kitchen table math, the sequel: shrouded in mystery

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

shrouded in mystery

A friend of mine said, last Xmas, "Here in Irvington, everything is shrouded in mystery."

It's true!

I'd like to know how true the shrouded-in-mystery observation is in schools across the country. Kathy Iggy's comment describes my district exactly:

My boss and I were talking about all the secrecy in our district. Her kids are in high school and do very well. But at the end of middle school, the guidance counselor noticed boss' daughter was not being recommended for Honors Science despite the fact she had an A+ in 8th grade science. When the counselor asked the teacher whether this was a mistake, teacher said she was not recommending her because "she did work hard enough in my class." The counselor recommended my boss request her kids be put in honors classes anyway. A similar thing happened with boss' son because of typical boy not doing homework issues, despite he had a 99% on his standardized tests. Boss pushed for kids to be put in honors and they are doing fine. Of course, I think that middle school counselor who told boss that parents can request classes despite the lack of teacher recommends is retiring.

the good news

The good news around here is that we've had one major reform.

The new head of the science department, a middle school science teacher with a sterling reputation, has reformed the selection process for the 8th grade Earth Science course.

Parents now know, and are directly told:

  • precisely what the selection criteria are
  • selection criteria are heavily objective -- i.e. scores on the CTBS science scale
  • published rubric outlining exactly what combination of study skills and test scores kids need to do well in the course
  • all students are sent a letter informing them whether they've been chosen to take the course (previously only the selected kids received letters; those kids then had to tell their friends they hadn't gotten in)
This is an enormous reform.

Very, very important.

news from nowhere part 14
news from nowhere part 16
news from nowhere part 17
news from nowhere part 20
tracking in "high-performing" schools
Earth Science reform
email to the guidance counselor, 2007 edition
email from the guidance counselor


KathyIggy said...

The secrecy thing seems to be all over. My sister lives down in FLA (with all those high-stakes tests). The only way she knows anything is because she's been on a bunch of PTO committees and eavesdrops on teachers' lounge conversations. She was a special ed teacher (not in FLA) and so has managed to be the parent rep on special ed committees, along with curriculum and testing committees, where she learns all the top-secret info. The FCAT tests are a huge deal in FLA. At the very end of a week to week and a half of testing, they "hide" some tests that determine a student's placement in high school courses. By this time, lots of the kids are so burned out that they are randomly filling in circles. But my sister only found out about these "hidden" tests (which may be the most important ones) because of her committee involvement. She tells me horror stories about special ed in FLA; I'm glad I don't live there!

Unknown said...

Good for him (her)!

Catherine Johnson said...

wait - I don't follow

they hide the tests, because why??

KathyIggy said...

Not physically hide them but lump them in along with all the other FCAT tests. Parents and students are not informed that these tests given on the last day of testing are what determines placement in high school classes, as distinguished from the other tests which are the NCLB required tests.