Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Editorial from South Spencer [Indiana] Teacher

From an e-mail sent to me by the building rep:

Imagine this conversation took place between you and your school-age son or daughter:

“What happened in school today?”

“I got back my science test I took a couple of days ago.”

“How’d you do?”

“I got an 83.”

“Not bad. What grade is that? A ‘B’?”

“Not on this test. It’s a ‘D’.”

“A ‘D’? That’s not right, is it?”

“Our teacher isn’t grading us on how many questions we get right anymore. He’s grading us on how much we improve over our last test. I got an 82 on my last test so I didn’t improve very much and I got a ‘D’.”

“That’s ridiculous. You should be graded on how well you did. Did that happen to everyone?”

“Well, the boy that sits next to me got a ‘B’ on his test, but he only got half of the questions right.”

“How in the world did that happen?”

“On his last test, he only got 40 percent of the questions right. This time he got 50 percent right.”

“So he got a ‘B’ because he improved 10 percent while you got a ‘D’ because you improved only 1 percent.”


“That sounds absurd. Anything else go on today?”

“I didn’t pass a math quiz today.”

“Why not? You’re good in math. How many problems did you miss?”


“One? How many problems were there?”


“Let me see if I understand this. You got 16 problems right and missed one but didn’t pass the quiz?”

“Yes. Our teacher says we have to get them all right to pass.”

If this were your child, you’d be up in arms, I bet. Yet this is how Indiana schools are being graded. The number of students who pass the ISTEP test doesn’t matter anymore; it’s how much improvement the schools make over the last test battery.

A school where 50 percent of its students pass the test can receive a high grade if its overall improvement is high enough (and it should be recognized for that improvement). Conversely, a school that has 83 percent of its students pass the test can receive a low grade if its improvement isn’t high enough.

In addition, schools are judged on Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind system.

To meet AYP, schools must pass all 17 categories. Not passing one category means the school did not meet AYP.

I teach at Mount Vernon Junior High School. We have an outstanding school with many excellent teachers. Yet because of the grading system now in place, our school has been given a ‘D’.

In all, 83 percent of our students passed the ISTEP test but because our improvement was not high enough, we received the ‘D’. We also passed 16 out of 17 of the AYP categories but did not meet AYP.

When you read about the grades given to schools, take the time to examine all the data to find out how well a school really did.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I ran out of aluminum foil

I know that statement doesn't bring to mind the kind of urgency that would pull me out of a three month long blog drought. Most readers are wondering what has prevented me from just going to the store and buying more. It is a reasonable question, but the truth is that I haven't bought aluminum foil in 5 years!

My grandmother passed away 12 years ago. What does this have to do with foil? Keep reading. I was very close to my grandmother, and she was a huge influence on me growing up. She was generous, kind, hardworking, and practical. I hope that I have some measure of these good qualities.

My grandmother's possessions with any meaning or value were divided by her four children. It was my mother who claimed the knitting needles for me because she thought I would bother to learn (I am, however, certain that my mother had no vision that she was giving birth to my obsession). Grandma's house and everyday objects were sold in an action. For some reason, my mother decided to take grandma's aluminum foil.

Grandma was a frugal person. And while my mother isn't sure when, she is reasonably sure that grandma bought the foil because is would save money. This foil was a roll that was 18" x 1000'! For the curious, the roll of foil was longer than 3 football fields! For at least 8 years, my mother swaddled every left over morsel of food in her house in foil. The shinny roll seemed endless.

Time passed, mom and dad never thought about foil, but really, who thinks about foil? When my parents moved to a smaller house, my mom, not wanting to waste such a valuable commodity, passed the foil to me. The box was heavy and old. Covered in layers of kitchen gunk from two kitchens, I put the box on top of my refrigerator and covered left over food in foil with reckless abandon. I often joked about my "heirloom" foil (I was the third generation to keep the foil). Last year, realizing that my inheritance would soon run out, I thought about passing the foil on to my daughter (she enjoyed the joke, but didn't want the foil).

It is gone now. I called my mother to tell her I was out of foil. We shared a good, heartfelt laugh. We had a long chat about my grandmother and the importance of passing things on. We cried. I am still out of foil, but my life has been greatly enriched by the people who have bothered to share the seemingly insignificant things with me. It was only a beat up box of foil, but it was in grandma's house, mom's house, and finally, my house. Foods made with love, care, and the skill of generations were held safe for a brief time. The foil is gone, but my inner maid, mother, and crone are wrapped in foil.

I will miss that box, but somehow, I think it will always be with me.

Happy knitting!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Worn Out!

Winter break wasn't long enough. Sigh, but I am back at work; establishing routines with my new classes (that will make things easier as time passes).

There has been a new development. I started teaching in my old program again. Just the middle school English class. I no longer have a plan period, which makes finding time to grade papers and plan lessons very hard. So, I teach three 8th grade English classes (including one co-taught with the Special Education Teacher), two 7th grade English classes, and one alternative education 8th grade English class. It keeps me busy.

I wish I had more of a life. I could blog about my exciting adventures in exotic lands. How about a life full of relationship drama where I compare the relative merits of Mr. Y over Mr. Z? I would love to go back to blogging about my domestic life, but my house is a pig sty, and I just don't have much time to cook or knit (I did finish the world's most boring pair of handknit socks).

But I am a teacher. I spend long hours grading papers, planning lessons, and typing test. For every book I assign to my students to read, I read six. I am a teacher. I have no life.

And I wouldn't trade my job for the world.

Happy Knitting!