Thursday, March 07, 2019

The World Would Be Better if People Were Nicer, Suggests Chalkbeat

OK, not really. But they did a big feature on how better teachers make better mentors. I'd agree with that, of course. The methodology with which they aim to prove it is something else altogether. I mean, I suppose if you wanted to prove the world would be better if people were nicer you'd need to do some research. You'd need a focus group or something.

But what exactly is nice? I mean, my dog is nice. I know a lot of people who are nice. Am I nice? Well, it depends who you ask and when you ask it. If you ask my daughter after I give her an Apple watch for a Christmas gift, she'll probably say yes, he's very nice. If you ask my students after I give them homework, you're likely to get another story entirely.

The primary takeaway for the study Chalkbeat references is test scores. Now I'm sure someone did this study using test scores, and I'm sure a whole lot of people have measured things using test scores. After all, test scores are a perfectly objective measure of student achievement. They're never inaccurate or culturally prejudiced. Except, of course, when they are.

Personally, I'm struggling with teaching one of my classes how to pass the English Regents exam. Yesterday I read all their compositions. It's not easy. Some of them have never been taught about English usage, and they've done very little actual reading or writing. That's not surprising, since we neither teach nor test reading and writing. Instead, we teach them how to answer a few questions the likes of which they'll never see again.

Out in Texas there's a big brouhaha over an evidently insane testing system, and I'd argue things are not much different in New York. Kids take tests, we score them, and then the geniuses in Albany determine exactly what the passing score is. Remember a few years back when Reformy John King declared that two-thirds of our kids (not his, who attended Montessori schools) were going to fail the tests, and waddya know, they did?

I think it was Alfie Kohn who said something like test scores measure how big houses are in the neighborhood. If your parents are well-to-do it's highly unlikely they both work two hundred hours a week and haven't got time to help you, or check your homework, or talk to your teachers. It's much more likely they can pay for  tutoring if you need it.

Of course better teachers make better mentors. But better web sites have better articles, too. 
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