Saturday, September 27, 2014

Reader: The amount of testing in Joplin R-8 is ridiculous

(In a Turner Report post Friday, I wrote about the poor performance by the Joplin R-8 School District on the MAP tests and the song-and-dance put on by the C. J. Huff Administration to talk around the fact that test scores have dropped every year since Huff arrived. A reader posted the following comment.)

If this incompetent administration dislikes being judged by the statistics and data that make them look bad, how do they think the teachers that they are constantly trampling on enjoy it? The more they chase statistics as a way to control every classroom decision a teacher makes, the more these standardized scores will drop.

The amount of assessments teachers are required to give has reached a point of ridiculousness. This only erodes instructional time and prevents teachers from focusing on simply delivering engaging lessons. With standards based or competency based grading, teachers are required to have multiple assessments of every national standard covered during the entire year for every student. The only way this can possibly be accomplished is if a teacher is giving assessments every single school day. This makes no logical sense whatsoever. 

Why would you spend more time testing and preparing for testing than actually teaching? Do they actually think any student is going to enjoy learning in this way? What motivation will they have? I want to make sure that my car runs smoothly, but I am not going to pull over every 2 miles to check the oil and tire pressure. I would never get anywhere. This is essentially what is happening. They are so obsessed with being able to show a parent that their child was assessed in every single area and can give that parent some sort of "score" in every area, that the kids aren't actually having time to truly learn anything.

As a parent, I want to know if my child is paying attention during class, getting along with other students, doing well on his homework and tests, behaving well for the teacher, and learning important skills like his math facts and spelling. I don't need to know that he was assessed in 42 different areas in Language Arts and he only scored "developing" on some poetry standard because he didn't know how many stanzas were in a particular poem. This doesn't tell me anything. Does he appreciate poetry? Can he write his own thoughtful poetry? These scores that are derived from the assessments are usually based on an extremely small number of questions, so one or two wrong answers can greatly alter that score. I would rather have my child learning in an enjoyable environment that motivates him to grow as a learner, not one in which everything he does is assessed and critiqued, and I want his teachers to focus on teaching, not assessing. It is time to get back to common sense education.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Reader: the amount of negative activity and bitching on this site is extraordinary........

Anonymous said...

8:50, Never mind the valid concerns raised. It is much easier to dismiss it as negativity than to have to think for yourself and be challenged by the points raised. My guess is that you work for admin, are in a role such as a TLC, or are in a position in which none of the bad school policies locally or on a national level effect you or any of your children directly. The attitude that everyone should just shut up and not raise concerns is absurd. I care very strongly about education and I don't want to see it ruined by outsiders with financial gains to be made from standardizing assessment after assessment.

Anonymous said...

I really like the metaphor of stopping to check oil / tire pressure every few miles. I think it's very effective because it acknowledges that those are good things to do, but that the problem is one of excess.

Too often people fall wholly on one side or the other, or try to reduce the opponent's argument to something more simplistic so that they can dismiss their points altogether - like if administration tried to dismiss opponents by saying they were against measurement. No, we are not against measurement, but at present it feels like there is more focus on measurement than on the thing being measured. The effect is that administration worries less about teaching effectively and more about how to massage those numbers, except that the Huff administration somehow thinks if they massage attendance and graduation rates that this will somehow be enough to compensate for poor scores in the core subjects (relative to our surrounding area - if those schools can teach effectively, we should be able to as well).

Huff doesn't have a good practical, working knowledge of education. He taught for a very short time (elementary level) then went over to administration, and has kept his focus on political aspects - schmoozing and public relations. Huff hires so many administrators because in theory he is trying to hire people who can compensate for his core deficiencies in those areas, like curriculum, IT, policy, etc. - basically everything technical and specific that relates to education. He has no deep, specific knowledge about much of anything.

The problem with this hiring practice is that, being a schmoozer with no real technical knowledge means that he can't even effectively evaluate the knowledge of the people he hires, so that they get hired on the basis of the only thing he understands - schmoozing. Image. People who, like him, have more skill in schmoozing than in specific, technical knowledge.

Every once in a great while you meet people who are deeply knowledgable about something and also very socially adept, but more often than not people who are very focused on understanding a subject practically and technically are less concerned with schmoozing. This doesn't mean they aren't nice people or don't have friends, it just means they don't have as much time for the kind of nonsense and time-wasting small-talk that politics involves. Huff has surrounded himself with people of his own ilk, and this is a house of cards.

The result of this, in turn, is a lot of passing-the-buck. There is also a euphemism about how droppings travel downhill. "I hired you to take care of this, now get it done." Then that person "Hey you teachers, you need to do this and this and if you don't like it, scram." No matter how impractical the order might be.

I don't think narcissistic personality disorder still exists as a classification in the same way that it used to, but you may find it interesting to know some of the qualities attributed to this diagnosis which may or may not be relevant to Huff and friends (taken from wikipedia):

"-Expects to be recognized as superior and special, without superior accomplishments

-Expects constant attention, admiration and positive reinforcement from others

-Envies others and believes others envy him/her

-Is preoccupied with thoughts and fantasies of great success, enormous attractiveness, power, intelligence

-Lacks the ability to empathize with the feelings or desires of others

-Is arrogant in attitudes and behavior

-Has expectations of special treatment that are unrealistic

"Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends, has trouble keeping healthy relationships with others, easily hurt or rejected, appears unemotional, and exaggerating special achievements and talents, setting unrealistic goals for himself/herself."

Anonymous said...

Something needs to be done and then maybe people wouldn't have to! This was not done before Huff

Anonymous said...

A great amount of the testing is because of the common core standards. R8 started the testing roller coaster before common core with the idea that the more the kids tested the more they would be used to tests and the better they would do. They were also sold on the idea that some of the tests would predict the students' performance on the state test.
In addition, teachers are not being considered as experts in their field. What they observe and student samples are not considered to be data that can be used for assessment. Now, it's testing all the time and students and teachers are all sick of it.
These are the tests they want to use to decide whether or not a teacher should still have a job.
There is nothing wrong with using an assessment to see where the kids are and then teaching what they don't know but that is not what is happening. And don't believe it when they say that those tests are quick and only take a minute. That's a flat lie.
Sadly, this isn't just in R8, but it's been happening here longer. Most of the tests aren't worth anything to the teachers. State tests don't give teachers any kind of feedback and are just for the state. The district has tests for practicing the tests and benchmark tests so they can tell the teachers what an awful job they're doing because the students don't score as high as they want. None of this helps the teacher with teaching.
So, let's look at this. We have the same amount of time in the day (and I DO NOT think the day should be longer) with more requirements to be taught and more tests to be given. We have all day kindergarten for five-year-olds that are supposed to take tests and sit still for extended amounts of time instead of playing and no rest time (keep in mind that children in Missouri are not required to be in school until they are 7). The older children don't fair much better. Children are being asked to do things at earlier and earlier ages without the time for them to develop properly. This is a sad state for all children but especially for those who come to school having never seen a book, held a crayon or pencil or carried on a complete conversation.
The over abundance of testing is not the only problem, but it's one that certainly needs to be stopped now.

Anonymous said...

8:32: the more telling statement about you is that you is that if you disagree then you must be a part of the Joplin administration of which I am not. That Is a very narrow minded way of thinking and doesn't allow for the opportunity of debate or thoughtful consideration of others ideas.

Anonymous said...

6:36, it is hard to disagree with someone that doesn't offer any opinion regarding the topic of discussion. Read your original post from 8:50 (the first 8:50,not the extremely well written and truthful 8:50 that follows) and then read what you just wrote. If you have the opinion that more and more testing is the best way for kids to learn, then I would love for you to explain. You simply posted a hateful comment and then got irritated when someone replied. Your comment was typical of internet trolls. Post something inflammatory and hope to get responses.