Tuesday, September 1, 2009

FAIL

i wrote this post this summer when we first got the email that we did not make AYP but i didn't publish it. i'm not sure why not. maybe i wasn't ready to deal with the frustration. but yesterday we had what is becoming our annual "why we didn't make ayp" staff meeting. it's hard to give up what would otherwise be a productive 40 minutes to sit and be reminded of the ins and outs of a law that doesn't make much sense. my awesome co-teacher (i can say that now that we're working together again!!) blogged about it twice, and i think she explains the law perfectly the first time, and i really appreciate the sense of humor in her second post.

the thing is, for awhile i think nclb had some good side effects. in some areas it pushed more money into schools. it asked school districts to make sure they gave schools like mine the materials they needed to be successful, giving us a voice over the schools with active parents. in some ways it really changed our instruction for the best. but i feel like we've hit the tipping point, where we are no longer making good changes. we've done amazing things with limited resources. we've had huge gains. and i hope they will continue. but i fear that the scales have tipped- as we get closer to 2014 we can no longer afford to just improve our scores with better teaching- we're going to have to spend more time with the law, figuring out how to make it work for us. and spend even more time on testing than we did before. are we going to change our teaching so we can work with the odd intricacies nclb measures us for?

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We just found out that we once again did not make AYP. It's heartbreaking- all the blood, sweat and tears we poured into last year. And yet I don't think any of us are surprised. The closer we get to 2014 and the closer we get to the magical 100% pass rate, the harder it will be. We're not making the same group of children smarter every year- we're trying to make each group smarter than the group that came before them. In a school like mine where we get an influx of different children every year depending on world events, that's a hard challenge to obtain. This year, for whatever reason, it seemed we had a large group of children from Ethiopia. As a nearby county changed their laws about illegal immigrants we also gained many, many children from them.
We grew at an alarming rate (we gained almost 150 children last year), and yet in many, many ways we did "make them smarter than the years before them". We missed AYP in one subject area, by a small number of students who are counted in 4 or 5 different categories (but isn't that always the story?) So much of our instruction worked. Our interventions, our before school and after school remediation. Our professional development where we looked at how to make ourselves better teachers, how to watch how individual children learn so we can know how to best meet their needs- it all worked.
But we'll still be on the list of failing schools.

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