Tuesday, October 27, 2020

When Carranza Says PTA, He Means "Pass Them All"

Our friends at the DOE have done it again. They've unilaterally issued a grading policy, and haven't bothered to consult with those of us who actually do the work. Of course they know better than we do what goes on in classrooms. After all, we spend all of our time teaching, and what do we know about sitting around in offices and generating reports that no one wants to read? That's why they're in charge and we aren't.

One recent innovation, aside from the grading policy, was telling parents if you don't opt your kids in now, you can't do it at all. To Bill de Blasio, parents have had enough time to make up their minds whether or not they want their children in school. Evidently, conditions are going to stay the same November through June and there is no possibility whatsoever of anything changing. And he knows that for sure because he's taller than any of us. Or perhaps there's some other reason, but it makes just as much sense as the last one.

Never mind that he made an agreement with the state. The thirty-dollar-an-hour lawyers over at "legal" have told him the state doesn't matter, and that should be good enough for anyone. After all, why should they be bothered reading agreements when they can just say Any Damn Thing, and please not only principals, but also the mayor?

And then there's the agreement itself, which brings back the NX rating. I have mixed feelings about that. I don't think anyone should suffer as a result of the pandemic, but I have students who actually deserve to fail. We ask students to show themselves, and most do. Some don't. Sometimes they have camera issues. Sometimes I don't see their faces, but they respond when I question them.

Other times, like last year, they don't say a peep. I write them privately, in the chat, and they don't answer. They never do homework and never contribute to the class. For my money, these students deserve to fail. But hey, I can live with giving them the benefit of the doubt, even if I know they don't merit it.

The part of the agreement that really grabbed my attention was on page 7. Here is the specific language: 

The teacher providing targeted instruction to support a student in passing courses in which they previously received an ‘NX’ is responsible for determining the final outcomes of the course. If the current teacher is different from the previous teacher of the course, the teacher should request relevant records of the student’s progress and performance from the previous teacher, in alignment with school-based procedures. The current teacher may also assess students at the beginning of the term to determine students’ individual needs. As outlined in the Transfer Student Toolkit, for students who transfer between schools, it is the responsibility of the receiving school to request all records from the previous school within the first two weeks of a student’s matriculation and as soon as possible. 

Evidently our esteemed chancellor has determined that working teachers haven't got enough to do during the pandemic. Perhaps he's upset he was unable to rob us of a billion dollars a few weeks back. While I can't read his mind, I can read the words. If I'm teaching English 2, I have to figure out why my students failed English 1. Not only that, but I have to look up the records of said student because, of course, I have nothing else to do. 

Now if I actually had the student in English one, I'm responsible for "determining the final outcomes of the course." If not, I have to "request relevant records." When, exactly, am I supposed to do that? Unless the DOE is providing time away from my other duties, or unless they're paying me, it sounds like they've just given me an extra job to do. Or, if I have five students who failed, five extra jobs to do.

How much work did the students miss? I guess I have to figure it out. And I guess it is I who will have to check the work the students offer to make it up. It doesn't matter, evidently, that I already have 170 papers to read for my five maxed-out classes. I also have to read the assignments from last year, the ones I may or may not have assigned, and may or may not understand.

This is not to mention, of course, the folly of simply advancing students no matter what. I teach language. The fact is you might find it hard to master second year if you missed first year, and it doesn't matter whether you slept through the class or lacked internet access. If we are all conversant and you are not, you will have a tough time understanding us. I'm sure other subjects are similar. I tuned out of geometry in tenth grade and had to take it again in eleventh. They didn't advance me to trigonometry, and I'm glad of it.

What we have here is yet another poorly thought out plan, unilaterally designed by the Tweedies. Like the hybrid plan, they haven't thought it through. They've created a monster with this NX system, and rather than deal with it, they've dumped it into our laps and said, "Good luck."

I think their hope is that everyone just gives up and passes everyone no matter what. Otherwise, I have no idea why they've taken such a complicated mess and reduced it to such nonsense.

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