Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zilch, Nada, Nothing

Klein spoke at a community school board in my neighborhood tonight. I planned on going and reading the following but things didn't work out as planned. I didn't expect him to care about what I said, but I wanted to say it anyway. I'll have to settle for printing it here. I know the results will be the same--Zilch, Nada, Nothing.

Mark Twain said “there are lies, damn lies and then there are statistics”. Education has been filled with lies since Bloomberg took control of the NYC school system. I have been teaching math in NYC since 1973 and math education is at its all time lowest. Yes, it is true, more students are taking algebra now than ever before and more students are graduating than ever before but they are graduating knowing less than ever before.

There are some things that cannot be measured numerically and education and the value of a teacher is one of those things. Teachers are working with human beings, people with feelings and abilities and sometimes problems far beyond what you or the mayor could possibly imagine. Our job is more than test scores. Now the mayor wants to tie teacher tenure to these scores. This is just not right. A teacher must be evaluated on what goes on in the classroom, how her students are growing and learning and developing, not on some grade on an exam made up by some big business company that has no idea as to what children are really like, capable of learning and need. Principals and administrators who do their job correctly can see what is going on daily and should be able to judge who is doing a good job and who isn’t. Parents and students themselves can help with a true evaluation. Test scores—impossible.

In my school, Packemin HS, the teachers in my department are terrified of poor regents statistics. Mid year, teachers try to drop students who are failing in hopes of keeping their passing rates high. In September, too many students are dropped from two term algebra classes into four term algebra classes to keep regents stats high. Kids are being tracked too quickly and it is all because of numbers. Teacher tenure and test scores are not even linked yet.

My AP wrote in a recent e-mail that although he would always like to do what is best for the student, we work in a NYC high school and doing what is best for them is not always possible. We have to keep our stats up to keep our A rating.

I started teaching in 1973 at Julia Richman HS in Manhattan. We offered arithmetic classes and business math classes and other classes that were geared towards a student’s ability and academic interests. We offered regents classes and did our best to get the students through. No one ever complained and blamed when the numbers were low. I just picked up a 1977 geometry regents and compared it to the regents of today and what I saw was sorrowful. In 1977 real knowledge of the material was required to receive a passing grade. You needed 65 points out of 100 to pass. You could not just randomly guess some multiple choice answers and get a passing grade. Yes, we had fewer passing then, but passing meant something. And the ones that did not take the regents still got an education, unlike the students of today, who are getting a diploma.

The business model, which people like you insist on applying to education is wrong. You are not creating a world of educated people, you are creating a world of illiterates, people who can’t think and people who are unprepared for anything.

If a teacher is not doing their job correctly and effectively, that teacher should not be in the classroom and there are ways to find this out. Test scores is not one of them. If you really care about education, take my words seriously and incorporate the things like this into your educational reform policy.


Anonymous said...

Amen! And sadly, had you said it, the chancellor might have heard what you would have said, but he wouldn't have listened to what you have said....

What we teachers face today is the banality of evil....

Anonymous said...

This DOE and the attitude of your AP are the hallmarks of the KleinBloom era. They constantly offer options in education that ultimately destablilize children's lives instead of providing an environment the children can depend and thrive in. This policy of dropping children, especially those having academic issues, is very disturbing. It allows kid's lives to be in constant flux instead of setting a pace that the kid can count on. Imagine being a math-challenged-barely-14-year-old. You and I can imagine the latter, but KleinBloom are short on imagination and long on statistics. They abuse children constantly with their school closings and slash-and-burn educational policies. They are the most heartless, callous bunch of bureaucrats I've seen in my lifetime. They use children, especially those of color and those from less favorable economic backgrounds as pawns for their anti-teacher, anti-union corporate, crypto-fascist policies. The Bloomberg administration could care less about real children from anywhere, particularly New York City.

Pissedoffteacher said...

I've been saying for years that mnority kids get the worst of everything.

I have two AB calculus classes, over 64 students and not one African American. If this doesn't say something about the way minority kids are treated, I give up.

I have been trying to get someone to address this issue for years with no results. By the time I meet the kids in 12th grade, it is too late to help them. We must start in 9th grade.

Chaz said...


How sad and how true. The State just keeps dumbing down the Regents by making the matrix easier so that students in the Living Environment, Algebra, and Global Regents need only answer 36% of the questions to pass. What a joke.

Ricochet said...

My classes are 50% minority in a school that is 30% minority. I teach the low end.

I have more than 50% male students.

I want them to think - and it is soooo hard to get them to do it.

For some - I can get them to do anything.

But you said it as I wish I could say it.

promfor said...

Thanks for saying it more eloquently than I could have. I'm trying to get concerned teachers and parents to pay attention to what schools are using to disinfect for H1N1. Many don’t realize that cleaning supplies are often more hazardous than the H1N1virus itself. Even bleach, because it has to be diluted properly (and usually isn't) can be dangerous when incorrectly used. Here are some resources to help parents determine what their schools are using, and what they should be using: H1N1 in Schools and Environmental Working Group Report on Schools