Let’s face some facts, here. I.Q. does matter when teaching kids, no matter how we would like to pretend otherwise. True, flaws abound in such testing but there gets to be a point where such testing is barely even necessary. And all of the students I teach fall into this category. They fall right on through the floor on most standardized testing instruments. Those tests do not have standardized scores low enough for my kids, because they are in the bottom 1% of the population.
I’ve been asked by a few teachers about the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA), and I am going to discuss my dealings with that specifically as we progress through the process. Our district is behind.
But I wanted to talk about alternate assessments in general and specifically how they interface with NCLB.
NCLB has the stated goal of 100% of all children performing on grade level by 20013. The idea is that by 20013, all of the students who started at the time the law was passed will be graduating, and from then on, every child in school with be under those same rigorous standards. There are a host of problems with this, relating to genetics, the bell curve and standards. However nowhere is this exposed as the joke it truly is, as much as with kids like the ones I teach. I teach the rock bottom. These are kids who can not talk, can not feed themselves and some can not even swallow. They are nearly all in diapers.
It reminds me of the episode of the Partridge Family when Danny was drafted into the Army. Everyone knew this was a joke, except the military who insisted it was not a mistake. The gag was that this large, bureaucratic dinosaur of an organization could not recognize reality in spite of itself. Danny went in and got his physical and went through the whole thing, even though he was obviously just a child.
We hear stories about this all the time, as small children, family pets and even dead people are given credit card applications. When it comes to large organization run by red tape, common sense is not so common. That’s what makes them a good target for jokes and sitcoms.
The problem is this: The DOE is every bit as humorless and bereft of common sense as the DOD. Fact is, is they are totally and absolutely sober and serious about their intentions that my students will be able to demonstrate some level of proficiency in 11th grade high school subjects. They are neither joking nor laughing and will hold the entire school hostage to that belief under the guise of making AYP.
Now I am not saying that my students can not learn. They can and they do! However, due to a variety of neurological factors, it takes upwards of 500+ trials over a hundred or so sessions for them to learn a new skill that they are only halfway interested in learning. The average high school student is expected to learn it in less than 30 trials over maybe 5 sessions before they are tested for mastery. Over the course of a decade of instruction, hopefully they get many more trials and sessions to become proficient in reading, writing and basic mathematics. But my students have not had that instruction. We’ve been working on getting them to feed themselves, speak, walk, use the bathroom, and wipe their own butts. We do work on counting money and identifying coins where possible. But Algebra has not been a high priority.
The alternate assessment has historically aligned with the functional nature of our curriculum. We take IEP goals and measure mastery from there. However, this year, presumably with IDEA 2004 and NCLB supposedly in alignment, IEP goals are either thrown out or must align to the grade-level curriculum.
Let me reiterate that for parents: all the work you do trying to fight for the school to provide certain services is actually being undermined by NCLB. Because if you have certain goals you want worked on, and the school is under the gun to make AYP, which one of these is getting the resources and attention? Which one of these do you think the principal is going to put pressure on the teacher to do? You might want your child to learn a vocational or daily living skill that may help them live more independently. The school does not care because your child needs to demonstrate some level of proficiency in algebra, geometry, reading comprehension and writing. And these are not bad things to know, except that it takes these kids so long to learn something that the time might be better spent directly on a given skill, like dressing themselves. This is why we have IEPs in the first place. But the push and rush for AYP makes kids in special education ripe for discrimination that IDEA was supposed to remedy.
My kids used to not even register on administration radar because the alternate assessment was based on IEP goals I picked. And I always picked goals the kid tcould handle for AYP purposes. But now they have to come from the regular 11th grade curriculum, NOT the IEP.
I have a question for you all: How many of you would feel good about an 11th grade curriculum that my kids could pass? Think about it. You do not have to be able to read, write, or count. Is THIS the standard you want to set? Are THESE the standards that NCLB is striving to set in order that our nation can compete in a global economy? Trying to make my kids fit regular curriculum standards is going back to the days of discrimination. Trying to fit everyone else’s curriculum to my kids does a disservice to ANY standards.
There’s a very good reason why they don’t make saddles for pigs or milking machines for chickens. They just don’t work so well. Not everyone is equipped to do the same things. My kids are not going to college. Why would I want to subject them to more frustration and indignity than they have already had to endure at the hands of a public that misunderstands them, at best, and abuses them at worst? And yet, the DOE is hell bent on doing it. They insist on taking a kid, for whom just taking a shit is a challenge, and subjecting them to tests of reading comprehension, writing, algebra, geometry, world history and physical science.
I can think of no greater evidence that NCLB is a total loser than this farce that is being made with MY students. My students have a whole lot more to offer the world than the sorry slobs in
What this new alternate assessment is going to boil down to, is how we as a collective group can best lie, cheat and otherwise hoodwink our way through so that it isn’t us who is responsible for our school not making AYP. My kids do not deserve this level of scrutiny. I’ll gladly make video tapes of me teaching them relevant goals according to the curriculum set forth together with parents. I’ll do that everyday, all day long. But this business of holding us to grade level is ludicrous beyond words, and is in serious need of a laugh track.
Stay tuned for more.