Sunday, October 14, 2012

Warning...True Thoughts about Value Added

Most of the time as I write posts I am excited to share a new technology idea or literacy idea,  or I have have learned something new professionally.  Not often have I written a post that I would consider negative or questioning education?  However, I am posting about value added and what does it mean to me, so feel free to switch to another blog or not continue to read.

I had an experience this past week that really disturbed me and after I came home and cried my eyes out, I wondered if I am too old to keep teaching? Have we lost the value of each individual child as a learner and accepting where they are in their learning curve?  Several years ago when education started shifting toward state tests to judge students in the areas of reading, math, and science,  I wasn't sure about state testing like most teachers.  But I am realistic, and I know that I am not going to be able to change politics and/or state tests.  I wasn't happy, but I have to admit I played the game of testing and until two years ago that worked for me professionally.

However, now that state testing is attached to value added, and I am being judged on the basis of a 2 1/2 hour test in reading, math and science.  Testing has become more personal, and I am here to admit I do take it personally.  I believe I have to because the scores are attached to my name and possibly 50% of my salary if the laws continue to stay true in our state.

I am sitting on the side of the fence where my students made value added this past year;  however the reason I came home and cried was because my students this year are becoming an NCE number from their 4th grade testing. Someone at the state department has calculated what a year's growth should be for my students in this year's class. This is another blog post within itself, but my biggest question is when did a calculation of numbers become more important that the child themselves? These scores are suppose to tell me how well they will do this year on their 5th grade OAA tests.  These numbers are suppose to tell me who I should "push" because they can do it and which ones need remediation.  In my past 23 years of teaching. I thought that was one aspect of being a professional educator.  I never needed an NCE number to tell me who needed help and who needed enriched. 

My students are 10 and11, and they are readers, writers, word smiths, mathematicians, scientists and historians,  They are soccer players, ballet dancers, piano players, only children and the youngest of 6.  One student has only lived in the United States for 8 months, and another their grandpa died last week.  For another student their mom travels all week because she has to support their family and another student is in our latch key program from 7AM to 7 PM.  These are the children in my class this year, and I am their teacher who wants to know them for these qualities and not by a predetermined NCE score.

On a side note, I sat on this blog post for 24 hours.  My mom always told me to stop and think before I speak or in this case push the publish button. 


  1. I believe we, as educators, highly qualified educators according to the state I am from, need to start speaking out more about the ridiculous testing craze that is going on across the country. I have been out of my second grade class 6 days already this year (out of 24 total days) to be trained on AIMSweb which is the method my district chose to use to evaluate teachers. This also included initial testing of my students. I was not in the class instructing my students or helping to create important routines - I was testing. I think I will be out of my classroom for testing purposes for about 10 days this year. Ten days of valuable instruction lost. No disrespect to substitute teachers, but they simply do not know the children in my class and can only provide adequate instruction at best. All this testing is not to benefit children, it is to evaluate teachers and I believe it's purpose is to take down teacher's unions. Any common sense educator can see that this is not the way to evaluate teachers. Teachers need to start voting more - then maybe politicians will stop creating ludicrous policies.

    Good for you for posting your concerns!

  2. Hey Friend! I had the same moment that lead to a similar night of tears. And I considered how one exam cannot define our children or our work as teachers. And the whole idea makes me mad, sad, and feeling brave at the same time. What saved me?

    My 11 year old daughter listened to me, passed me tissues, then handed me her marked iPad page from The Hunger Games. "Mom-here's what matters to us kids."

    Here's the quote she passed to me:

    Then I think of Peeta's words on the roof. "Only I keep wishing I could think of a way show the Capitol they don't own me. That I am more than just a piece in their Games." And for the first time, I understand what he means.

    I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can't own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.

    And that is what carries through tough times. Knowing that our own kids see that scores are so fleeting and what lasts is the knowledge that learning is worth something. That kids are worth something. And they know their value because we care enough to show children they matter.

    Take Katniss' words and bravery with you and have an amazing week! You add value to the world because you are you. Celebrate!

  3. Maria,
    I think there are many of us who feel as you do. Thanks for pushing the publish button. The kids have to come first always.

  4. I'm leaving my Facebook comment here for posterity, because I think yours is such a powerful post ..

    So glad you published... I'm exhausted mentally and emotionally about teaching in this system for another 20+ years. I've read a lot of critiques about the fuzzy maths behind the calculations.... and I really believe that it's about judging and sorting teachers, which could be far more effectively and fairly accomplished if this absurd amount of money we spend on testing were reallocated to professional development and appropriate supervision ratios.

  5. Keep your focus on the wonderful, complicated, individual children in front of you. Push the rest as far into the background as you can. Great teaching will win the day! (That's my story and I'm sticking to order to stay sane!!!)

  6. Some how I knew if I posted the publish button I would find support in our blogging community. Our stories are similar wrapped around one goal: Each day educating our students to the best of their potential, shine a light for those who need it, and extend their learning when ever possible. I am walking into my classroom this morning feeling better. Thank you for taking the time to comment and leaving your own individual stories.
    I learned at #Allwrite we all have our story!

  7. What Mary Lee said...otherwise there would be no joy in doing what we do, no sense of fulfillment in making sure we nurture those kids who walk into our classrooms year after year, who are KIDS not NUMBERS!

  8. Maria,
    Like you, I am continually amazed by the time and money spent on testing. Unfortunately,also like you, as a teacher I understand there is very little I can do about it. However, I can do so much each day that matters in the lives of children.

    Though I shake my head at the testing world as a teacher, I have greater concern for it as a parent. I am continually saddened by the amount of time spent preparing, practicing and taking tests. I was left wondering when my daughter brought home her "Achieving Competency in Science" test prep booklet. What? Isn't science a hands-on subject with questions, research, explorations and labs? Besides, I wanted much more than competency for her. Or the time when the sign on her school library door read, "Closed for testing.". Most importantly, I hope she never allows herself to be defined by these tests.

    What will it mean to first grade children and their families when they get the notice that data doesn't define them as readers?

    Isn't it strange that at a time where we say we need collaboration, creativity, communication, and other higher level thinking skills we choose to measure children in a way that honors none of these.

    I am so thankful to be part of an education community that stays focused and positive in these tough times. We need to continue to share the amazing things kids do each day. We need to advocate for children and public education. There are those who hope both fail.

    Thanks for sharing your great post,

  9. Cathy, thanks for your sharing your thoughts I only wish I had a few answers. I totally agree with you though about being a parent. And I'm thankful our own two children are through the K-12 system because as a parent of a struggling reader I would have been devastated that a letter based on a score determined our daughter's reading chances on a 3rd grade test.