Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Responsibility Problem

The audits claim that students struggling with the KCCT test is the responsibility of their school. Responsibility. It's a big word. We want to know who is to blame. Who is at fault? Who can we make the scapegoat? Right now, teachers and administrators are the scapegoat. Unfortunately, I'm one of those teachers.

But who really is to blame? Maybe it's the state for making a flawed test that can't possibly be fair? Maybe it's the district for putting out curriculum designed to prepare students for that test? Maybe it's the teachers who have to choose between in depth analysis and preparing students for a flawed test that can't possibly be fair?

What if it's the students? Sure, let's blame the students. They take no responsibility for their work. They haven't had to until high school. Even when they fail, they get passed through because we can't have a sixteen year old eighth grader. No one wants their kid driving himself to middle school. They've been set up to fail and not have any consequences until it really counts. Well, if they've been set up, it's not really their fault. Sometimes I try to think what I would have done if I were one of my students. If I'd gotten from kindergarten to eighth grade without having to do work, would I do work in high school? Would I freak out and drop out? Would I care? Would I blame teachers for failing me?

What if it's the parents? Okay, let's try the parents. You're a single mom. You work two jobs. You had your kid at nineteen and no one has been there to help you. You hated school and barely graduated. How psyched are you about your kid struggling in school. Do you know how to help him? You work a completely different schedule than the school, so you can't be involved even if you want to.

What if there's no one to blame? We need to face this reality. The state? They have to test kids. I don't know why, but apparently they do. The district has to make sure that teachers keep their students on track. Teachers have to do whatever they can to get their kids to pass and graduate high school. Kids have to show up. Most parents do the best they can with the resources they have available.

There's no one to blame. Spending money on outrageous witch hunts isn't helping anyone. It's taking precious resources away from the schools that need them. We're bleeding money in an effort to find problems. And the teachers are labelled as problems and shuffled around. These problems go much deeper than the fact that I didn't write the core content number on my board for the day or that we took away one minute of instructional time to give morning announcements.

I don't know what the fix is, but more tests, audits, transferring administrators and putting students through hell is not the answer.

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