Sleeping late is a rare gift these days. Beany is our tiny human alarm clock; without fail she wakes up at 6 am. She has no concept of weekends yet, in terms of the need her parents have to sleep in. This means that yesterday I was able to see Joel Klein interviewed by Chris Wragge on Eye On New York at the ungodly (for Sunday, anyway) hour of 6:30 am.
It was a total softball interview. I have a feeling that there was a list of things agreed upon beforehand that would not be addressed by Klein. I wish someone more hard-hitting would interview him, gloves off. But that’s not going to happen, ever.
Because it was so clearly a fluff interview (and because I was not fully awake) there wasn’t much to say about it. But Wragge did refer to the survey about Klein that we took in June, which found, on average, that 80% of teachers think that Klein needs to improve himself in every aspect of his dealings with us. You know, the teachers. The people who actually work with the children instead of sitting in Tweed and criticizing from afar everything we do. I was briefly heartened, then quickly disappointed, when Wragge started to bring up the survey but only focus on the question about the amount of testing that we do. Klein’s take? “Teachers don’t like testing because it’s a powerful accountability tool.”
This response makes me believe that Joel Klein has never had an honest conversation with most of the teachers who work in NYC. I can only really speak for myself now, but if I ever had the chance, I would tell him that I have no problem with accountability. I do have a problem with the fact that we seem to spend a few days a month giving the kids test upon test, administered by the city, which takes away time from teaching. There’s also not enough time to really look at the results of these assessments and figure out how to use the data, which is time consuming. Last night I spent two hours reviewing the reading data that I collected from my incoming students in June. Granted, it’s only one assessment, but my conclusion? About three-quarters of kids I have not taught yet cannot read very well despite the fact that nearly all of their school career has been during the BloomKlein Regime, despite the fact that they were tested up the yin-yang all year.
Klein actually compared our testing to the tests he took during his own childhood. He referred to his math and vocabulary tests (they taught vocabulary back then!) as “useful.” When a teacher gives a child a test based on something the teacher and child have done in class, it IS useful. The child gets feedback on something he or she was working on, within a reasonable amount of time. There’s relevance. The teacher goes over the results and knows what the students have mastered and what has to be re-taught.
And when a teacher gives a test based on the work that they are doing in class, no one has to shell out millions of dollars. No corporate hacks get rich when we give our own tests. I can see how Klein would hate the idea of teacher-created assessments. It makes it harder for him to make his case about how we all suck, and fewer companies rake in the dough.
And that’s the problem with these assessments from the city. Even when we let the kids know in advance that one is in the near future, it means nothing to them. They see no relevance to what they are doing in class; it’s just another thing to bubble in. They never get the actual tests back to see what they got wrong.
As Klein said, this is about accountability. He looks at what these tests say about the teachers, not the students.