The Unkindest Cut

29 Jan

I’ve been going on and on and on about the Georgia Alternate Assessment (GAA).  NCLB states that every child must be on grade level by 2013 and to that end requires regular testing in order to obtain accountability.


Let’s talk about accountability for a second.  I’m quite in favor of accountability, as I’ve seen more than one of my colleagues skate by doing very little in their classrooms.  Then when their ways are exposed to the light, it results in some new rule, regulation or system which burdens everyone else.  A regular and reliable method of accountability would catch errors, mistakes and slackers a lot sooner to the betterment of the students.  If a student is failing or is not performing, wouldn’t it be better to find this out as early as possible?  If there is an incompetent teacher, wouldn’t it be better to know that sooner rather than later?


Accountability was the carrot that George W. offered the conservatives in congress in order to gain passage of NCLB.  And it has been the mantra of the various conservative voices in the education debate.  They practically beat and whip the progressives with the mantra that opposing NCLB is akin to being afraid or in opposition of reform and accountability.  I’m a conservative, and I can think of any number of reasons and ways to beat and whip progressives and liberals.  But this “accountability” and “reform” as represented in NCLB isn’t one of them.  Remember, it was Ted Kennedy who stood in the rose garden behind G. W. when he signed that abomination.


First off, “accountability” in NCLB always means a standardized test.  Well, almost always, and we’ll get to that.  But accountability for teachers being highly qualified means passing a test.  For students, it means taking a test.  For paras, it means passing a test.  For schools, it is how many in each subgroup pass the test.  It is all about the test.


My students can not take a standardized test.  It’s just not physically possible and there would be no valid results derived from such a test.  So my kids pose the most significant challenge to NCLB.  Advocates of NCLB do not wish to discuss my kids.  They want to ignore them.  They wish they’d just disappear.  But they can’t because it’s NO Child Left Behind, not All But 1% Not Left Behind.  So they had to come up with something, and in the state of Georgia it is something they call a “portfolio.”  And the “portfolio” is a hell of a lot more work for the teachers than the students.  There are many, many ways that a portfolio can fail and count against the school’s AYP.  NONE of those ways have anything to do with student achievement.  So teachers in Georgia have to log in scores and scores of extra hours making sure that every form is filled out correctly despite the fact that the forms themselves have their own flaws built in.


But I have not mentioned the unkindest cut of all.  It’s the flem in the spit that is spat in the eyes of every teacher who has to endure this ordeal.  It is the salt in the raw wound.  It is the twisting of the knife in the belly. 


I hope you’re sitting down.

Because according to our testing administrator, they aren’t even going to look at and score every one of these portfolios. 


How’s that grab you?


All that work.  For nothing.  All the writing, editing and rewriting and no one is even going to look at it.  Apparently they are going to take a random sample and score just some of them.


That’s the face of accountability.  See, scoring these things is a massively time-consuming exercise which means it will cost money.  Perhaps the state doesn’t have the money.  Or they don’t have the time.  You ain’t got no money honey, I got no more time.


Whatever the reason, that’s what I was told.  I could not believe it.  I can not accept it.  It just takes an already cruel joke and takes it beyond the absurd.  Why put so much into something that no one will even look at?  If these were regular education students, there would be a shit fit because no student is going to expend all that effort for so high of stakes and not have every test scored. It’s just plain cruel.





5 Responses to “The Unkindest Cut”

  1. teachergirl January 29, 2007 at 7:01 pm #

    Unbelievable. At my house, the first candidate (and I may have to eat my words) who promises to repeal NCLB is the one who gets my support, my money and my vote. Your situation is so unbelievable that it is….well, the standard in education.

  2. Dick Dalton January 30, 2007 at 8:04 am #

    The damage is being done, and it will be extensive before it is all over. I personally know of 1 highly qualified and excellent teacher who is getting out this year and taking early retirement. There’s another who will be going to regular education. The exodus from special education, which was already at an acute level, is going to be even more massive. And these are not the slackers, these are the battle-test veterans.


  3. Margaret January 30, 2007 at 8:33 pm #

    Finally someone who is speaking out about the stupidity of this Alternate assessment. if you question “their” wisdom they say you don’t believe in the kids. Where are the professionals, the university people – it’s like we’re lambs being led to the slaughter.
    Thank you for not making me feel so alone in this battle.

  4. speedmom February 28, 2007 at 8:01 pm #

    I agree that the work outweights any benefits from this assessment. I do want to clarify one issue. You stated that they all won’t be graded. Yes, they will, because a score will go home to every parent. The random selection you speak of is for the committee of Georgia teachers (selected from all over the state from teachers who are doing the GAA) who will score those portfolios and establish the rubric that will be used to train the raters at Questar. That is the company who will score the individual portfolios. They have to rate many of the same portfolios from the random sample that were rated by the Ga. committee and get close to 100% reliability before they are allowed to score other portfolios. Hang in there. I’ve worked over 40 hours outside work on these things. It’s a great idea to do regular ed activities as a context for the IEPs, but the amount of documentation they are requiring is overwhelming! It will be better next year when we can start earlier and keep up with it. Unfortunately, it will probably still be here…..

  5. Dick March 1, 2007 at 7:59 am #

    Thanks for the clarification! But I’m still not getting how any rater can score these things with any sort of efficiency. It takes almost an hour to go through ONE folder!

    I’m hoping they don’t change the standards next year, since I’ve already developed the adaptations to the various curriculum elements. For me, bringing sufficient technology to bear on a text in order to make it accessible to my kids was a HUGE deal. Yeah, the documentation is ridiculous. Look at the scoring rubric. There is only ONE dimension that has anything to do with student acheivement. Every other dimension and every thing that makes a folder “fail” is on the documentation. The students are NOT being tested, here. The teachers are.


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