Thursday, March 18, 2010

More mismanagement

When people say, "Oh, the schools are so underfunded, it must me so hard," I want to rip all of my hair out and explain that what makes it "hard" has very little to do with lack of funding, but more with lack of vision or competency on the part of administration. Case in point: On Tuesday we had a half day for the students because REGULAR CLASSROOM TEACHERS had parent teacher conferences all afternoon (emphasis intended). Now cluster teachers, I love you, but you have to admit that parent teacher conferences are not all that strenuous for you. That said, my administration decided that there would be no prep coverages for the half day. This means that teachers got no break whatsoever from 8:30-12:10 AND had to take the class to lunch and perform lunch duty before dismissal....literally no break, not even five minutes.

When I saw that preps were cancelled I wasn't that put out because I didn't even have a morning prep anyway, so I wasn't expecting anything. I figured the cluster teachers were probably having professional development or something and actually had a moment where I thought my administration did something smart, like schedule professional development at an appropriate time that wouldn't disrupt everyone. This was until my AIS person came at 9:30 (Don't get excited, it's the first time I've had an AIS person in all my five years, and I've only had her for a few weeks). She is a cluster teacher and she did her normal AIS routine with me. When it was time for her to leave, she asked if she should stay. "Don't you have PD?" I asked. "No," she replied. "I have nothing to do all morning." That's right, our cluster teachers got the morning off the day of parent teacher conferences when regular classroom teachers are the busiest. They didn't even have to cover lunch duty. How convenient for them. Needless to say I stared some of them down as I was bringing my student up from lunch and encountered them entering the building with fresh cups of coffee and food from the local deli. My AIS teacher ended up staying with me for 20 extra minutes and gave me some much needed time to get my assessment binder organized and the summary sheet completed before my conferences, but she didn't have to and none of the other cluster teachers did the same.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Story Of Assessment

This week has been... well... not great. As I mentioned earlier, my school is on a big "inquiry" kick and the data specialist and the AP have been sparring about binders and table of contents, and all kinds of stuff that has nothing to do with instruction. Now, they have decided that they want us to turn in a summary of our inquiry students' needs and the action that we have taken in our instruction to meet those needs AND the findings. Keep in mind, we have had NO CONVERSATION about what we are even inquiring about. They also want all of our conferring notes for reading so we can "standardize" our notes. did they forget that report cards are due on Monday and that we have been busting our butts to get all of the children assessed for reading? YEP, they did! They FORGOT about report cards. They must have also forgotten that in order to assess all of our students for reading, it takes TIME... lots of time, like 20-40 minutes per student. And since we have gotten NO EXTRA PREPS in which to assess our students, we are all doing it in the classroom with all of the other students present and since we have no paras or assistants, the students need to be completely independent in order for us to get these assessments done... hence the fact that my colleagues and I agree that we have been literally TEACHING NOTHING for the past 2 weeks.

When I say teaching nothing, I don't mean that the students have not been reading and writing, they have, but I have not taught them anything new. I have been doing lots of "reading response" where I do a read aloud (related to our current area of study in writing), we do some storytelling as a whole class, and the students write the story from beginning to end in their journals. When they finish, they illustrate their favorite part. I know... not so great, but I NEED them to be independent for large chunks of time. Given the current climate, how the heck am I supposed to have addressed the needs of my inquiry student in my instruction? Conferring notes for reading? HA!!! That must be a sick joke, unless they mean my notes from December. I started assessing my students for Promotion in Doubt in mid-January to have the scores ready for February. So this means I have spent half of January and ALL of February ASSESSING!!!! Then, of course, I'm pretty sure they also FORGOT about promotion-in-doubt conferences because we didn't schedule them until this past week. So on top of all the assessing madness, I have been holding conferences every morning before school and sometimes after school with parents.

So, now I am going to reflect on how we reached this point at my school. Things were not always this chaotic AT ALL!!!!! My first year of teaching I was told I had to assess my students using ECLAS. I got a neat little box with neat little booklets for all of the students. It came with nice laminated card stock sheets with the alphabet, sight words, etc. I had all of the books I needed right there in the cute little box. When it was time to assess, I took my neat box of materials out to the hallway and spent and ENTIRE DAY assessing my students. Yes, an entire day, that is because I was given a substitute teacher for an entire day so I could assess my students.

My second year of teaching, we opted not to use ECLAS anymore, but instead went with the TC DYO assessment. It sounded great at first--culturally relevant texts, more levels, etc. That is until I actually had to assemble my assessment binder and I realized that this wouldn't fit in a neat little box like ECLAS. Suddenly I was swimming in photocopies and I literally had to take over a whole work table in my classroom to get this thing set up. If I was missing a copy of something, FORGET IT!!!! I had to deal with the photocopier to replace it. The worst part was that the assessment was almost completely the SAME as ECLAS. The only real difference was the books, which I didn't find in any way better than the ones we used with ECLAS. Yes, they were "culturally relevant" but not AT ALL for my students, so much so that I find myself having to explain what a rodeo is, or finding Vietnam on a map, or explaining what a Dashiki is before we can even sit down to read. The books from ECLAS were about dogs losing tennis balls and simple stuff like that. Things that kids could relate to. Oh, did I mention, this is also when my school stopped giving us a substitute for a day so we could actually get the work done.

Let's jump ahead to this year, my 5th year of teaching. I have used the TC DYO assessment now for 4 years. Now NO ONE supplies us with anything. I have to print the running record sheets off from my HOME COMPUTER and bring them to school to photocopy and file myself. Our new packets were photocopies incorrectly for the 2nd year in a row so I have to staple the spelling section on myself. Last year I had to hand write list C for the word list assessment. I'm just so sick of the explosion of paper that happens in my room and I just think to myself, "For what?" It's all just so stupid. We switched from ECLAS to the TC DYO so that someone else could MAKE MONEY OFF POOR CHILDREN!!!! That is the bottom line!