Monday, August 20, 2007

Haunted by CMT's

A few weeks ago, my principal emailed the results of the CMT scores--that would be our state standardized tests-which are mandatory beginning in 3rd grade thanks to Mr. Bush.

I'm not so sure why he thought it would be a good idea to email these scores in the middle of summer, without any sort of commentary at all. But he did.

They were horrible.

Actually, let me correct that statement: third grade (which is what I teach) was horrible. Fourth and Fifth-not so bad- they even went up in some areas. But third grade....well, we took a serious nose dive. Our reading scores were well below what the district (and the state) wants them to be. Math and writing also for that matter, but they were a bit closer.

Here's the kicker- for me at least- the scores were broken down first by grade, then by gender. So I have no idea how my students did in relation to the other classes.

And I honestly can't decide if that's good or not. As the most veteran grade level teacher on the team (one of my colleagues is two years ahead of me in experience but she was on a different grade level), I am hoping that my scores are reflective of my experience. One colleague already pointed out that our scores could have gone so down so substantially because we had two new teammates. But I'm not so sure that is the full explanation. And if it isn't... what does that say about my teaching?

It is hard not to take this stuff personally. OK, part of that is because it is my personality. I do believe that being reflective on your practice helps you to improve. But these are my kids, and this is my job- to teach.

It would be easy to make excuses--and there are some that are truly valid. But the bottom line is that it is hard, in this day and age of No Child Left Behind, to not feel scrutinized based on the scores of your class. It is hard to not panic when you learn that only 57% of the girls in your grade level were at or above goal in Reading. Even harder when you see a difference from one year to the next of over 15 points. It's hard to think of the hours you poured into developing curriculum, planning lessons, sorting through piles of professional books, talking with reach those students and teach that content. It's hard to not be just a little bit disappointed.

This is where all the politicians with their fancy speeches and empty promises becomes real. Any politician who tells you that merit based pay for teachers is a good idea, and they'll use standardized test scores to decide that pay--well, just remember that there are those of us who pour our heart and soul into their jobs, and sometimes, the numbers just don't reflect that.


Anonymous said... also taught many of those kids in 4th and 5th grade too and you did it for a whole year, not just part of the year. I hate those darn test b/c they make teachers, parents, AND kids feel inadequate. You're the best teacher and you don't need numbers to tell you that.


Numbers, numbers, numbers. I HATE them. There's a reason why I majored in English. It's easy for me to say because I'm not in your shoes, but FORGET the scores. I'm very emotional like you as well and I would be upset too, but seriously, those test scores do not reflect you as a teacher. If anything, use this experience as a motivator for this coming year. Let your anger and frustration be a catalyst for even more creativity and success! Oh, and seriously, delete that e-mail... it's doing you no good sitting in you inbox. :-)

Tina said...

Merit based pay is a good idea. People who do well should get paid well. The problem lays in trying to determine how to measure success. Clearly, as demonstrated in your case, CMT isn't it. The parents love you, the children love you- that is the true measure of your success.

Anonymous said...

I think you and all dedicated public school teachers are heroes. What you must tolerate - all the regulations, the parents, the paperwork - is astounding. And yet you go on year after year with the same passion for what brought you to the job in the first place: to touch children deeply, to give them a chance at having fulfilling lives.

KTP said...

Your posts put such a human face on the image of "teacher." I remember my third grade teacher (at Washington School!) as an old hag whose life goal was to make me miserable. I bet your students remember you a lot differently.