We got another STAR testing pep talk yesterday. There must be serious pressure from the new superintendent on our admins to bounce back from our dip last year. The way I see it, we’re lucky the damage wasn’t worse, considering the seventh grade bunch we had last year. A lot of them had trouble bubbling their names. (Seriously.) And the talk I hear from the eighth grade teachers is that they haven’t really wised up much, so that doesn’t bode well for this year. But I will say that the one period of eighth grade that I have this year (first time in 8 years, only the 3rd time in 18), which has four reruns–students I also had last year–is doing pretty well, academically anyway.  They’re still a pain in the Heineken. So needy and whiny. They all seem to need a dad to kick some metaphorical a** on them. Statistically, half of them probably don’t have one at home.

Anyway, this time our vp was all,

“It used to be that our school was the one everybody tried to beat. When my boys were in jr. high down in _____ (a school in the county, but not the district), I heard that principal say over and over that his goal was to be better than we are. That was five years ago, and now they have passed us. Their scores are better.”

Rah Rah. Let’s get the competitive juices flowing. I’ll shave my head if you all score proficient!

Our former band teacher, now teaching five periods of science instead of five  periods of band (which is down to two periods taught by a part-timer) in order to keep his full-time job, leans over and says,

“Wasn’t it about five years ago that we cut back all the arts and electives?”

Yup. And that’s how that school raised their scores. They took all the kids who were scoring less than proficient out of their electives, and put them in STAR prep classes. Drill and kill, as we used to call it back in the day. Lovely. Give the kids some gum, an extra 10 minutes at break, and call it good. At least they scored proficient.

The vp also encouraged us to rile up the under-achievers, especially eighth graders, by telling them that the counselors (who do the scheduling of classes) are inclined to do just what the above paragraph describes with those kids who don’t take the test seriously, and score less than proficient.

Then he laid a new score-raising tip on us.

Walk around.

Yup. Another miracle standardized-test-score-raiser.

Now I’m still investigating where our fearless co-leader is getting his stats, but he said that in controlled studies (supposedly done by the STAR people), classrooms where the teacher/supervisor made regular trips around the room checking on the kids progress, and making sure there was no “art bubbling,” had test scores that were 12-15% higher than those classrooms where the teacher sat behind the desk and graded papers.

So. If we teach the kids how to bubble more cleanly and completely, provide them with high-quality erasers, and patrol the room like eager security guards, we can raise our test scores up to 35%.

Now you are really killing me.

So if everybody suddenly starts taking these tips to heart, and scores start to rise, will people credit those fine teachers, just as those lazy ones are scapegoated when their kids’ scores fall?

Here’s a great NYT article about this whole scapegoating teachers thing that seems to be going around: “The High Cost of Low Teacher Salaries.”