Monday, April 12, 2010

Merit pay Possibility - WRONG to base it on Standardized Test

I am a strong advocate for change needed in our schools. There are many reasons that our schools. In addition, not for one second would I put the failure of the schools on the backs of the teachers that stand each day in front of the class trying to make a difference in the life of the students before them. At one time, teachers were only responsible for teaching academics now teachers are responsible for raising the child. Yes, I said it. Teacher not only teach reading, writing and but we teach safe sex, drug and alcohol abuse education, character education, foreign language, nutrition and computer and Internet education. The law makers have increased mandates that the public schools have to do regardless of the money to do it. Every year there is new unrealistic burden placed on the teachers to do their job.

In many states, we are talking about merit pay based on student performance. Honestly, I am a student with a learning disability; I struggled with reading and writing. It is not right to judge my teachers abilities to teach on a standardized test. When I am in her room she is able to support me the way I need, I have tools that I am able to use to support my reading and writing. On standardized test, I must go it on my own. You have taken the supports that are deemed needed by the people that know me best and say I cannot have them. Why should you base my teacher(s) ability to teach me on the test if you remove the supports I need to learn?

There is a story that I had a pleasure of reading. It was written by Jamie Robert Vollmer called the “Blueberry story” . If you haven’t had a chance to read it I highly recommend it for everyone that thinks they have the answer for education. There are no easy fixes, solution or decisions to be made. For every decision that is made there is consequence. Merit pay makes sense on paper and in the business world however it does not translate to the classroom. In the business world, if you do not like the way a team member is performing you can release them from their responsibilities. If you don’t like the way a student is performing you as the teacher have to find a way for that student to perform to their ability.

Standardized test is a snap shot of students’ ability. If that student is not feeling well he/she will not perform well. If the student is reading 2 years below grade level, he/she must take a test at their grade level with no reading supports. They cannot ask question for clarification, no one can help them to sound out a word and they cannot use their talking dictionary to find out what the word means. If you want merit pay to be fair, than school systems need to find other ways to evaluate merit. Using standardized test is not the answer. Standardized test do not tell you how an individual functions in everyday life.

I am a student with a learning disability. I am an adult with a learning disability. I earned my undergrad and Masters after your standardized test said I should not be able to achieve that. I was a teacher to students with emotional disabilities, multiple disabilities and learning disabilities. Your standardized test told me I was not able to do perform math and reading as well as my peers. I am a consultant that trains teachers, parents and administrators about tools to support their students to perform better in reading, writing and math yet your standardized test proved what? Is your standardized test worth the paper they are written on? I have accomplished what your standardized test said I should not. I accomplished what I have because of the teachers that day in and day out worked with me, gave me the tools I needed to learn, they gave me the strategies that help me function to my ability. My teachers are the ones that told me to shoot for the stars because there is one with my name on it.

Maybe lawmakers should start acting with common sense and stop listening to the lobbyist about what our students need. Start listening to the teachers, the students and the people that are in the trenches every day. Stop making decision based test results. Start making decisions on experience.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Disney Books Go Digital

Disney has made over 600 books available in digital format. It cost approximately $80.00 year. The site offers three levels of books Shared Reading and Beginning readers (picture books and early readers), Reading on my Own (storybooks and readers) and Level 3 Reading Chapter Books.

You read the books online, you can highlight a word you are not sure of and it will pronounce the word to you. If you want further information, it also has a dictionary. The dictionary does not read the definition which is interesting since they went as far as having a dictionary. If you cannot read a word, often you cannot read the definition.

For individuals that use switches, the site is not accessible. The stories are read with highlighting and start automatically. It also turns the pages for you automatically. You can pause the story but you cannot change the rate of speed in which it is reading to you.

After the story is over you get a special treat, I SPY. You are given eight pictures that you have to go through the story again to find. I was disappointed with this feature because I thought you would get to click on the pictures in the book and something would happen. Nope.

The site has a few different gems that you have to search for. I like the Cloze Activities for writing your own story. You can create your own bookshelf with your favorite books. There is even a bookshelf for the books that are in progress. It even has a reading log of all the books you have completed and it can be printed out.

It has a 7-day free trial. See what you think. Find some things that I did not find.