Diane\'s Blog

D (Anonymous)

Hi,

Thank you for continuing to speak up for American education.

My state is now looking at adding the end of course tests for music classes and art classes to the scores for standardized tests to make a school’s grade for school and employee evaluations.

I am a music teacher at a center school for the lowest one percent of students.  Students who mostly function on the participatory level.  Students who have grave health issues like seizures and conditions that take away their ability to communicate and function.  Many are on g-tube feeding or have to be fed.  The majority of students are in diapers.  (Think of how much time it might take to tend to a teenage girl in diapers.) Many students’ condition have brain function challenges, physical challenges, and challenges with processing information through their senses.  With all these challenges and health issues you can further imagine the behaviors classroom teachers try to tend to and oh yes, teach.

Now just because these students have a low IQ, so low that they need constant custodial care or adult supervision just for their well being, these students must be taught on grade level.  That sounds great and fair except the skills that people would assume are in place to be able to process the information aren’t prerequisites.  Basically that means if a student never progresses mentally beyond kindergarten information he or she will still need to be taught high school information.  Moreover, the same student will be expected to show progress on an alternate assessment test.  Yes, some students can identify the correct answer from three pictures but most often the teacher places the student’s hand on the correct answer after eliminating the incorrect answers.  So there is a minimum score if you can actually get the child to touch the answer.  Some students are tactile defensive and it is difficult.  Other students like to chew on the test materials so it is challenging.

The classes that are being used to test, test making for students like this are not like the classes in my school.  I found out there is one teacher, two paras, and four students.  With twelve students in diapers, in wheelchairs, who need to be fed or have their g-tubes tended to, who chew on themselves, who drool, and on and on it is difficult to fit teaching in to the same level as the small classes.

Then with all the care given at school it is difficult to impossible at times to get parents or group homes to follow up.  This is critical when there are behaviors that are so overt that the impede learning in the classroom.  Oh, too if a child loses a finger because  he or she sucked it too much, it does happen, the teacher can be held liable.  With the budget crunch getting one on one assistance is not happening as easily as in the past.

I would love to be part of the end of course test making team but I’m guessing that the parameters that are in place limit one’s ability to really do anything but what’s programmed.  For example because my students are concrete learners I teach specific concepts with home grown materials.  I doubt if these materials will be allowed as part of the testing.  No, the students will be expected to generalize their experience with that materials to black and white stick pictures just like the state alternate assessment in other subjects!  Students on such a low level don’t generalize yet.  Think of a child that is six months old, yes I work with student with IQs that low.  The same characteristics and interests of a six month old are in the grown body of a teenage child.

The end of course tests for the fine arts are years off and are just now being developed.  Until then my evaluation rests on the general school’s alternate assessment tests for the students’ complexity level grade in the core subjects.  Yes, the state will add a factor but it is a general one for all teachers working with students who are Intellectually Disabled.  Handy how they don’t categorize them into the levels any more.  I believe it wasn’t so much to take the stigma away from being profoundly retarded, no it was mostly to pave the way for general data keeping!  After the debacle with mortgage factoring, do you really think I trust the state’s factor?  No, and there isn’t any information about how it was derived either.  I guess they will look at the scores first and then just wave a magic wand.

So, just like the conditions of my students being out of my locus of control so are many of the factors that impact my evaluation.  The biggest laugh is that we are using Dr. Marzano’s Frameworks.  Heck, many of the things the Frameworks requests are not best practice for students on this level and way beyond the students’ functional level.  Yet when asked, administrators can only answer that it’s the law.  So, I either have to comply to the letter or be evaluated poorly.  If I am creative I could be viewed as innovative but could also be viewed as belligerent.  I can’t get any answers and feel as if pressing the issue will only cause my job to be in jeopardy.

Teachers are easy to pick on.  I don’t see any huge up rising.  The powers that be counted on it.  We are too busy tending to our students, our families, and oh yes, maybe ourselves.

Thanks for listening.

D