Monday, June 13, 2016

The Last Day

Today is the last day of regular teaching, at least as far as I'm concerned. I have to give a department final exam. I have little idea what's on it or why I have to give it. I was shown a draft of it and asked to contribute four multiple choice questions, one of which, I'm now told, will make its way to the test. This, of course, is a better idea than me writing my own test for the students I've been with all year. That's because it's important that everyone who teaches these kids gives the same exam.

There are actually two of us who teach these kids, but I'm the only one who gives the exam. That's because there is only one exam, and I guess I won a lottery or something. So everyone who teaches these kids except the other person who teaches these kids has to give the exam. That makes sense, right? And I've contributed one question to this exam, so although I have no idea which one of the four I wrote was selected, that makes it valid.

After all, who has a better idea what to test my students on than whoever it was who wrote the rest of the questions on this test? And honestly, the only thing better than a multiple choice test, the format my school mandates, is a test that isn't a multiple choice test. Therefore I can assure you my students are getting the second-best test format that's available. And the only better writer of a test than a committee is me, so they are also getting a test that's written by the second best writers.

So today, I can assure my students that the test they get is the second best format, produced by the second most qualified test producers. I know these kids better than my colleagues who don't teach them, and I'm sure I can therefore produce a test much more relevant to their needs and experience.

Does that mean that my tests are more valid than those of the High and Exalted NY Board of Regents? Well, in fact it does. Aside from the fact that the Regents don't know my kids at all, the Regents fail to differentiate between my students and those who are born here in the United States. That's idiotic, and personally, I strive to write tests that are Not Idiotic. I think that's a good quality in exams. Of course you're free to differ.

Now it's not really the last day of teaching. Dennis Walcott, in his infinite wisdom, determined that high school students needed to come back for full days of instruction even though they had already taken all their final exams and been issued their final grades. And certainly, it was no skin off his apple. He's not the one who has to explain to 34 teenagers why they have to sit in classes after all the work had been completed.

Carmen Fariña has decided to maintain this fine tradition, along with keeping around just about everyone who ever worked for Michael Bloomberg. I contributed to Bill de Blasio's campaign, worked for him at UFT, and attended his inauguration. Still, on the last day of school I'm not entirely sure he's done a whole lot to fix the damage Bloomberg initiated. Fariña let Jamaica High School drop dead, for example. And de Blasio was not able to do much after Cuomo changed the law so he'd have to pay rent for the Moskowitz Academies whether or not he approved them.

So it's the last day, as far as I'm concerned. That's because I have little to no idea whether my students will come back those other two days. Really, why should they? If they were my kids I'd let them stay home. But ESL students aren't all that quick to pick up on the stupid DOE regs, so for all I know they'll show up. It's gonna be kind of anticlimactic for me, at least.

But I always have good classes, more or less, so it'll be nice to see them. 
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