by Max Brantley
The Little Rock School District has spent two weekends in federal court for hearings on how well the district is doing in monitoring programs aimed at improving academic performance of minorities.
Today, I'd like to pass along a letter from a classroom teacher, with some thoughts on testing, monitoring, "embedding" of that monitoring process and an otherwise real-world view of the courtroom abstraction. He's fearful of retirbution, so requests anonymity, but he's known to me. His useful thoughts:
At the end of the first quarter of the fall semester, I got the “letter” from my principal informing me of the large numbers of D’s and F’s I had “given”. The letter instructed me to come up with strategies to reduce those numbers. After I sent a list of proposals, the most effective of which was to reduce the weight given to tests and open-response questions, I requested the most recent standardized test scores for my students. My guess is that most of them read well below grade level. How can we expect students to grasp complicated concepts in science when they can’t read? Our mission statement says we have a rigorous, comprehensive curriculum. However, when we make it rigorous, students don’t make B’s or C’s and everybody is upset. Most parents just want their kids to have B’s or C’s and are not worried about what they actually learn.
I still haven’t received those scores. After reading about the district’s embedded evaluation tools, I had to laugh. Our lawyers are telling a judge that teachers have access to these results. Evidently we have a sophisticated computer system that allows us to get previous grades and test results. We’ve never seen it. Our “instructional coach” could not provide me with the scores I requested.
Superintendent Roy Brooks stated at a faculty meeting last fall that he was going to clear out the dead wood, students who in their junior year had a 1.2 grade average and 13 credits. That would be so great, but where are those students going? He said he was taking that message to the board. Never heard anything about it. Big talk.