SOUTH BRONX SCHOOL: Teaching to the Test Comes as a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing to PS 154 in the Bronx

Friday, January 3, 2014

Teaching to the Test Comes as a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing to PS 154 in the Bronx

On New Year's Day, 2014 the staff of PS 154 received its weekly commandments, er, proclamations, oops, announcements from DR Alison Coviello; PhD and Principal of PS 154 in the Bronx. Several staff members contacted The Crack Team with a directive from DR Alison Coviello; PhD and
Principal that raised some eyebrows;
 ....reading and math teachers in grades 3 – 5 identified students (making up 15% of the grade) who have the potential to achieve Levels 3 or 4 on the upcoming State assessments. Please keep these goals in mind and make plans to achieve them. You may have to think out of the box in terms of how you help particular students. For example, some teachers noted that particular students have the intellectual capability, but currently lack the stamina. We discussed working with these students on a weekly basis to take longer and longer practice assessments as a means to simply build their stamina. 

Other teachers talked about the necessity to meet with parents or for me to speak with parents so that students will attend before or after school clubs. I have done this with four parents thus far (as specifically requested by the teacher) and have been successful at getting 2 out of 4 of these students to attend the extra clubs. Speak to me if you’d like assistance with this.
The Crack Team went hard to work to analyze this and to create a proper response. Right off the bat we all agreed that the poor students of grades 3, 4, and 5 at PS 154 will not be getting a proper education but rather will be nothing more than test automatons and data points. The stench of teaching to the test permeated the air.

Luckily for us here at SBSB we have a new and first female member of The Crack Team, Gertie Dinowitz. Gertie sat down with us and we all ran the statement through the computers here at SBSB. The results don't lie. 

It seems that picking the kids with "potential" to reach a 3 or 4 is like trying to doctor the scores - at Gertie's school,they have been told in the past, to "focus" on only the "cusp" kids, and to forget about bringing a 1 to a 2 or a 3 to a 4, since there is no credit given for that. At her school a level 1 kid is a "lost cause" and to not "expend too much time on lost causes".

By the same token, don't worry about 3's becoming 4's because there's no added credit for that, but watch the "low 4's" because "points are lost if they slip to a high 3".  

Basically, the focus appears to be and spend your resources spent on the kids that have the potential to make the school's data LOOK BETTER rather than trying to help all the kids do their best. 

Calling test prep a "club" is classic "lipstick on a pig." A "club" is generally a group of students who share a common interest coming together to pursue that interest, and there seem to be a plethora of those at PS 154.

We doubt there is much "interest" in test prep, as in, "I really LOVE test prep! Let me join a club so I can hang out with other kids who LOVE test prep and TAKE MORE PRACTICE TESTS, either through actual test prep or using subterfuge such as having the students write about their experiences.  SO much more fun than a French club, drama club, or gardening club!"

We here at SBSB are concerned what is happening at PS 154 is that such targeting will disseminate even more, by looking at the kids who are "worth" more on the test. Like if the kid is an AA male, who gets free lunch and has an IEP, he is "worth" more than an AA girl who just gets free lunch, so spend more time on the boy. Or, if you have a student who is an ELL with an IEP, she is "worth" more than another who is "just" an ELL. And the kids who are NOT minority, who are native English speakers, without IEPs, who do not get free lunch are "worth" the least of all, or maybe the closest to "worthless." 

To say that the students of PS 154 are not getting an education and are nothing more than numbers is an understatement and abhorrent. Not only is this teaching to the test, but at the very best it is an attempt to game the numbers and at the worse it is akin to cheating.

Something like this would never, ever be allowed to happen in Harrison. But then again Harrison only hires leaders that are truly competent and are not worried about test numbers. 

We here at SBSB call on new chancellor Carmen Farina to empower a blue ribbon panel and investigate for irregularities post haste. The education of the students of PS 154 is at stake.


Chaz said...

The Principal should be exposed as using her resources to make her schoo ook better at the expense of her students.

Making it a test prep factory for selected high achieving students is disgusting and the media should be looking into this outrage further.

Anonymous said...

In my school it is just the opposite! The top classes on the grade receive no help what so ever--- why? Not because the principal thinks the students are the cat's meow, but because it cost too much time and effort to move them up points. He believes it is too difficult to move them any further along. So he focuses on the ELL's and the Low Level 2's to move them up. If you are a 3, the principal believes it is next to impossible to get a 4 on the test the next year so why bother! Heaven forbid you got a 4! You signed your death sentence! The top classes receive no extra teacher support during the day, no invitation to "Afterschool Test Prep Clinic" and "No Saturday Test Prep"! What is really amazing is that the top classes have students that are Level 2's! They are just not low 2. It is just sad. The poor teachers that have the top classes will be graded on how well those children score. Think about it. How would you feel if you were the teacher, parent or student in the top class. Seems like it doesn't pay to try hard and do well. Cause you are on your own. Especially when you make the rest of the school look good. The real kicker was in November we were given a letter from the chancellor saying that we could meet with parents of any child who scored a Level 2 discuss their what we were doing to help their child. Teachers were would be paid per session for each parent they met with. Tell me what could the teacher in the top class say to the parent of the child who had a Level 2 in their class? Guess what they were told not to meet with those parents!