Monday, February 20, 2006

State Mandated Testing

Tomorrow is the "big" day. My two 4th graders and one 7th grader take the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Writing portion of the test. Revising and editing in a multiple choice format and writing a personal narrative based on a general writing prompt will be their tasks. Will there ever be a time in their adult life when they have to revise and edit someone else's writing without the use of a computer or other assistance - or where they have to write a story or composition without the aid of a computer or other assistance? I don't think so.

I understand the need for assessment and accountability, but these kids are over-tested! Additionally, the test is only a snapshot of their potential, a few hours in one day of their school life, yet whether or not they go to the next grade level rides on the TAKS tests. They can make A's and B's in all their classes all year long, but if they mess up on one of the tests (writing, reading, math, social studies, science), they will be held back a grade.

Texas schools are rated on a "report card" based on these tests (and attendance, dropout rate, and other minor criteria). So, students in neighborhoods whose parents take part in the educational process or who place a high value on education tend to do better; therefore, their schools do better and are rewarded. On the other hand, students in lower socio-economic neighborhoods do the best they can with what they have, and their schools are punished, not because the students don't do what they should, but for various reasons such as lack of parental support, poor classroom situations, discipline issues, lack of materials, lack of importance placed on education, and so on.

There are financial bonuses for schools and administrators with high performing campuses. Plus, Texas lawmakers have instituted monetary bonuses for teachers with students who do well. Is that fair? If a child is in 4th grade, he has had 3 or 4 previous teachers. Why should his 4th grade teacher get the credit if he does well, and why should that same teacher be held accountable if he doesn't? What about those teachers who have only the brightest students in their "gifted" classes? At the other end of the spectrum, what about teachers who have the learning disabled students? Is it really fair to reward a teacher for the performance of her students, or to punish that teacher, for that matter?

As a teacher, I have a real problem with the testing. They have benchmark testing, aptitude testing, final exams, chapter tests, unit tests, practice TAKS testing, field testing for the state, and anywhere from 2-6 "official" TAKS tests per year. It's unbelievable! If teachers were allowed to do their jobs and focus on teaching kids what they need to know (rather than just strategies for passing a test) our kids would be far better off. Their report cards would be a true reflection of what they know or don't know. Too many teaching days are, instead, spent testing children. Unfortunately, we have a bunch of non-educators (read: idiots) making decisions that affect the public schools of Texas when they probably haven't stepped foot in a school since they graduated and have no basis on which to make their decisions. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day... Hallmark or Holiday?

I often wonder who the romantics are and wh0 the cynics are. I think it's easily determined according to each person's thoughts on Valentine's Day. My husband and I decided to be frugal this year. We each got the other a card. I got him a small box of chocolates, and he got me two pink roses. I also made him a gift - a very clever (imho) coupon book, and I wrote him a short poem. We went to dinner together sans kids - very early as he doesn't make reservations - and it was blissful.

Now - did we do enough for eachother? I believe so! I suppose that Valentine's Day was originally a true observance or commemoration of something or someone that I have heard about in legends, but I think now that it's mostly a Greeting Card Company Marketing Technique. Obviously, the American public buys into it wholeheartedly. I "participate," but with reservation because what exactly am I celebrating? Perhaps I am celebrating my love for my husband, children, and God, but don't I celebrate that every day? If I don't give a Valentine to my husband, does that mean I love him less? My answer is no. Would I feel a little guilty if I didn't. Yes, I would. Perhaps Valentine's Day is a celebration of love, and perhaps it's just another day. It's a tug-of-war for me.

Oh well. Who's a cynic and who's a romantic?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Just stuff

I am tired. We've had a little more drama around here. I guess that's to be expected when you have teenagers in the house. My 9 year olds are already sassy, rolling their eyes at me, minding only part of the time. I hate to see when they are teenagers. It's not going to be pretty!

The 13 year old is somewhat moody - normal for a 7th grade girl. The 17 year old is, well, 17. Nuff said. I have decided that I am just going to let her be. If she makes mistakes, I hope they're not huge ones, but she doesn't have as much supervision or guidance as I think a 17 year old should, and she has no work ethic. She has a year of high school left, then it's on to the "real" world, and she's going to have some rude awakenings, I think.

I'm going to share my laundry pet peeve with you. It is when the kids (any or all of them) leave their underwear inside their pants or jeans when they take them off or when they have one leg inside out. I'd rather it be either both in or both out.

I realized is that I need to get back into taekwondo or some other sort of activity where I can work out my frustration as well as get back into shape. Any suggestions? I don't think my bones and muscles can take the impact of taekwondo anymore, and I definitely don't want to spar, but I need the workout. Jazzercise just doesn't do anything for me anymore. Got any ideas?


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