Just Appearances

Been to Subway lately? Or Taco Del Mar? If you have, you may have noticed that the workers now wear plastic gloves when preparing food. A woman in line in front of me today was pretty rude to a worker when, while swamped by customers inside and in the drive-thru and working alone, he forgot to change his gloves as he prepared to make her meal. She chastised him and kept harping on him until I stepped in and asked her to let him correct the error.

Now, I’m not looking for kudos, though the kid looked relieved, but I simply said to her, “the gloves don’t matter anyway.” She looked startled at my interjection and told me she was “sure they do.” I told her that as soon as the food handler touches the oven handle, or a food handle, or the counter, or a box, the sterility is gone. It’s just window dressing; it’s just for appearances. It’s makes the customer feel better that things appear cleaner. Not much has really changed from before the gloves were worn.

This is exactly how I feel when I think of the classroom assessments my district forces us to administer. It sure looks good that we now have performance indicators to look at correlations to the state test, the WASL, but how do these assessments change the classroom instruction? In truth, they don’t. They’re viewed as one more thing to do which takes away from instruction time.

That doesn’t matter. Now we’re data driven.

Ok, snarkiness aside, my department is fantastic. At least once a semester we actually review as a department what we see, what we need to improve, and what we can adjust to better assist students. This started well before the required assessments, but no one cares because it didn’t provide “measurable data” upon which “the teachers can make informed decisions about instruction.” In short, we spend four days in class and hours outside of class grading these assessments, so the district has formally graphed data that our department already compiled informally. Ok, the snarkiness wasn’t over. Sorry.

Truly, I really think this kind of time use does two things: 1) it makes the district and building administrations look good to have these assessments and the data, and 2) it also shows me how little trust there is that we do our jobs. Everyone must fit in the same box, and appearances must be maintained. Informal assessments are not valued. Neither is our time.

We have departments around the building come to us and ask how we have maintained the highest scores in the district on the state test. The answers are the same every time. We:

  • collaborate on a regular basis.
  • start discussions with what’s best for our students.
  • mention the state test as seldom as possible.
  • build upon what the excellent English teachers before us have done.
  • ask each other for help.
  • share our best practices with one another.
  • solve department and student problems as a group.
  • know that student success comes first.
  • avoid territoriality (the “open drawer” policy).
  • review the curriculum regularly and adjust as needed.

I’m not sure how to graph those for the district office.


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