Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bill Gates and Co.--the iPhone Is Dead and Teachers Will Be Rated by Test Scores

Reps from Microsoft have repeatedly given eulogies for the iPhone . That's the kind of vision you get from Bill Gates' company. Microsoft introduced us to the Kin. They followed that up with the Kin 2. Remember that? Neither do I.

Microsoft, of course, came out with the Windows Phone. Who do you know who has one? Who do you know who's talking about the next Windows Phone? I don't think I've even seen one apart from ads I saw years ago.

I don't have a Windows computer. I have a Mac. A week ago I was following a recipe when I accidentally splashed water on my screen, ruining it. On my way to the Apple Store to replace it, I passed the Microsoft Store. I saw five or six employees standing around doing nothing while I passed by. The Apple Store was really crowded and I had to wait a few minutes just to pick up the computer I'd ordered online.

And yet, our schools are drowning in the vision of Microsoft's Bill Gates. There's testing, testing and more testing. My newcomers now have to take a test called the NYSESLAT, which was never very good, but which now does not even seem to test English acquisition levels. It's more about how many Common Core questions they can answer over hours and hours. Forget about functional English--we want to know about your close reading skills in a language you have not yet learned.

New York State is unveiling new standards now. Common Core is discredited, and therefore it's out. The hope is that no one will notice it's the same old crap with a new name pasted on it. Textbook manufacturers are likely printing stickers so we buy the old crap thinking it's new crap. Cuomo can say it has a new name and is therefore less crappy.

Meanwhile, here on earth, every city teacher is rated by test scores. Although I teach ESL, I'm technically an English teacher. I had expected to be rated on the English Regents scores of the nine students I had who were scheduled to take it. Now I'm told I will be rated by the Regents scores of all the students in our building.

That will work out better for me because my school does well on tests. So I expect to score effective or higher. Should I have a party? Not just yet, I think. For one thing, I don't even think my nine students took the test this year. For another, even if they did, the entire school's Regents results do not reflect on me or my teaching.

Is that ungrateful? I don't think so. Had my nine students taken the tests, I'd have gotten a crap rating because, you know, they'd only been here a year and were still focused on fundamental language acquisition. The Regents exam was wholly inappropriate for them. The bad rating would not be a reflection on my work either, because there's no way I was going to steer my beginning English classes toward an exam they shouldn't have even been taking. In fact, even if I'd been rated on a test that was appropriate for my students, the American Statistical Association would have declared it an invalid measure of my work.

But we're not in a science-based environment here. We're in Microsoft World, headed by Bill Gates. Gates did an experiment called Measures of Effective Teaching and decided test scores were the only things that mattered. Arne Duncan did whatever Gates wanted and now most of the country is still Racing to the Top, building charter schools and rating teachers on nonsense.

Take a look around and ask yourself why America has mandated public education to be a Microsoft Kin, or a Windows Phone, or whatever Bill Gates' company is peddling this week.
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