SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: An F Grows in Brooklyn

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An F Grows in Brooklyn

So for anyone who has missed it, PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights has received an F. This school, though it is a shining star with its parents failed the city’s standardized testing and now its principal should be removed according to Chancellor Klein’s edicts about failing schools. But what about the 50 or so other schools that has received an F? Have all those principals been removed? Wait a minute; there seem to be extenuating circumstances, especially at PS 8. Could it be that all standardized tests are subjective? Why does PS 8 get a break, but parents of students who get ones on city and state exams have to go through hoops to prove that the tests are wrong in their child’s case? As they esteemed Chris Baker once proclaimed “the only people that tests are an advantage for are the companies that produce them.”

Many years ago when I was a teacher in a testing grade a girl failed a city wide reading test. I was shocked. I sat many times with this girl listening to her read, kept running records on her and listened to her as she retold story after story, was able to predict and had excellent skills. What did this test prove? Nothing. Except that she was not a good test taker. I got anxious having to take my teaching exams, what do you think happens to 9, 10, 11, etc… year olds when they have to take an exam?

I speak from experience. I was never a good test taker. To sit there and read questions and answer them was not showing what I learned, it showed what I was able to memorize. Judge any child, or myself on the totality of our work. What we contribute to class, what we contribute to the bigger picture of our education. I took my PSAT in 10th grade and got an 800 total. I didn’t care. The whole test was illogical. The kid going to MIT was smarter than me? No. He studied better, he had better habits, but surely he was not smarter than me. Let’s see that kid in Getty Square late at night and see if he doesn’t pee on himself. Maybe he could fend off his tormentors with reciting the periodic table from rote.

Now let’s take our students in special education, the deep abyss where students don’t ever come out of, and where troublemakers, and rabble-rousers are sent. Special Ed is a roach motel for students. “Students check in, but they don’t check out.” These students who are behind are forced to take exams at the grade/age level there are at chronologically. Oh they have extra time, have the test read to them, can write in the booklet, but it doesn’t make any sense at all that a student who is behind has to take an exam that is for a student that is at the proper level. When will this insanity stop? Does it do anything to help a students self esteem? And the grading system is not helping. The difference between a one and a two in which two is considered passing (not in suburbs, more on that in another posting) could be so much as guessing one more answer correctly?

Hey now there are many schools that deserve to get an F. But the larger picture needs to be addressed and actually seen. The schools that fail are not because of the teachers. It is because of a “cover your ass” system. Let’s stay later and have the kids stay until 3 30 or whatever SBO time your school decides. Doesn’t matter that a 7 year old is tired as heck at the end of a long day. I always thought of myself as a facilitator, introduce and watch the students take the ball and do beautiful things with it, like a Gale Sayers. But now teachers are so frazzled and so scared about the wrath and the blame we have stopped being teachers but have become test givers.

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