Thank You Questar!

18 Nov
Today, one of the assistant principals came in and handed me an envelope that contained a survey from Questar . For anyone who doesn’t know, Questar is the company responsible for scoring the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA). He wanted to know when I could have it done, and I told him maybe Friday. He said he needed it by tomorrow. Thing is, our GAA’s are also due tomorrow! This looked like just one more piece of worthless paperwork associated with the GAA, which already has dubious value.
I opened it up and looked at it, and suddenly it became a bit more of a cathartic exercise that I thought. I was able to fully vent my spleen upon those vile people who were intimately connected to this process that has so vexed me these past few years. Much of it was a Likert-type scale asking how I felt my students had benefitted from the GAA process, with 1 being the least and 4 being the most. That whole section was pretty much a ‘1’. Another section asked about administrative support. That scored about a ‘2’. They did give us leave time the first year, but we’re getting no extra time this year to do this stuff. We’re on our own and the schedule is tighter than ever with shorter deadlines. Administrative support amounts to 1/2 day of training, some ink cartridges, some card stock and a few meetings and deadlines. No regular education teachers are collecting the data at our school, which was one item scored on the survey.
Somewhere they got the idea that the GAA was supposed to revolutionize our teaching and the acheivement of our students. Actually, it has made some changes. The daily living skills and vocational skills are pretty much crowded out because they do not support any academic standards at the 11th grade level. Those goals are no longer a significant part of the IEP. In fact, there seems to be a full scale charge away from any vocational skills in the high school curriculum at all. While some of the content of my teaching has been more diversified, the relevance has mostly disappeared. Eleventh grade college prep standards mean very little to students who have IQ’s in the single digits. They asked how the GAA contributed towards greater student acheivement and learning. I was able to express to them that the GAA has NOTHING to do with student acheivement, learning or comprehension. There are many ways to fail the GAA by making it uinscorable. None of those ways have anything to do with student acheivement. Actual student acheivement is the LEAST prominent metric in the scoring of this “assessment.” It is all about meeting NCLB’s mandates without having to have any actual substance. It’s more of a test of a teacher’s endurance and gamesmanship than actual teaching.
One section did ask what benefits, if any, I had realized from participating in the GAA:
It has made me more politically aware and active in working toward the repeal of NCLB. It has also motivated me to research and consider other career options.
So instead of taking a day or two to complete the survey, it took me about 20 minutes to pound it out. It felt pretty good to get some of that out to those people. It would be nice to know any meaningful results from this survey. Since we’re right in the midst of the first collection period, I can imagine lots of Georgia teachers taking this opportunity to express their displeasure. I’m not sure if every teacher doing a GAA had to do a survey (I don’t think so) but rest assured, I was very candid and sharp in my remarks and comments.
I don’t blame Questar for their abominable assessment. They are simply providing a service that states need in order to comply with an abominable federal law. My students happen to be nonstandard students and there is no reasonable way to standardize them. Therefore, this unreasonable insult will have to do until control of education can be rescued from the federal lunatics and returned to the state asylum where it belongs.
You can also see a rant about the GAA I filmed and posted last night on my TeacherTube channel (link to video).
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7 Responses to “Thank You Questar!”

  1. Nicole Mays November 19, 2008 at 9:36 am #

    I got one of these too – I was SO excited – and used an extra sheet for “additional comments” – my favorite was “how has the GAA affected your instruction” or something like that – and I wrote something to the effect of “I spend much less time now teaching my students functional skills that they need in life like how to dress themselves, feed themselves, wipe their noses, choose appropriate leisure activities, etc. and much more time trying to teach them things that they will probably never need to know or be able to understand like how plants grow, what happened in the Civil War and how to locate different countries on a map”.

    It was a VERY cathartic thing for me as well! From what I understand only a few teachers from each district get to fill it out – last year another teacher from my school got one and I was very jealous – I wanted to share my opinion too lol. This year I got the chance!

  2. calliemae November 19, 2008 at 3:40 pm #

    That’s so great that you got to vent to authority about everything wrong with the GAA. That assesment was written to help special ed, yet it ended up being something to comply with federal law. Which so happens to be a lot of whats happening in the classroom. Teachers are having to teach standards that are too high for their special ed students, when they should be learning life skills and social skills that would help them in the future.

  3. kim November 19, 2008 at 7:59 pm #

    I want one!!!!! First paper work I’ve asked for all year!!!!!!

  4. amardkcihc January 20, 2009 at 11:36 am #

    me too! … so if and when i figure it out, i’ll let ya know.

    and i’d hope you’d so the same for me, too.

    … so, here’s another thingy,

    is there a problem with duplicate content since we can
    import / export content from this blog system to a
    blogger system or other wordpress system or other blog system ?

  5. L. Peterson February 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    I have done the GAA at my school for the past 3 years..WHy are you ranting on about this stuff like you are the only one who does them. The first year it came out I did 10 portfolios and all 10 passed, last year I had 9 to do and again all passed, this year I have only 8 to do and you know what they will all pass again. They are not so bad to do. Our school has made AYP for the past 2 years and we will make it again this year. Have a great day!!!

  6. waitingfor60 February 10, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    Earlier this year I heard that over 10,000 portfolios were sent in to Questar from GA. I didn’t know we had such a huge school age population. If only 1% is supposed to be GAA…
    I have 8 portfolios to do-K-5, with at least 1 child in each grade level. You tell me how I am supposed to access the GPS in every grade level while meeting all of the REAL needs of my students. I have been in Sp. Ed. since before 94-142 and have always taught those with the most significiant dis. I actually loved my job until GAA came out with the portfolios.

  7. Ink cartridges February 26, 2009 at 4:14 am #

    sweet… thanks…

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