Wednesday, August 26, 2009

meet the data bitch, mofos

So I have not been blogging and I fully intend on taking down much of my archives and stashing those posts away offline (to the limited extent that anything can be deleted from the internets). But this is not to say that I don't intend to return to blogging, just that I intend to be more guarded and more general.  There are many, many things that occur on a daily basis that I find repulsive, suspect, irresponsible, corrupt, and even abusive but the internet becomes a smaller place all the time and I can't rely on the technological deficiencies of others to keep me safe forever.  Really, I'd love to be the gossip-whore and lay it all out there but I can't afford it.  Sure, there are only about a dozen people who have ever read this blog but it only takes one (the wrong one) to get me in trouble.

Anyway, that's really just saying more calmly what I've already posted before.  I'm technically not even teaching right now, despite retaining employment at the same school I've been at for the last two years.  This is simultaneously a relief and an insult.  I keep looking at the middle school math teacher and I keep thinking, "That should be MY job - those are MY kids."  And no one else should be scarring my kids but me, dammit.

I worked the 8th grade LEAP remediation over the summer along with an English teacher and I crammed all the math into one month that was humanly possible.  Between two teachers and 3 weeks of instruction and 1 week of testing we got more than a dozen failing 8th graders into high school.  So, coming off that accomplishment, it is only understandable that I feel that the current 7th and 8th graders (my former 6th graders) should be in my classroom preparing to totally dominate the Spring 2010 LEAP test.

Oh, wait - I don't have a classroom.  Or students.  Meet the Data Bitch.  I coordinate the benchmark tests, create the databases, crunch the numbers, examine the correlations, find the weaknesses, track the progress, and generally spend most of my day grading tests and staring at a computer screen (my own personal MacBook, because I haven't been given a school computer or desk).  My "office" is the un-air conditioned room full of books and supply boxes that I have commandeered over the last few days because my make-shift table in the 60-degree computer lab is an unbearable and isolated place to work.  I've been kicked out of other rooms and I keep my old teaching supplies in a cabinet in the social studies teacher's room (kids, keep your sticky fingers off my UNO Cards and my Monopoly board!).  The supply closet is a little warm this time of year, but I just found out that it is illegal, due to the unfinished nature, for them to put students in the room for anything so there is almost no risk of being told I have to move again.

This was not my first choice, this job.  That's all I'll say about it here.  But ultimately, it's not the most awful thing that I could be doing right now and I'm rather proud of sheer quantity of useful data and statistics I've been able to produce using my custom-built databases.  I feel so nerdy.  Also, the less emotionally-demanding and moderate stress level of this job is going to be a plus when I get into full swing back at UNO (starting my certification process all over again).  It is also giving me a very broad, school-wide perspective of the students at my school.  I can see hard evidence of progress and achievement that I couldn't see before, too bogged down in my own little classroom bubble of worry.  And let me tell you, folks, this is turning out to be a truly eye-opening experience.

So I'm hoping to take this blog on a slightly different course - a detour, if you will - over the course of the next year or two.  First, I'm getting into this idea of how best to assess and track the achievement of students over the course of a year and over the course of their education.  Tracking them is now my job, after all, and I work at an institution that strives to offer instruction that is "data-driven."  What is data-driven instruction?  What should it look like?  And what makes for good data, anyway?  What does all this standardized testing really tell us anyway and how do our NOLA kids rate, really?  Second, since I am back in grad school working on my certification again and ultimately aiming for my masters degree, what's the research say about how education should operate?  What does a good education look like?  What does education of educators look like?  I've realized over the last couple of years and many conversations with my most patient boyfriend that a lot of the educational mumbo-jumbo that I've come to take for granted as normal is not intuitive to the general public.  Considering just how complex and nuanced getting just one kid properly educated has become, it is ridiculous how uneducated the public is about public education.

Allow me to throw out a quick poll on a few topics:

1.  Inclusion - do you know what it is and what it means for your kids?
2.  What's the difference between Special Ed and 504?  (Do you know what 504 means?  Negative 5 points if you tell me 504 is an area code.)
3.  Discipline--nevermind, don't even get me started.


Wet Bank Guy said...

I'm sure it's more than a dozen and completely understand the backing off, but what you wrote before was a fascinating slice of life in the NOLA Schools.

Hell, my son has a 504 plan and I ain't got no idea what the difference is. And discipline is what we got from the Christian Brothers in the 60s and early 70s, like standing with two pieces of chalk in our outstretched arms until they weighed a hundred pounds each. We were supposed to think of Chris on the Cross. I read the Church moving listings poster, with particular attention to the Condemned list, over and over and over again.

Cousin Pat said...

Do you need a desk? I have a slightly used IT style station that I have to unload in the next two days. It is 52" wide, has 3 levels of shelves to 3' tall, and is about 2' deep. Not the best for spreading out work, but it has wheels so it can move when you get an actual room.

I'd hate to put it on the curb while someone working a school gets the shaft.