Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Clean Up this Mess (But Not Too Much)!

Yesterday the Panel for Education Policy, mostly rubber stamps for Bloomberg and Klein, decided that 8th graders would have to pass tests and classes, or they wouldn't become 9th graders. A large group of parents protested, and I saw a news report ths morning stating they had to clear the room. In the end, of course, they ignored the parents and did what they wanted. The sole holdout, Manhattan rep Patrick Sullivan, faced 10 votes of approval.

Oddly, this is the same administration that's floated the idea of giving kids credit for "seat time," and the same administration that's been pressuring teachers to pass as many students as possible. It's a strange message, and I saw it acted out at a meeting I attended yesterday.

At first, we were told to get tough on latecomers. Fail them, and tell them you're failing them because they were late to class. It was a surprising message.

But then, it was followed by a brainstorming session on how to pass as many kids as possible. One teacher suggested allowing the students to make up their own cheat sheets. From this teacher's experience, making up the cheat sheets was an alternate mode of note-taking. And there was no doubt that students tended to get higher scores when they brought their sanctioned cheat sheets with them.

Another teacher suggested pairing up low-performing students with high-performing students during tests. This teacher found that when the students were paired up in such a fashion, the formerly low-performing students tended to get grades exactly as high as the high-performing students.

The last teacher offered a plan to give half-credit for corrected answers on tests. For example, if you get a 50 on a test, you correct it in class, hand it to the teacher, and your 50 automatically becomes a 75. This teacher was able to pass many more students with higher grades via this method.

There was talk about intervisitation so that backwards traditional-style teachers who simply taught the material, gave tests and graded them could learn the new way. At the next meeting, I'm going to suggest that I team up with the principal and that we halve our pooled salaries. I have no desire to do his job or put in the hours he does, but I want to see how far exactly this new paradigm will take us.
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