Why are they even bothering to tell me this?

Apropos those report cards that came home the other day, I’m happy to announce that, if Little Bookworm were to take the standardized test that drives modern public education, she would score in the 70% to 94% range. In other words, her work quality floats somewhere between barely passing and excellent.

As you can imagine, I found this report card useless. What in the world kind of education system sends children home with a report card that doesn’t convey any meaningful information to the parent about the child’s academic performance? As it happens, because I monitor closely the work my child brings home, I know that her output is in the 93% range — or an old-fashioned “A.” Since I already know that, why did they bother to waste my time with pieces of paper that do nothing more than satisfy the school’s own internal obsession with those damn tests? But as I am learning, one of the main functions of the public school system seems to be to waste parents’ time with pointless, meaningless minutiae.

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  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    That is a useless report card.

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    I have no kids, so I only have my own educational experience to draw on. I am surprised to hear that report cards these days inform how your child performs in relation to a single test – and a test it sounds like she didn’t even take yet. Does the percentage indicate the number of questions she would be expected to answer correctly? And if she hasn’t taken the test, what criteria are they using to measure her performance? And why not just tell you how she’s doing in relation to those criteria? Any why so wide a range? Or does the report card indicate her position in relation to all other students, with no measurement against a standard? If the latter is the case, it could mean that the student who gets 99% just does less badly than 98% of the other students. But that kid could still be doing badly.

    No need to explain the details of modern day grading to me. The questions are just my way of saying, what on earth has happened to objectivity?

    (I know it must seem like I’ve been living in a cave for the past 40 years. I’m aware of trends in education, but not the day-to-day mechanics or methods.)

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    As I understand it, Judyrose, I’ve been informed that, as to all of her subjects, my daughter has a 70% to 94% chance of passing that standardized test that gets the school federal funding. In other words, I’ve been assured that, without regard to what she’s actually learning or doing in the classroom, my daughter is more, rather than less, likely to keep government money flowing to the school. I can see where the school cares about this. I can’t figure out why they think I would.

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    And there’s no information on how she scores subject by subject?

  • http://helenl.wordpress.com/ helenl

    “. . . one of the main functions of the public school system seems to be to waste parents’ time with pointless, meaningless minutiae.” Yes. And another function is to “waste teachers’ time with pointless, meaningless minutiae [and hours and hours of meaningless paper work].” Over-muntiaed, meaningless-statisticed adults sadly have less time to teach children. Believe me, it is not the classroom teacher who thinks up this crap. There is a politician somewhere who voted for the report card Little Bookworm brought home, and chances are he/she thinks because of such inclusiveness no child is being left behind. But he/she is wrong. Not all children have parents who actually know the level at which their children are performing.

    (You don’t seem like you’ve been in a cave, but you do seem ignorant of how much busiwork teachers have to endure, just to be stay in thier classrooms, let alone teach kids.)

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    Helen, I don’t blame the individual teachers for the format of the report card. I’m just commenting on the ridiculousness of the whole process. I completely understand that it’s determined politically. You seem quite passionate about the administrative burdens placed on teachers. Are you, or were you, a teacher before becoming a poet?

  • http://bookwormroom.wordpress.com/ Bookworm

    Helenl, much as I blame the teachers for their ignorance and attitude, I know that the whole report card thing comes from the school administration and the state. That’s why the teachers are grinding out information for the school’s/state’s benefit, rather than for the parents’ benefit. I may pay the bills, but I have very few rights here. It’s quite different from the private school scene, where market forces make themselves strongly felt and the teachers and administration are polite and responsive to parent concerns.

    As for your question, judyrose, the only info I have on all the subjects is this broad assurance that she’s 70% to 94% likely to pass the standardized test. It’s impossible to tell from this report if she’s hanging on by the skin of her teeth, or doing really well. As I said, I happen to know the story on the ground from tracking the work she brings home, so I’m not in an information blackout. I’m just wondering why they waste our time with these “report cards.”

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    BW, If little BW is supposed to “go over” the report card with you (Education “r” Us), what’s to go over?

  • JJ

    They waste your time with the “report card” because today is the day to waste time with report cards.

    If some administrator decides that December 3rd will henceforth be the day for the kids to bounce four times across the floor on their heads while singing the national anthem backwards, in Urdu; then that is what you’ll see happen on future December 3rds.

    Stop looking for reasons: there aren’t any. And if you don’t worry about it, then you won’t worry about it.

  • http://helenl.wordpress.com/ helenl

    Judyrose, I taught school (mostly English grades 7-12) for nine years in two private schools in Charlotte, NC (4 years in one, 5 in the other). Then I stayed home, when my childen were young. I’ve done a lot of volunteering in the public schools that my children attended, including devolop a program to teach poetry to fourth and fifth grade students, as enrichment. My sister teaches special education in a public school in Missouri. You should hear her. But her daughter, a college sophomore, has decided to go into special education. There is hope.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Judy, I do recall helen saying she taught before.

    The administration also has meetings about meetings, which wastes a lot of time for teacher’s. Of course the unions doesn’t care about how many meetings there are, for good reason.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    The administrators and teachers are all the product of our nation’s schools of education….and there is the core of the problem with public schools.

    In the old days, teachers had to take an academic major of some kind, and while even THAT might not solve our problems these days, what with grade inflation and the general decline in standards that started during the draft for the Vietnam War, it would certainly help.

    Education schools do not attract the top students at any college or University where they exist – in fact, quite the opposite. And the faculty are most often the product of other education programs, and the problem simply feeds upon itself. If you wonder about the genesis of the “new math” fiasco, or the denigration of phonics in reading, or any of the other stupid fads that have devastated the education of our public school students, you have to look no farther than this nation’s education schools and the scandal of “certification” of teachers. It’s profoundly discouraging.

    But, it also makes sense. If you aren’t terribly comfortable with books, with thinking, with exchanging ideas and arguing about them……then you’re more likely to be attracted to “innovations”, new “movements”, fancy technology, and such. Proper grammar, accurate history, standard spelling and that kind of “right brain stuff” is likely to get short shrift — and guess what?! That’s what is happening in many public schools – more private ones than earlier, too, unfortunately.

    This from a teacher at the high school and college level who managed to avoid almost all education classes, and suffered through each of the ones into which I was forced.

  • http://writingenglish.wordpress.com/ judyrose

    Earl, I couldn’t agree with you more. Here’s a story. When my husband and I were in college, both majoring in music, his mother said he needed to take education courses “just in case.” He had no interest in elementary education, but to keep peace in the family, he agreed to attend an Ed. department orientation meeting. I joined him. The auditorium was filled with college kids. When the Department Chairman came to the podium, she started her remarks with, “Now, children…”

    We ran.

    Several years later, I had a very bright friend, who had a hell of a time spelling. She knew all the letters that belonged in every word, but had no idea what order to put them in. She had been trained to read by something called the “look-see” method, which involved memorizing whole words by sight. How those words were constructed, and the roots that tied families of words together, were not part of her awareness. She was about a decade younger than I, and was undoubtedly a victim of the type of education fad that Earl talks about.

    Funny, the memories that come back from reading these comments.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    I spell by phonetics, although there is an element of memorizing how a word looks, but I don’t remember how to spell a word by remembering where the letters are. I just know whether a word looks wrong or not based upon its sound. A lot of times I look it up on dictionary.com because I can’t spell it in a way that looks right to me, because I can’t get a grouping of words that both sound right and look right.

    Some words like deceive or sovereignty, aren’t really spelled through sound, but just remembered through action. They are quirks, quirks being quirks, it is easy to remember special occassions.

  • http://ymarsakar.blogspot.com/ Ymarsakar

    Btw, judy, there’s a comment awaiting moderation on your site that you might not have seen yet.

  • http://OgBlog.net Earl

    Well, what good timing!

    Here is an article in the NY Sun (http://www.nysun.com/article/43827) reporting on a major study of student outputs compared to teacher inputs:

    “Uncertified teachers end up performing just as well in the classroom as certified teachers and alternatively trained teachers like Teaching Fellows, a study to be released today says.

    The study’s results appear to challenge requirements under the federal No Child Left Behind Act that every classroom have a “highly qualified” teacher, instead suggesting that schools should put more emphasis on weeding out bad apples after the teachers have been hired.”

    Hat Tip: Phi Beta Cons at NRO (http://phibetacons.nationalreview.com/)

  • harold

    There was an article in the Atlantic Monthly some years ago on “credentialism”. The thing I remember is the author pointing out why engineering did not rise to the level of a “professional” endeavor: consistent with the mindset required for engineering, academic achievements were calibrated and measured like real-world objects. In the clubbable atmosphere of, in particular, academic professions, pass/fail is the metric. I was disappointed when I took my ph.d comps to see I had “passed”.