4 Jul

  I am waging war against NCLB.  I have written my representatives and encourage you all to do the same.  Don’t know who they are?  Find out!


In a comment posted to the entry below this one:


I got the results of my students’ GAA portfolios and I was extremely upset. Overall my students did very well…actually that should be reworded to say that “I did very well”. With all of the hours and hours of work that I put into those portfolios and with all of the sweat and tears, I was devastated to find out that one of my students failed in the area of math and another one failed in the area of English/Language Arts. I almost cried when I got the news. It was reported to me that the one who failed the math portion did so by only one point. The student who failed the ELA portion did so because of some error on my part. I know this because it received an NA which means it was not scored. I had six third graders who were taught the same standards and did pretty much the same activities which were documented in the same way, but one of them was not scored because of some stupid typo! I have so many problems with the GAA but the problem I have now is “not knowing”. I don’t know why these two students failed in these areas. I will NEVER know! I won’t get the portfolios back so I can’t see what I did wrong. As their teacher, how can I learn from my mistakes if I don’t even know what the mistakes are? I NEED CLOSURE!


I’m sorry my anonymous friend, but that is not going to happen for several reasons.  First of all, we all know how subjective the process is.  There are many, many ways to fail the GAA and NONE of those failures have anything to do with student achievement.  Not even one.  How the hell do you assign any validity to a 3rd grade assessment when a student’s functioning is measured in months and not years?!?   Try giving a 3rd grade assessment to an 18 month-old and tell me such a score is valid!  But this is the nature of NCLB beast.


Secondly, the state is well aware that this entire process is an embarrassment.  I’ve told folks in Atlanta that myself.  I continue to remind them of it.  They certainly do not want teachers and administrators pouring over these things and analyzing the results because THERE IS NOTHING USEFUL TO LEARN FROM THEM!  These things do NOT inform instruction like any other assessment should do.  They are merely one more time-consuming project designed to meet the letter of the law.  This only spotlights how stupid the law is in the first place.  The only thing more stupid than the law is how it is being implemented.  Assessment should inform instruction.  If any of you clowns in Atlanta are reading this, please explain to me how the GAA can possibly contribute to improving instruction when specific results are unavailable to teachers?  Or better; how can these results inform instruction even IF results are made available? Does the portfolio tell us where the student is presently functioning?  Does it inform us as to the specific cognitive weaknesses?  Where is any of this in the scoring rubric?


Finally, you will not get closure because closure is not on the list of priorities according to NCLB.  No one cares how many teachers are left behind, just like they don’t care how many of our kids get left behind in the process.  This is a process that is all about the damned statistics.  It is not about people, it is about politics.  It is not about education, it is about appeasing some ill-informed constituency who is determined to destroy public education no matter what the body count is in the process.  Teachers have always been at the bottom of the priority list in the education debate.  I’m not against taking a test to prove my proficiency in a given content area, and I’m going to do just that. But the alternate assessment circus is too much. 


This is why I’m taking the science test in one month (I did get the subject changed over from biology to the subject of science for which I’m better suited) because if I’m going to play this silly game, I want to play on the real field with the real players where my scores will really count.  The field of severe disabilities is important to the students, their teachers and their parents, but not to the greater education community, despite whatever they say to us in the hall ways.   


The real story of this will play out between teachers and their administrators.  If your administrator is supportive, you’ll know it.  I know how much work so many of you put into this crap because I was doing it too.  Only I was probably under less of a load than many, many of you.  I just complained real loud!  You deserve a pat on the back just for surviving the experience.  Now you’ll have to survive the fall-out because obviously a certain percentage of you will have failing marks on your portfolios.  And due to the nature of NCLB, one failure sinks the whole boat.  One typo and the whole portfolio goes to the s#!t heap.  My fate was already predetermined with that nice little letter in my file.


This is why special education teachers everywhere have either cashed out of the severe business, or are preparing to make moves similar to mine.  I hate to do it, but I have my own family to feed, you know?  But I’m going to fight it as much as possible on all levels as long as this thing keeps vexing all of us.  




6 Responses to “Sickening”

  1. Jan July 11, 2007 at 2:47 am #

    Dear Dick –

    Today my Critical Issues in Special Education class in Vancouver Canada will be talking about an article written by Browder et al(2006) and published in TASH entitled Aligning Instruction with Academic Content Standards: Finding the Link. While I am all for making sure that students with severe disabilities have access to more than life skills, I am bringing along your latest blog to provide some background on what this has done to both teachers and students. I have read your blog with interest and sympathy for the last year and always come away with some reaction – sometimes inspired; sometimes enraged. Probably just what you were hoping for.

  2. designonpost July 12, 2007 at 12:49 am #

    I know that message…that’s the teacher I worked with!

  3. Dick July 12, 2007 at 9:48 am #

    Well, I sometimes look for a reaction from my audience but a lot of the time I’m really venting and blowing off steam! Which is why I use a pseudonym, because sometimes my steam gets to be a bit much in regards to the local situation.

    I am all for aligning instruction and academic content standards and see the potential in really improving instruction with our students. However, with the weight of the state and federal government bearing down on us for some truly unreasonable objectives (grade level reading?) I can’t get out from under the bureaucracy and testing long enough to actually teach them. And then, despite hours and hours of toil and effort, we’re told it’s not good enough. At least the mild kids can actually sit and take a test with pencil and paper.

    Thanks for stopping by, and your blog is worth a visit!

    Thanks for stopping by, Design! Hopefully I’m not getting anyone in trouble! but it’s nice to know folks are paying attention and I do like hearing how other teachers are doing and dealing with these issues. If I’m missing something, I appreciate folks letting me know!


  4. Jenn August 8, 2007 at 7:41 pm #

    Hi I am a parent of a 6th grader who has Autism.
    i called an emergency IEP. They put my son in French class. He is non-verbal. The meeting is tomorrow. I feel for the teachers… but my son’s IEP is being trumped by GAA. I went through mediation to get the IEP from the county I moved from. Now they don’t have to follow it.
    I want a way out of GAA. Is it possible?

  5. Jenn August 8, 2007 at 7:55 pm #

    OK… my husband just found this link:
    I hope it helps tomorrow…
    If it doesn’t… what is the next step? A lawyer?
    plz help

  6. Dick August 9, 2007 at 9:23 pm #

    Jenn, if you find a way to opt out of the GAA, LET ME KNOW! Countless parents and teachers will be in your debt.

    In some states there is an opt-out provision but it is a very closely guarded secret. I’m not aware of what it is in Georgia, but would be very keen to learn what it is.

    Having said this, I can’t say that the GAA is the reason your son is taking French. I’m not aware of any French standards for middle or high school students. It just sounds like the school is screwed up. As soon as they find out you’re willing to get a lawyer, they will unscrew themselves and fly right, hopefully. I’m sorry you and other parents have to go through such insanities.


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