Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Changed?

I taught two Regents prep classes in the fall, one this spring.

In the fall, 56 out of 58 of my students passed the exam with a 65 or higher.

Of the two who failed the exam, one only showed up on Day One of the test (the ELA Regents exam has been a two day test, though that will change starting in fall 2010) and thus did not pass the test. She has since dropped out of school and is currently going to a GED program. The other failed the exam straight up with a 56, was in my Regents prep class this spring but moved to West Virginia two months ago before the spring Regents exam was given.

This spring I had 28 students take the exam. 13 passed with a 65 or higher. Of the other 15, 8 failed the test straight up and 7 did not show.

So what happened between the fall and the spring?

Did I go from genius Regents prep teacher to the poster child for the Obama/Duncan/Bloomberg/Klein/Hedge fundie FIRE BAD TEACHERS movement?

Not at all.

Last fall I had two general classes. There were a few special education students mixed in, but those students were not slated to take the exam until the spring, so they did not enter into my stats. My primary objective for the fall was to get as many of my students prepped for the exam with lots and lots of multiple choice and essay writing practice and then actually get them there BOTH days, ready to perform.

For the spring, I taught 12 general education students who had failed the fall exam (two of them were my students, the rest from other teachers) and all of the special education students who did not take the exam in the fall.

My primary objective for the spring was to motivate students who had already failed the exam and didn't think they would ever pass it that they could indeed pass the test. Sure, I had some prep to do - going over the four essay sections, practicing multiple choice strategies and questions with them ad nauseum, teaching them the little tricks of the Regents trade that help most for passing the exam - but I spent most of my efforts calling parents, calling students, exhorting students, and meeting one-on-one or in small groups to give them the gentle but firm attention they needed to know that they should show up for the exam because I thought they could pass it.

It turned out all of the general ed students could indeed pass the exam.

But it turned out the almost all of the special education students couldn't.

One boy got 14 out of 16 multiple choice questions right the first day, had a terrific shot to pass the exam on Day Two, then decided not to write the final essay. He failed, of course, but to be frank, he has a very limited attention span, so getting him to write 3 out of 4 essays and do as well as he did was a major accomplishment. Nonetheless, it hurt to see him go down on Day Two. One other special education student had a very good Day One, then bombed on both essays on Day Two and failed with a 56. A few of them wrote one or two really good essays, but bombed on the rest. One boy wrote four decent essays but got all 10 multiple choice questions on Day Two wrong and 50% wrong on Day One.

By the time we finished grading, I felt mixed about the results. Certainly getting every general education student to pass (the two who didn't are gone from the school roster) was a major accomplishment. Getting three special education students through was also a major accomplishment. But losing the two boys who came so close to passing left me feeling sad. Still, what could I do? There is a reason they have been designated special education, regardless of whether the architects of NCLB (and soon NCLB Jr.) think they are capable of going to Harvard and passing all their standardized tests.

Of course if the NY Post were publishing my stats, they would describe me as an "excellent" teacher in the fall, an "ineffective" one in the spring because how could anyone have fewer than 50% of their students pass the exam and be declared anything but "ineffective" and a "failure"?

Obama, who applauded the firing of all those Central Falls, Rhode Island teachers back in March for low test scores, would declare me the same thing.

So would Duncan, Bloomberg, Klein, Rhee, For-Profit Geoffrey Canada and all the other NO EXCUSES education deformers.

But if you have taught both general education and special education classes, if you have worked with students in a remedial class, you know that I did an extraordinary job in the spring just getting so many of these students to stay for the test prep and then take the damned tests. And then when all of the general ed students who had previously failed passed the exam, well, that was a terrific job too.

I fear when the UFT/DOE test evaluation crap starts, the above stats will have me on the "ineffective" list and slated for firing. I mean, my stats went from 97% passing the fall to 46% passing in the spring.

Clearly I worked hard in the fall, got outstanding results on the January exam, then coasted all spring and read the newspaper from February on.

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