Saturday, December 29

It's back to school already for some Queens kids

One teacher who hasn't totally taken the week off is NYC Educator; he's been blogging away. Today he takes aim at the culture of school as work that led PS 15 in Springfield Gardens to schedule optional 5-hour test prep sessions daily over winter break, as the Daily News reported earlier this week. "As we know ... inner-city kids with low standardized test scores are not eligible for vacations or time away from the standardized test prep practice mills," NYC Educator writes sarcastically. "They must be socialized to expect a future where 9 and 1/2 hour work days, little-to-no vacation time, and weekend work days are the norm. In addition, they must be socialized to expect that much of their compensation will come in the form of 'performance bonuses'" — in this case, XBox game systems, which were promised to the top scorers on the state test.

NYC Educator thinks that KIPP schools embody this philosophy, and there is an interesting exchange between a KIPP teacher and his critics in the comments. (Of course, we know that KIPP schools, or at least their teachers, have a healthy appetite for fun and games.)

As valid as his critique of the system are, it's true also that of all the dozen tests kids take each year, the January ELA and March math state tests matter the most for promotion and placement. Even if you're no fan of high-stakes tests, you've got to want to give kids a fair chance to succeed on them as long as they are required, and I've always thought it didn't make too much sense to have such a high-stakes test just five school days after a holiday vacation full of travel, sugar, and video games. If PS 15 cuts the kids some slack after the exam — and for the three kids who bring Xboxes home, it will have to — holding lessons the day after Christmas might be a semi-reasonable thing to do.

1 comment:

NYC Educator said...

Just for the record, while I did write the blog most of last week, the piece you picked up on was written by reality-based educator.

I also find the conversation it provoked to be very interesting. Our prime criticisms of KIPP are that their teachers are grossly overworked and underpaid, and that this sets a very bad precedent for our children. Our kids will have to work in the world they inherit from us (not to mention good results are attained without subjecting kids or working people to KIPP conditions).

Please don't tell anyone, but I'm old enough to remember when a factory worker could buy a home and support a family on one income. Anyone who's checked real estate prices lately knows the road to middle class is a lot rockier than it once was. That's terrible, and the demise of unions has certainly contributed to it. As teachers are one of the very few areas where vibrant unionism exists, we're regular targets for those who'd just as soon return to feudalism.

Our blog has been attacked by several KIPP fans over the net, and none of them have responded to our actual positions. I've been called "anti-teacher" by some for writing that their trip, aside from being questionably funded, hardly compensated them for what they do. KIPP defenders suggested to reporters it was not a vacation, but that they went to meetings and discussed work while there. Some perk.

Responses to diNapoli's findings, which also strongly suggested a systemic indifference toward salary increases for KIPP teachers, called him "political." However, none called his findings inaccurate, as far as I know.

All my students know they have to give details or examples to support arguments, like this: Bloomberg's school grades are not only political, but also inaccurate, poorly-conceived, and highly misleading. Which parent in the world thinks, for example, that safety is only worth 2.5% of a score? Which parent values progress from one year to the next over consistent excellence, or lack thereof?