kitchen table math, the sequel: Take it out on the students

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Take it out on the students

My son is finishing up a multi-subject portfolio for his sophomore US Lit honors class. Exemplars from each subject must be collected and put into a notebook. Students are required to list a specific CCSS standard and then explain how each piece of work relates to that standard. One that my son used was: "F-TF.1. Understand radian measure of an angle as the length of the arc on the unit circle subtended by the angle." He then had to explain how the work fit this standard. This project came, of course, after the teacher complained about how he was required to do this for all of his lessons. My son has to do this for all of the subjects in the portfolio, even those (like music) that don't have a specific standard defined. This is a teacher who doesn't hand back homework with any explanations. You have to make an appointment to meet with him after school to find out why he graded the way he did. And, if you somehow fail to get to this appointment, he will create a new grade of zero for you in his gradebook. This is a teacher who prides himself on grading 10 points lower than all other teachers. Got to toughen up those soft little honors kids. Also, this portfolio has to include your resume to be accepted into the junior class. You are interviewed and have to orally convince the teacher (or some volunteer parent) that you should be accepted. You also have to create a resume for an imaginary job sometime in your future, listing all of your degrees and experience. It has to include imaginary letters of recommendation. I told him that he is learning creative resume enhancing skills. Of course, he has a PhD from Harvard. It reminds me of how some teachers ask students what grade they would give to themselves. I told my son to always say 'A'.


SteveH said...

Oops. I forgot the paragraph html tag again.

Anonymous said...

I haven't posted much in the last couple of years because we've been dealing with this kind of teacher every year, particularly in English. Unfortunately, I don't have the most conscientious student, so the combination has been really bad for us. It's just the punitive nature of some of the grading that has made my son's time in high school absolutely miserable. I've reported some of the more stupid things to the school counselor and psychologist, but I imagine it will just be blown off.

But your story sounds about as bad as I've heard.


Shannon Severance said...

" multi-subject portfolio for his sophomore US Lit honors class" Huh? So his grade in US Lit Honors depends on being able to show he's done well in Math, Music, etc?

Anonymous said...


Makes you want to drop out, get a GED and go to university part time.

Sean Price

SteveH said...

"particularly in English"

Yes, and history is not far behind. Since they don't want to ask simple factual questions, proper answers require figuring out what the teacher wants to hear.

"So his grade in US Lit Honors depends on being able to show he's done well in Math, Music, etc?"

I don't think so, but it appears that he will be graded on how well he assigns and explains the CCSS standards, and on how well he interviews for a position in the junior class. Of course, the teacher doesn't want them to focus on their grades or the effort they put in. They have to talk about some other wonderful qualities they bring to the position. It's another example of how being shy or introverted will get you bad grades.

The bigger problem is that the teacher has them do things without ever teaching them how to do them. This teacher is notorious, but knows how to play the game. He records EVERYTHING, including all of the student interviews.

Glen said...

It's as if this guy had a job where he didn't have to worry about his "clients" leaving because of bad service. It's as if he didn't have to worry about performance reviews judging his lack of contribution to those he "served." It's as if his usefulness was expected to be taken for granted, leaving him free to focus on demonstrating his power over others in ever more creative and capricious ways without fear of consequence.

It's almost as if he worked for one of those government agencies which, in theory, were supposed to.... Oh, wait...he does.

Miss Friday said...


Remember when US Literature class was about literature? Grades were earned by how well you analyzed Fitzgerald, Twain, and Steinbeck. Teachers imparted actual knowledge of literary devices and themes, then demanded mastery of same from their students? I fear the assignment described is the present and future of U.S. public education as fewer and fewer educators value real knowledge and insist on driving out those of us who do.


Catherine Johnson said...


Catherine Johnson said...

It's as if this guy had a job where he didn't have to worry about his "clients" leaving because of bad service.

oh, man

Memorial Day I heard what is probably THE worst 'government payroll' story I've heard in my life.

Story involves a tiny, tiny little town out at the very end of Long Island. Per pupil spending is, I think, $70K because they have so few kids ... the town is so small that you can win election to town council with 84 votes.

Anyway, the town workers all live in the town. They earn $70K/year and they have free housing in houses owned by the town.

I think they have a serious workload only about 4 months a year because this is a town of summer homes.

So, because the workers all live in the town and all vote, they vote against anyone who expects any kind of accountability whatsoever.

They vote in the people who promise them $70K annual salary, free housing, no accountability, and a super-light work load.

Then throw in the $70K per pupil for the schools.....

There's a new book out --- hmmm. Trying to remember.

I think it's called something like the "Geography of Income.

What the author finds is that in places like this, where you have very large numbers of rich people, the pilot fish -- that would be the rest of us -- also make lots more money, too. "Middle class" people 'servicing" the very rich have much higher incomes than do the equivalent person elsewhere.

That's what we see here.

Village workers out on the tip of Long Island earning 6 figures (when you add in the free houses - and don't forget the pensions!) and sending their kids to public schools funded at $70K.

Catherine Johnson said...

Meanwhile I have the ultimate too-much-money story.

Last week, the night before Chris's graduation, the police came to my house to question me.

It's a whole long saga, but eventually we learned that the President-elect of the PTSA, who my friend R. beat for school board 3 years ago, had called in a false report to the police, telling them that I had emailed multiple threats to the "Cyberbullying" speaker and requesting police protection.

(question: who emails multiple threats to speakers on cyberbullying? Anyone?)

Because we have a GAZILLION police officers in our village of 6500 people, the Chief tasked an officer who was already present at the talk with protecting the speaker AND sent another officer to my house to question me. TWO officers just to deal with one middle-aged parent who didn't threaten a Speaker on cyberbullying & was otherwise occupied preparing for graduation the next day.

When we talked to the Chief (on graduation day!), he said they send police officers to the home of ANYONE who is suspected of ANYTHING by ANYONE -- even if the tip that comes in is anonymous.

You have to have fantastic levels of govt spending to fund an operation at that level.

Of course, the whole experience was extremely upsetting... although we had never met the Chief before, and he's a terrific guy --- talking to him, we had a "Here's the grownup" sensation.

In any event, if we lived in Yonkers, I suppose it's possible the president-elect of the PTSA might call the police in order to harass a person she doesn't like, but if she did call the police, the police wouldn't have the manpower to worry about some mom threatening the cyberbullying speaker.

Of course, having an army of police also meant that the one time Andrew disappeared completely out of the house, they found him in about 5 seconds. That was amazing.

Catherine Johnson said...

I think the PTSA has jumped the shark.

cranberry said...

Catherine, have you thought about filing suit against the woman for defamation?