Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another slow day and some teacher evaluation thoughts

So my little star does have a communicable virus.  It doesn't have a name but causes cold symptoms and this itchy rash.  Silly me.  I though he'd irritated his skin and had an allergic reaction.  I probably exposed his whole class to it.  The mystery of course is where he got it from.  I didn't take him to any moms2moms stuff last week because of his cold/runny nose, so the only kids he's seen have been at preschool- and none of them have the rash (that I know of).  He hardly saw any kids at the events on saturday- and only four of them were not  in his class anyway.

The doctor said adults don't seem to get the thing.  Anyway, it looks like we are home for a while, since I can't send him to school.  Its still rainy- though not as cold.  He's kind of subdued this morning.  I suppose its the benedril I gave him (doctor said too).  He's not been to itchy since I put on the prescription hydrocortisone creme.

I've been reading the NYT and not getting much done.  I think it's laziness and lack of motivation.  I don't know where that comes from.  All last week I felt overwhelmed with too much to do.  I think its the weather.  I can't mow the lawn or do much work in the garden.  That kind of cuts down on the stuff I need to get done.

Though there are these experiments to work on... It occurred to me that i don't have a written contract yet.  I wrote to my contact about that.  I'm not turning anything in without it. I've done the first one, and I know what I'm going to work on for the second one, but the other four... its kind of dilemma in a sense.  Firstly, a high proportion of things I've seen are not actually experiments but demonstrations.  Secondly, well, nothing's particularly original.  Either its everywhere, or... well its nowhere, or in one place.  If its in one place, well, I can't very well steal it.  If its everywhere, well how interesting is that? Then again, why reinvent the wheel?  There's good stuff out there- and probably good ideas have already been done.

As for the science play space... well I was supposed to help with an activity this weekend, but I cant have daycare or take my son to it if he's still rashy.   Chances are he will be.  Luckily the person in charge has been pretty reliable and certainly has the qualifications, so I think she'll pull if off well without me.  Still, I'm concerned because the activity requires a bit of planning and materials.  Also we haven't done this venue before.

I'm on a NYS teachers list still- that's where I started teaching.  They are starting to do teacher evaluation with some  portion based on test scores.  I don't understand how this can work unless every teacher starts out with similar kids- and that is certainly not what happens.  The newest, least qualified teachers usually get the hardest kids.  I see a lot more turnover if they are going to judge teachers this way.  If they think people leave teaching quickly now, just wait!   I also see the incentive for cheating on tests increasing.  Honestly, I'm not sure how much good can come out of this idea.

There are other ways to judge teachers.  I'm not claiming they have always been effective or that there are not bad teachers out there, but I don't see how test scores help.  Of course I am coming from the high school teacher perspective.  By then... well, its really hard to get past deficits that started a lot earlier.  Maybe it makes more sense in earlier grades, but I doubt it.

School, people seem to think, is the big equalizer.  It can be for some kids, but its awfully hard for kids with difficult home lives to compete.  Sure, some kids make it, but a lot of them don't.  I had a few when I taught that seemed to be able to work on grade level and do well, but then something would change in their home lives, and they would suddenly stop doing school work for a time.  Sometimes they recovered and tried again, but they had by then lost time and grades.  Sometimes they never did grade-level work again.

Most of my ninth grade students in my difficult classes didn't have the skills or motivation from day one. Occasionally they would try and work for a little bit, but they were already so far behind, they soon stopped again.  I'm not claiming I was the best teacher on earth- perhaps another teacher could have done better.  However, even the best teacher is going to have more trouble with troubled kids, and even the best teacher cannot get great test scores when kids start out way below grade level.  It takes time to bring them up.

I also taught a group of mostly learning disabled ninth graders who probably had pretty good home lives.  They came in well below grade level.  Some were motivated, and tried.  But even as they tried, they didn't get results that normal kids would get, and they were already far behind.  Their test scores were not destined to match other kids.  Sure they could work even harder and maybe do better, but there is only so much time in a day, and there are things other than academics to work on in life. In that class there were a few exceptions, a few kids who could handle the work.  One of them did well, the other was not motivated, and in fact got the lowest scores of all because he cheated on the final.

Kids and families are not standardized, so it is very hard to measure a teacher's skill with a standardized test.  Also, it goes without saying that most teachers need experience, generally about five years before they get good at it.  How can any system deal with that learning time?  Of course some teachers will not be very good in their first years.  I think we need a longer apprenticeship to get skilled teachers.

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