leap

In case you didn’t know, Louisiana assesses students in grades 3-11 each year with the LEAP test.  In 8th grade, you have to show proficiency in math, science, english and social studies in order to be promoted to the 9th grade.  If you don’t, you will be enrolled in a summer remediation program. 

I teach in Virginia.  I have never lived in Louisiana, and I only visited once during a summer trip in high school in 2001.  I learned all of this fascinating information today during a child study for one of my 8th grade students.  She moved here from Louisiana with her mother and two sisters this summer.  Two weeks into the school year it was evident that she has some learning difficulties, so our guidance counselor called together a child study with the mother, school system psychologist, social worker, and general education teachers to determine a course of action. 

The story was confusing at first.  We learned that she had been held back in 3rd grade because of lack of academic development, and that she was not promoted after her 8th grade year in Louisiana before moving to Virginia.  This means that I have a 15-year old 8th grader sitting in my classroom, which also explains her extreme shyness and lack of confidence. 

Today was our third meeting this month to determine an appropriate academic, mental, and social course of action for this student.  It also was not until this morning that we received the transcripts from her previous school in Louisiana…and learned that she passed her 8th grade courses.  So the question before us became, “Why is this child repeating the 8th grade?” 

Her mother told us that when they moved here over the summer, the student’s test scores were the hold up.  She passed social studies and science, but  not english and math.  (As a sidenote, english and math are the only two subjects whose test scores are measured for AYP in the public school system)  Because they moved over the summer, she did not have the opportunity to complete the remediation program in Louisiana.  They were told by the school district that once the transcripts came in, a decision could be made about grade-level placement.  When no transcripts arrived, she was placed in the 8th grade again.

After an hour in our meeting, I felt an overwhelming amount of sympathy for her mother, who has three teenage daughters, a full time job, and is doing the best she can “so that they don’t get pregnant or raped.”  I stared, a bit confused, at a transcript from Louisiana with a different grading scale, testing system, and semester schedule.  I watched a beautiful young girl hold her head down while she listened to a room full of adults discuss her fate as if she were just another number.

I also thought about my lesson for the day – Expressed, Concurrent and Reserved powers.  How wonderful that states have the sovereignty to decide issues like education.  Who’s it hurting?

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“ad nauseam”

I used to love watching the television show Scrubs – they poked fun at television’s ability to magically find a theme in people’s lives.  Yet here I am, reminiscing on the themes that took hold of my life and career today.

I arrived at school this morning to a very cold classroom, a little too cold.  Then I saw the wide open window.  I froze, thinking my room was the victim of  a break-in, especially since we’ve been getting email updates with the latest gang grafitti in both boys and girls bathrooms.  As I looked around, I took stock of  all the technology – Smart Board, Senteo receivers, printer, projector.  All accounted for.  I left, reported the incident, and later found out that the maintenance crew left the window open when they were open over the weekend.

Today the 8th graders were treated to a Town Hall Meeting.  These are called every so often to provide information and address any pressing concerns.  Today’s meeting was called by the administration to reiterate several policies – dress code, locker breaks, PDA in the halls, and conduct in the cafeteria.  They spoke to the girls first, then the boys.  The girls meeting went as planned; the boys did not.  30 minutes into my 2nd core, the boys were dismissed from their meeting.  You could hear them come barreling down the hallway like a herd of elephants, back to disrupt class.  Much to my surprise, they told me they were informed that they had to report back to their meeting after lunch. 

Let’s review – my 2nd core was interrupted because the boys spent 30 minutes walking in a line quietly around the auditorium, and my 3rd core was also interrupted for 30 minutes so they could do it again.

I had to ask – “Why?”

At that point I checked my email to find this article.  We were asked to read it for our faculty meeting after school today.  I found myself perk up as I read my own thoughts, voiced by someone with clout, position, and readership (and a salary larger than mine).  I even reacted out loud when I read the charge to “Stop testing kids ad nauseam.”  I felt slightly refreshed, armed with the knowledge that I am not alone in my thinking; I’m just trapped in a backwards system. 

Then we sat in our meeting.  We participated in a pretty nifty activity with the article, meant more to expose us to instructional techniques.  We did not discuss the article.  We did not debate.  We did not talk about it.  Instead we moved to the next item on our agenda – a summary of programs and strategies meant to improve student test scores.

I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else in the room got the irony.  After reading such a thought-provoking article about the need to move away from so much testing, we found ourselves listening to the “merits” of testing.