Please leave a message at the beep

Today, for the first time, I am participating in the Monday Mission. The mission, which I have obviously chosen to accept, is to create a post in the form of a voice mail message. Other Mission Operatives can be found at the Painted Maypole.

“Hello! You have reached the School District Currently Undergoing a Massive Identity Crisis. Sorry we can’t take your call at the moment, but leave us a detailed message and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Assuming of course you agree with us totally and follow whatever we say blindly because we’re the trained professionals and you aren’t. Thanks, and have a great day!”

Ummm…Hi. This is Melissa, and I have two kids that are in your system. I just have a few questions. I’m not sure a phone message is the best way to do this, but I’ll give it a shot.

Why do you insist that you don’t teach to the test when you so obviously do? I know this because I have children who are taking the TAKS tests starting this week and I am amazed at what has been going on, and not going on, in the classroom. It appears that instead of developing a curriculum that would teach all the necessary concepts across the years, you know, building on knowledge, you’ve decided to cram.

I’m especially concerned with the Writing TAKS. No real writing instruction was given to the students until this year. Before this year, all emphasis was given to reading instruction, and the writing instruction has been dubious at best. Then when it was time to start writing instruction, it was a horse race. Instead of teaching the kids to construct a paragraph or an essay, more time is spent on “hooks” and “leads” and other things that should only be addressed once basic structure is mastered. The kids are then shown papers that received top marks and asked to mimic those. Is that really an effective method of teaching writing?

Since you have been spending all of your time on writing, everything else has fallen off. No science or social studies to speak of since January and the math teachers have cut back on their assignments as well. How is this supposed to be helping the kids? Seeing what the poor fifth graders are doing now with science, I can only assume that next year will be a massive cram year for science. How will this cramming show our kids that science is enjoyable and something worth pursing? Is this methodology good for the long run?

I guess this leads me to my final question: Do you really think that our kids are getting an education that is preparing them for life, or are they just passing tests to make you look good?

I hope I haven’t used up too much recording time. You can reach me at 968-273-5263*.

*Not a real number, but if you are interested in what the numbers say, pick up a phone and figure it out.

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18 responses to “Please leave a message at the beep

  1. That’s NOT good. The whole school system thing boggles my mind and makes me cringe. Our son is to start kindergarten this coming fall. Can’t wait (sarcasm).

    BUT I cracked the code! it spells: you-are-lame

    Well OK, technically I didn’t do it. I had help. What.. 🙂 It’s being resourceful.

    http://www.phonespell.org/

  2. painted maypole

    I’ve linked you up on my site! 🙂 Thanks for playing along!

    This was funny and sad and infuriating all at once (you fun, the situation sad and infuriating) I have HUGE issues with standardized tests to begin with, particularly since I used to tutor for the SAT’s.

  3. painted maypole

    ok, so you had already linked yourself. how did i miss that? so, um… now you’re linked up twice. twice as nice, huh? sigh

  4. It says you-are-lame.

    Teaching to the test definitely has its downfall when a person is asked something not on the preparation. I remember memorizing answers for an oral test once, and I got them down so well that I could answer within the first three words of any question. Then I got asked a question not in the preparation, and I froze. My post about success techniques talks about the dangers of being a well-read student in a class versus being a person who learns to apply the knowledge.

    I especially loved my accounting professor who pointed out “This is the best major, because there is no cramming involved. If you don’t know it the week of the test, you’re already screwed. This stuff is not about memorizing, but about understanding principles and applying them, which can only come with practice.” He was right. A lot of knowledge is much like that, application over memorization.

  5. I much prefer the format of the GMAT-CAT – the test that determines entry to MBA programs. The CAT part means computer assessment test, and the way it works is it reacts to the person taking it. Get one right, the next question is harder. Get it wrong, the next one is easier. They continue to get harder until one is missed, and the idea behind it is to find the level of the student’s ability by zeroing in on it. I really felt this format did a better job of finding each student’s level compared to a standard test. (And no, the fact that I did very well did not persuade me to like it better). It might not be as cost effective in some people’s minds, but what good is a standard test that’s cheap if it doesn’t achieve its purpose?

  6. Angela at mommy bytes

    I love a puzzle, but obviously I’m late to the game (I am lame this time). Yeah, haven’t gotten to this point yet in schools, but I can see it coming. The whole writing thing is crazy because it is so objective. There are obvious pitfalls and wrong usages, so you see the good from the bad, but it is hard to differentiate between the great and greatest.

    BTW, we spent all weekend playing Rayman Rabbids 2, AAGGGHHHHHH!

  7. One school district here in acutally sends notes home with the below-average kids asking parents to keep them at home on test day.

    AND THE PARENTS DO IT.

    So which is worse?

    (The irony, of course, is that this is Alabama where – according to national statistics – ALL students are blow average. Grrr.)

  8. My mind is boggled by city girl’s revelation. Wow. Just …. wow.

    It’s too bad that the tests can’t be better linked to an effective learning curriculum or that schools weren’t so panicked by the outcomes of tests that they taught to them exclusively. Writing is such a tough thing to teach. Oy! Hope your kids survive.

  9. I had a huge crash and burn due to a teacher who taught for the Ontario Provincial Exams rather than make sure her students knew the material.
    With you!

  10. You? Just recapped the conversation I had with my daughter’s teacher last week.

    I want to weep again.

    Awesome post.

  11. City girl’s comments are pretty tragic, but believable. Our school system (thankfully) hasn’t figured that one out yet. They focus instead on how proud they are of being just below the state average in all categories but two or three (of those, one was at average, two were well below, none above). In a state where “average” is good enough for number 45 in the union. Teaching to the test obviously isn’t working. I’m hopeful for what our lieutenant governor is trying to implement with career academies and charter schools. The career academies give students a chance to learn job skills who have no interest in the regular curriculum, and the charter schools allow programs to step outside the standards and try to just teach in better ways.

  12. anglophilefootballfanatic

    #1: They do teach to the test. “They” designed the test. It is in their interest to make sure it succeeds.
    #2: I was a teacher that did NOT teach to the test & got REAMED OUT about it. Suck it, a test is NOT an education.
    #3: Wonder why my son will be in private school from K thru college? This!
    #4: I have a better code for the button that will directly link to the post explaining the swap if you are interested.

  13. I’m having a bit of an issue with my son’s teacher too. And he is only in 4k. Sheesh!

  14. imbeingheldhostage

    The school thing NEVER ends either. Oh, sorry, that was pessimistic.
    I just saw your comment on Ewe’s blog… you can SEE who’s lurking???

  15. Jen of A2eatwrite

    I think we have the same school district, but gee, no we don’t, because I’m in MI and you’re in TX and I guess that would be a heck of a school district.

    It’s all due to the All Children Left Behind nonsense.

    I’ve been teaching writing for 25+ years and I agree – what you’re describing is the WORST way to teach writing and would make most kids hate it permanently.

    Sigh.

    Great post, though.

  16. And the bigger conversation would be…why are we giving tests that clearly don’t measure effective writing? Tests that can be crammed for are…….crap.

  17. Great post, I dig the format too! The question, who do we blame? Was it not the parents/community that pressured elected officials for “accountability?” Was the TAKS system not put in place as a response to public outcry for “accountablity?” Now that teachers are being held accountable to how well their students do on the test, does it not seem to reason that they will do everything they can to make sure they “ace” it, for fear of loosing their jobs. Is not the very system of “accountability” demanded by the public that has chased out the teachers and administrators who favor a well rounded education. People’s actions are a direct result of how they are measured. If ya measured by how many kids graduate, you will focus on that, if ya measured by a test score you will focus on that, accountability accomplishes exactly what it targets. It is a powerful tool, but maybe one “WE” the public didn’t think about before we DEMANDED it. So now, who is really to blame?

    Great post! BTW: Thanks for jumpin’ into the buzz. Somethin’ tells me ya gonna fit right in! Peace!

  18. I could have left this same message…. amen sista! In Florida its the FCAT and the teachers teach to that and then wonder why the students are so lost the rest of the year. Blah!

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