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Ms. Bell's Curves

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Screwing Around With Ms. Bell's Curves

If you're a teacher, duck! It appears, according to Newsweek, that it is open season on teachers and students. Unfortunately, like Cheney, none of the writers are educational professionals, and their shells weren't even filled with buckshot, just with confetti, which gets all over you and just makes you look different. Hopefully, none of our students will have to attend a hunting class taught by Cheney or read the last two weeks' Newsweeks.

First, in last week's Newsweek, Jonathan Alter tries to convince the readers that NCLB has now identified the bad schools, and it is time to identify the bad teachers. I don't know how old Jonathan is, but I am going out on the limb here, and suggest that some of the same teachers who taught him, are still teaching. I'm over 60 and there are still teachers living who taught me in the early '60s, and I certainly couldn't, nor wouldn't, point my fingers at them and call them incompetent, otherwise, I wouldn't be writing this. What is competent for one is incompetent for another? Should all excellent students be pushed into the direction of math and sciences? Should Slapout or Bowlegs, Oklahoma think about closing their schools because of NCLB. I think in Spanish you call that "stupido."

In Oklahoma, we have universities that guarantee their teacher programs, and this is above and beyond the very steep and formidable process that a new teacher must hurdle before they can walk into the classroom and then the hefty process involved in getting through the first three years. And, ... if any of these universities' students fail to be successful in the classroom, those teachers will be re-admitted to the institution and will receive classes so that they will be successful. But, there are always those "Jonathan Alter's" who see themselves as the judge of teachers and our students.

This week's Newsweek, the one with the half cloned Ahmadinejad and Bush on the cover, there is an articled entitled "The Fourth-Grade Slump." by Peg Tyre and Karen Springen. Having been our school district's identified, but not paid, District Test Coordinator, I've never noticed any drop off of student performance in neither 4th nor the 5th grades. But, after the 5th grade, puberty sets in, and believe me, there are big changes in students' achievements. Generally, after the 5th grade, too, schools do away with the individualized classrooms to the departmentalized approach, where students move from subject to subject, teacher to teacher. It's in the sixth grade where we begin losing our students. Puberty can be a killer on test scores and student attendance.

I am ashamed to say, that in the Alter article, Bush's secretary of Education, Margaret Spelling, becomes a flunky for the Bush agenda and claims that an instrument needs to be made that can weed out the bad teachers. Get that? An instrument. We need, yet another test, made by testing companies, which can identify poor teachers. Sadly, 90% of our teachers couldn't even name Bush's secretary of Education. That illustrates just how out of tune Spelling is with our nation's teachers. Bush's NCLB has been a waste of time and money and many states are trying to find legal ways of dropping the legislation. That is called "State Public Education Signing Statements." (SPESS)

Now, when the good Lord was passing out physical abilities, He sent me out for a pass which, of course, I couldn't catch. Give me a musical instrument, though, I would fall on the right hand of The Bell Curve. Wait a minute, here, is The Bell Curve applicable in today's educational circles? The White House wants us to believe otherwise, but teachers experience it every day. But is it fair to follow The Bell Curve strictly. Of course not. A test score represents a score one student made on that given day. Frankly, test scores are not that accurate, when an individual taker's scores are used to describe a student.

Do you find it odd that we have a president asking more students to do better than he did? Didn't he bellow, "Just proves that the C students can become president!" or something like that?

Student testing cannot measure people-skills or competitivenes of individual students. Even normed individual test scores do not represent a students T-Score, with bands of reliability of as much 10 points negatively and positively above and below the score. I had Joe Carter in his sixth grade at Millwood, Oklahoma, and he was an excellent student. His homer won Toronto's, 1993, second World Series in Atlanta. I believe he made the correct educational and financial choice, wouldn't you?

Parents and teachers should never use any test scores as a true measurement of their child. But, ... just like my real physical disabilities puts me on the left side of Mr. Bell's curves, the same applies to nationally normed test scores. What these non-educators want is for our schools to skew the curve to the right. It cannot be done. The Bell Curve will always look like a perfect lump, ... oddly enough, an outline of the upper half of a real big, old time school or church bell.

One of my best friends in high school scored well on his class grades and was a formidable academic opponent. He dropped out of school in the 11th grade to pursue a career in auto-mechanics. He taught himself "basic programming" on computers and programmed a program to run his business. Impressive! And taught high schoolers who hung around his office how to program, as well! When I suggested he should take the GED, because he would pass it without study, he asked, "Why should I do that? I'm taking your money, am I not?" Ah, ... what can a guy say? Do I hear a ringing bell, somewhere?

 

Is a 34 year retired educator with a Masters Degree in Counseling - a free-lance writer with articles in Spanish and English Guideposts, Mothering, Oklahoma Observer, Oklahoma Gazette, Westview, Oklahoma Reader, The Lookout, Christian Standard, (more...)
 
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