraphs can be longer, or shorter than five sentences but since this is the magic formula to pass the test, that is the only way writing is taught. Of course the student has learned to write an essay but if this is all a student learns about writing form, it definitely puts him at a disadvantage.
YES! This is exactly how I was taught to write growing up, even being in advanced/gifted English classes. We spent an absurb amount of time learning to write under timed conditions which meant learning to write very concisely. This was all practice for learning to write and read short written works.

Now I'm in college and I'm struggling when asked to write a paper which is longer than five pages. I can't do it. I'm so used to writing out my viewpoint in the fewest words that I have difficulty using long sentence structure or filling pages. A professor told me that in their day, they were taught how to write long papers from the beginning and then taught how to streamline into shorter ones. So the basis was long, full, detailed examples. They didn't have the current written disease where students have learned to add fluff to meet page requirements.

It makes me ill to think all the other classics I could have been taught in high school without those months of test preparations and test-taking strategy.

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MandyM
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Shanna, that is exactly my point. We should be teaching how to write short narrative fiction but also a variety of other types of writing. All that goes by the wayside when we have to master one strategy to pass the test. I would love to have my kids writing research papers and literary analysis and cover letters and letters to the editor; things they might actually need in their real lives later on. I do touch on those things but there is much more emphasis on what is covered on the test.

DarkKnight, you are right that NCLB didn't cause the problem. The problem exsisted before but it is worse now and before, it was just a state problem and now it is becoming a national problem. Since the president is gung-ho for NCLB we absolutely need to start at the top. Get rid of a NCLB president and we can work to change things on a state level. If we have a NCLB supporter as president, what can we do?

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TheGrimace
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The issue as I see it (addmitedly from a non-teaching perspective) is not so much that the standards are incorrect, as the standardized tests are necessarily limited, and due to the extreme focus being put on them it is limiting the curiculums as well.

Using the Essay mentioned as an example:
Say that the only writing section on the test is to write a 5 paragraph essay in a strictly regulated manner. Now it is useful to be able to write such an essay (though Ideally we teach how to write a good essay, and mention that the 5 paragraph, 5 sentance structure is generally what is best recieved on the test format but not the only way to write).

However, with external pressure to be able to pass the tests, teachers will be pushed to concentrate much more time and effort into this essay writing format, which will mean that they don't have the time to teach writing short fiction, poetry, different types of essays/research documents...

the teaching ideal as I see it, should be to create well-rounded individuals to excel where they can and be passable elsewhere, but the extreme focus on just what the tests are requiring distracts, and pulls away from the rest of what needs to be taught as well.

I find it easier to draw comparisons with the higher-level examinations than with lower-level, but the comparisons should still be valid in general:

1) I took an AP English exam in highschool for which I had not taken a class or done any specific preparation for said exam. I did fairly well on the exam, as did everyone who chose to take it in my class even though none of us had taken the course which effectively taught to that exam. The key here is that our eductaion and background in English was broad enough that we could make do with whatever was thrown at us, even if we hadn't read the specific text being discussed, or approached a topic in just such an angle... None of us got 5s (100%), but we did get 4s.

similarly I took a calculus class in highschool which was not taught to the AP test standards, and we were highly discouraged from taking any of the AP calculus exams. Indeed, those who did attempt the exams did not fare well. However, the knowledge I had from this class enabled me to breeze through 2 semesters of college engineering calculus almost entirely on review.

These are just a couple examples of how NOT teaching to the test can be as/more effective than solely concentrating on the topics/forms covered in these standardized tests.

Back to the specific examples of grade-high-school standardized tests. it was mentioned above that writing portions are only included periodically on the exams (I would imagine largely as written sections are much much more time and effort-intensive to create and grade than the scantron-type portions). This would seem to say that the students should only be working on their writing skills (for example) every 3 years, and not in-between. Frankly, this kind of statement is absurd, as we need to be teaching each subject constantly in order to improve gradually to wherever the next standard states we should be. The pressure, however, is so great to pass each level of testing that it seems the writing curriculum in the intermediate years is being subverted in favor of more immediate concerns.

what all this says to me is that it's not necessarily the system (though I'm not a fan of the system either) but the administration's reaction to the system that is causing the problems. It seems that principles, superintendants etc. are more willing in this program to give in to the immediate needs while sacrificing the long-term good of the curriculum because of this strong external pressure to pass everyone. There needs to be a balance of a curriculum that teaches the students well enough to pass the exams, while allowing for flexibility in teaching style, and what is being taught.

I could easily pass all these standardized tests, but if that was all I was taught I would probably still be considered an idiot in real life. We can't just pidgeon-hole the entire education system down into the topics that can be easily standardized.

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DarkKnight
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MandyM, the states (plural) have all had this problem and it was getting much worse before NCLB. Our education system was a national problem long before NCLB, but no one talked about it because there was no accountability for education. I may be misinterperting your response, but this problem did not start in Texas and then spread to the rest of the nation. The President is gung-ho to hold states accountable for what they have said for years and years and years that they were doing, but in reality were completely not doing. You are blaming the President for showing us where the problems are, instead of looking to solve the problems.
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MidnightBlue
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quote:
YES! This is exactly how I was taught to write growing up, even being in advanced/gifted English classes. We spent an absurb amount of time learning to write under timed conditions which meant learning to write very concisely. This was all practice for learning to write and read short written works.
I got docked points on an essay in eigth grade because I transitioned in more than one word. Instead of using Next, Then, Second, Also, I made a more elegant transition. I don't think it was the teacher's fault; the rubricks the Language Arts teachers used came from CAPT (Connecticut's standardized test).
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Xaposert
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quote:
The President is gung-ho to hold states accountable for what they have said for years and years and years that they were doing, but in reality were completely not doing.
Shouldn't it be the people holding the states accountable, and not the President? After all, the state governments are elected by the people of those states, not appointed by the President.

Clearly, there was a problem long before NCLB, and we were well aware of that problem long before NCLB. The question is, is NCLB helping or worsening that problem? My guess is worsening.

Tests improve accountability, but accountability is not the problem of education. Accountability helps you weed out the bad and keep the good. Trouble is, there isn't a long line of good waiting to step in to replace whatever bad we eliminate.

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DarkKnight
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quote:
Shouldn't it be the people holding the states accountable, and not the President? After all, the state governments are elected by the people of those states, not appointed by the President.
If this was a single state or a minority of states problem, then I would more inclined to agree with you. This is an issue that is facing the majority of states, which makes it a federal concern as well. Remember that the people did elect the President too. The President is not over ruling the states with NCLB, he is holding them accountable to what they have already said they would do.
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DarkKnight
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Here are two links
This is the official government one
Official report from NCLB

and one from the NEA
NEA findings

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FlyingCow
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DarkKnight, NCLB has not shown a light on an existing problem, but instead exacerbated that problem to a dangerous extent.

Our schools were struggling before NCLB, to be sure. The quality of education in some states (Mississippi, for example) was exceedingly poor, while the quality in other states (New Jersey, for example) was far better.

With the introduction of NCLB, a system of testing (that already existed) was mandated nationwide. The idea of "accountability" is a farce. While its intention is to make all districts live up to a standard, its practice is to set an unreasonable expectation and then punish everyone. It would be like a teacher saying "Class, everyone must get an A on the next test, or I will take away recess."

The increased import of these standardized tests has caused teachers around the country to change their style of teaching. No longer can you teach standards (as much as the test may be based on standards). Instead, you have to, as has been said, "teach to the test."

Now, this doesn't mean teach exactly what is on the test, because, due to test security, there is no way to know that.

What it does mean is that you have to teach students *how* to take *this particular* test - not teach them how to understand and apply concepts. I could spend a period out in the playground teaching students to measure the yard and playground areas, and then calculate how much sod or woodchips they would need to cover it - concluding with their figuring out costs of materials and comparing purchasing options. But, of course, that would be useless to them on the test if they were unfamiliar with the way the question was being asked, and it became an abstraction to them intsead of a problem to be solved.

Students must learn to read test questions and break down their specific language. They must learn how to skip difficult questions for later, and to manage their time. They must learn how the test is scored, and how to maximize their performance. They must learn how to construct an open ended response along the guidelines of a specific grading rubric.

None of these are helping a student understand a mathematical concept, but all take time.

To this end, my school district, which five years ago was a Blue Ribbon School and a Governor's School of Excellence in NJ, is now in the first stages of warning because of NCLB. Award-winning teachers have retired rather than be forced to teach in line with some standardized test format.

....

There is more to come, but I'm meeting Tante for coffee in twenty minutes and don't want to be late. I'll add more this evening.

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MandyM
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FlyingCow, you've nailed it. The test does not test what a student knows and can apply. It tests them on how well they can take a test. Students with poor test taking skills do poorly on the test so we have to improve their test taking skills rather than teach them high-level, real-world curriculum.

DarkKnight I think you are still missing my point. I never said this originated in Texas or that I am blaming our president. Since our president is from Texas and I teach in Texas, I am familiar with the problem here and from the trenches, I can tell you it is getting worse. I also think that until we have a new non-NCLB president, the problem will only worsen, not improve. Test scores in Texas were actually up several years ago but with the enactment of NCLB and the revamping of the test, scores and morale have plummeted. I am not saying the other test was better; it certainly wasn't. I know this is and has been happening elsewhere and TEACHERS have been talking about it for years. It is just lately that the rest of the nation is aware of it.

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MandyM
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Also DarkKnight, you asked a question about what teaching to the test is. We answered it. Now every comment you have made has told us we are wrong. I donít want to start a war over this but when someone asks my opinion as a professional and then argues about it, I canít help but comment. **Warning! Long rant ahead**

quote:
Seems like there is no communication between the MS and ES on what benefits the students most.
You are spending your time correcting the failures of the teachers below you, which has nothing to do with the test.

Already answered this one but yes, we do communicate. Elementary school teachers and principals have their own pressures on these tests. They are doing the best they can do under the circumstances.
quote:
Your example of the English 5 paragraph 5 lines shows more of a failure on the teachers part, not the test. The test may be set up that way, but that does not mean the teacher has to follow in the same lock step method. In any case, if the state test is truly that rigid, then your job should be much easier, right? Test scores should be much easier to meet because you know exactly how the English paragraph portion will be
Some tests are rigid like this and it is still hard to teach because there is absolutely no value in writing artificial papers of this kind, except to pass the test. It is not easier to know the standard they will score on; it is easier to teach something the students see value in. This, again, is not the teacher's fault. Like I said before, we do everything we can to make this something interesting for the kids.
quote:
The students should absolutely have a proper foundation if all the teachers are teaching the stnadards
Sure! In a perfect world! There are more factors to providing a good education than that. You can have the best teacher in the world teaching all the standards and the kids can still fail the test. Maybe part of the problem is the idea that the test actually shows what the kids have learned. It doesn't!
quote:
But if we let teachers decide what to teach, when to teach, and how to teach then all students will learn everything they need to for higher grades? Doesn't that mean that the current standards are wrong? The standards for the lower grades are wrong and that is why students can't learn because we are teaching students too much to fast?
No, there needs to be standards and there needs to be accountability. The system we have in place now is the wrong one. Some of the current standards are wrong and they are adapted on a state and a district level yearly. But as a whole, I believe there is too much and it starts too early for some and there is no time to slow down and reteach for kids who could get it if they just had more time.
quote:
What is your proof that students were succeeding and doing so much better before NCLB? If everything was working so well, why did anyone try to improve things?
Read Bob's and Dan's and reread what every other teacher has posted. You ask for proof but when teachers tell you they feel more pressure now, you say it's our fault.
quote:
The states came up with their own standards and they are now complaining that they are not meeting the standards that they set for themselves. The real issue now is that in the past the states could set challenging standards and then not care if they met them at all. There was no accountability.
What makes you say that? There were accountability standards galore here in Texas. Schools were threatened with lower funding and even closing if they did not make the grade. Good teachers and administrators lost their jobs based on test scores. How is that not being accountable? And then you ask why there is pressure? If your job were on the line based on a kid's test score, wouldn't you do everything you could to get them to pass, even at the expense of the child's education? Trust me, most teachers are doing the best they can under a flawed system.
quote:
Changing the President will not change your standards. Working to change your standards will, obviously, change your standards.
If the standards are too high and that is truly the problem, why are worried about who is elected President? The President does not make your standards.

The president was governor of my state when these standards were created. He pushed for them and is now pushing everyone to do something similar and hold us accountable using a substandard standardized test.
quote:
Remember that the people did elect the President too. The President is not over ruling the states with NCLB, he is holding them accountable to what they have already said they would do.
The Electoral College elects the president, not the people (but don't get me started on that tangent) and not every state had this cumbersome standardization and testing. He thinks that since it worked for Texas (wrong!) it should work for the nation.

I wonder what answer you are looking for. No matter what we say about how bad it is, you want to shift the blame on the schools and teachers. There is no one person to blame. It is a crappy system and education in this country needs a serious overhaul. NCLB is an attempt at that and it will crash and burn. That IS the presidentís job.

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Mirrored Shades
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Another problem with the idea of 'teaching to the test' is that for the children who already understood the basic concepts, instead of learning more, they are being forced to repeat drills of things that are, at times, *beneath* their level.

I wrote so many five paragraph essays in my two years of high school that I could write one in my sleep, but was learning literally no other way of writing. I was lucky in my science teacher, who taught the way he had always taught, with brief breaks before the standardized tests to pass out worksheets and drill us for a few weeks. But English, History, and Math taught me nothing I can remember except the tedious five paragraphs, five sentences, make sure your final paragraph repeats everything said above. I dropped out rather than repeat everything for a third year, and have learned more useful things in the years since than I would have imagined existed.

Teaching to the test caters to the lazy and unintelligent, without teaching any student any skill likely to be useful beyond that standardized test. I'm not saying that our school systems didn't already have some major problems, but NCLB seems to me like a nice way of gaining pleasing statistics without fixing the actual problems at all.

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Artemisia Tridentata
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quote:
NCLB, it is simply a ploy by those with money to be able to take the money they pay which in many states amounts to roughly 70% of their tax and be able to apply it to private school uses and afterward, to keep for themselves.
This is the real missing emperor's trousers. I'm not even sure that Bush fully understands this. But, I am sure that his friends do. By forcing the public educational funds into "alternative" schooling systems, we are setting ourselves up for failure. Go back and look at what the Southern States did to themselves with the "Freedom Academies" in the 60's. There will not be funding enough to adequatly support both the "academies" and the public schools. Both will (and are) failing. Mr. Bush's friends will leave our workforce unable to compete with the world.
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pH
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quote:
Originally posted by DarkKnight:
So if I understand you correctly, they have too much to teach now and there is no time to teach anything else because of the standards. But if we let teachers decide what to teach, when to teach, and how to teach then all students will learn everything they need to for higher grades? Doesn't that mean that the current standards are wrong? The standards for the lower grades are wrong and that is why students can't learn because we are teaching students too much to fast?

Here's the thing about "teaching to the test." Keep in mind that the test is not something that the teachers have a say in, and often, these tests ask questions in a way that confuses students because, quite honestly, they are largely useless when it comes to assessing actual performance or potential.

When a teacher "teaches to the test," it's like...imagine if your entire high school career was focused on the SAT. Your English classes only concerned themselves with your ability to choose, based on four given options, where a comma should be placed or what the main argument of a very short passage was. Your math classes stopped after basic algebra and geometry and forced you to drill basic question after basic question, giving you little or no background as to what you were learning. Science wouldn't be given much thought because the SAT has no science portion, as I recall. Essentially, "teaching to the test" reduces the ability of teachers to show students how to solve problems on their own or anticipate changes or be creative. It narrows the curriculum immensely. It impedes the process of teaching children critical thinking beyond, "When the author says in line 26, 'The thought made me red in the face,' she is referring to feelings of a) joy, b) jealousy, c) sadness, or d) embarassment.'"

Teaching to the test is a horrible thing, and it keeps students from learning a lot of things.

-pH

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Glenn Arnold
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Ok, here's where I chime in with the Sandia Report again.

First: It's politically advantageous for schools to be failing, because politicians can get votes by promising to "fix the system." It doesn't do politicians any good to admit that the system doesn't need fixing.

For that matter, school administrators walk a fine line between claiming their school is doint a good job, and losing funding. After all, if you're doing ok to start with, why do you need more money?

The Reagan administration used a report called "A Nation at Risk" to suggest to the public that American schools were failing in comparison to other developed countries. The report was largely anecdotal, and non-comprehensive.

George H.W. Bush (The education president) commissioned Sandia National Labs to compile a comprehensive and reasonably scientific report detailing the current state of american education. The expectation was that it would reinforce "A Nation at Risk," and provide specific areas that Bush could address to improve education.

However, the Sandia Report showed that the state of education in america is far from failure. The Bush administration didn't allow the report to be released to the public. Under Clinton, a watered down report was finally released.

Basically what the report says is that the perception of the state of education in America is highly distorted. We constantly hear statistics such as: "out of the 16 most industrialized countries, America's education system ranks 14th" (or whatever).

Perhaps, but does this mean we are failing? Not at all. Say the top ranked country gets a "grade" of 98% for educating their children. Well the United states would get a grade of 92%. That's not a failure.

Also, "no child left behind" is a particularly American viewpoint. Other countries make little or no effort to educate their entire population. Both Japan and Germany, for example, weed out the poor students and send them to vocational school at middle school age. We attempt to avoid this "tracking" and instead force weaker students to follow an academic track, rather than giving them life skills and vocational training.

So when the grades are tabulated, the U.S. gets lower marks because we average in the grades of students who are being force fed inappropriate material.

According to Sandia, it simply isn't reasonable to compare different countries success at education, because you're not comparing apples to apples.

Also, we keep hearing that education is being "dumbed down," excpet that now students are expected to come into 1st grade knowing how to read. We expect children to learn more and more complex and abstract subjects at an earlier age, and we keep adding new material to the curriculum. Compare the amount of material in a physics or chemistry course from 30 years ago and you'll find that nowadays students are expected to learn everything they did then, plus quantum mechanics, etc. How is this "Dumbing down education?" Well, since there is more material to cover, you don't cover it as deeply, and you don't expect the retention rate to be as high.

Now as for "teaching to the test."

I teach mathematics, and I see the curriculum as a wish list. Some government administrator decides that all students should know what "order of magnitude" means, and you've got to spend a day explaining it. Now there's nothing wrong with teaching about order of magnitude, but how many pet subjects can you fit into 180 days of schooling? Instead of contnuing to work on integers until the class gets it. The teacher "covers it," and then moves on to tessellations. Why? Because Tessellations are in the curriculum, and they've got to cover the curriculum. You wind up with a curriculum that's wide and shallow.

Now, if I had my druthers, I'd take artistic students who aren't good at math, and create a course that has geometry: tessellations, perspective, the cartesian plane (related to bitmaps for computer generated artwork), symmetry, and so forth. Teach ratios by mixing pigments in paint, and proportions such as length of arms and legs compared to torso, etc.

I'd take kids that like cars and stuff, and teach them math in a machine/auto shop. Measurement, precision (significant digits), XYZ coordinates on a milling machine. How to use a sine bar, threading (which is a tangent function), calculating cylinder displacement and compression ratios, gear ratios, valve and ignition timing, and so forth.

As long as it relates to the kids' interest, you just keep teaching. They'll use formulas that relate to their own interests, and maybe they don't get into the abstract stuff, but they get some serious thinking and problem solving skills.

Students who show a natural aptitude for math would get: MATH CLASS, where you teach them as much as they can absorb, abstract or concrete.

Edit: [/rant]

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FlyingCow
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I have lots more to say, but I wanted to add a small point about NCLB and mathematics before I head out (once again).

Calculators.

Calculators are now required for all standardized tests - not allowed, required.

That means that a school must provide every student with a calculator if they do not have one, starting in grade 4.

Because students use calculators on the exams, naturally, those students who have more experience using calculators will have better scores. This leads to teachers being forced to use calculators from a very early age, and frequently throughout the years of schooling - so that students will be more comfortable with the machines, and score higher.

Of course, this leads to students having far lower ability when it comes to basic computation - as they have not ever been required to learn/memorize things like their times tables, because they always had access to a calculator to do their math for them.

Now you have waves of incoming students who have serious trouble with basic arithmetic, and you have to teach them algebraic and proportional reasoning.

Using a wheelchair every day causes your leg muscles to atrophy. Using a calculator every day causes your mental math abilities to atrophy. However, *not* using calculators puts students at a disadvantage on standardized tests. Lower standardized test scores mean less funding and more sanctions for schools.

Result? Students are taught to use their calculators and not their brains - they do well on their standardized tests, and then can't do simple arithmetic on their own.

This is just one of many examples why a standardized test based model for education is flawed.

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Tante Shvester
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quote:
Originally posted by FlyingCow:
I'm meeting Tante for coffee in twenty minutes and don't want to be late.

Newcastle is a kind of coffee?
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FlyingCow
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Yeah, well, by coffee, I meant... um... beer?
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