Teachers, talent and tests: Do scores tell the story?

Here is an early look at a piece I am running on the Monday AJC education page: It is by UGA professor Peter Smagorinsky.

In his own words:

In the May 23 issue of The New York Times Magazine, Steven Brill examines “how Obama’s Race to the Top could revolutionize public education.” The central assumption behind this plan, says Brill, is that what matters most in education is “good teachers.” Says Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “It’s all about the talent.”

I couldn’t agree more. I like talent. I teach a lot of talented teacher candidates at the University of Georgia. But I don’t teach them how to prepare kids to take the sort of “achievement tests” that Duncan is imposing on the nation’s schools. Rather, I try to teach them to think about what, why, and how young people learn, and how they learn to learn.

I try to teach them how to plan instruction so that kids in high school English classes learn how to read and write critically; learn how to synthesize ideas across topics, themes, and genres; learn how to express themselves clearly in written communication; and learn how to relate academic knowledge to their prior knowledge and experiences. I hope to teach teachers how to help kids engage with a curriculum so that they both learn its content and learn how to integrate it into their own life experiences so that the material contributes to their cognitive, social, interpersonal, and emotional growth.

I’ll let my students, and their students, decide how well I succeed with these goals. My point is that it takes talent, and quite a bit of hard thinking and hard work, to learn how to teach so that students find school worthwhile and engaging, and schoolwork worth doing. I find it hard to imagine that Arne Duncan’s vision of public education will succeed for either students or teachers because it’s entirely geared toward the tedium of test preparation.

Duncan’s plan is to restructure schools so that bad teachers can be forced out of the classroom, and so that teacher retention will be based on student performance. Now, that’s a pretty appealing idea. I’ve been in schools where there’s plenty of dead wood on the faculty, much of it invested with sufficient seniority to provide lifelong job protection. Although Colleges of Education are often criticized for defending the status quo because their faculty members endorse some form of teacher tenure, most of us cringe at some of the consequences of a seniority-driven pay scale. There are plenty of young teachers who are far more dynamic than their senior colleagues and who provide better learning experiences for their students.

Of course, senior teachers are often among the finest and most respected teachers in their schools, and my point is not to equate seniority with senility. Otherwise, I’d be out of a job myself.

But these dynamic and effective teachers, regardless of age or experience, are not respected for their skill at teaching kids how to take standardized tests. Rather, they are appreciated for pushing their students to learn in ways that stick with them for many years and that lead students to reconnect with their teachers following graduation to express their thanks for providing important contributions to the quality of their lives.

The opportunity to create such experiences for young people is what draws talent to the classroom and keep it there. Talented teachers are imaginative, industrious, and thoughtful. They read widely, join broader communities of educators, spend time outside class working on their craft, and teach with an inquiring mind so that their reflections on their instruction serve to improve it.

If Duncan’s goal is to “reform” education by providing a reward system based on test scores, then his idealistic goal to attract and retain talent in the teaching force seems decidedly dubious. Talented teachers bristle at the idea that they have to conform to the contours of testing mandates in order to be recognized as effective; teaching to the test strips them of the dynamic qualities that have made them effective to begin with. Duncan might score political points by bashing unions and their emphasis on seniority, but his solution, I believe, will do far more harm than good. All the talent that he believes will rush to the classroom and establish careers in schools in the wake of his Race to the Top initiative is more likely to avoid the teaching profession like the plague because it offers them so little stimulation.

I recently visited my sister in New Jersey, just after her son had arrived home from his first year at college. Prior to his freshman year, he had planned to become a teacher, but he is now talking about anthropology as a major. His mother, an accomplished math teacher, said with great sadness that she found it hard to encourage her son to follow her into the classroom because the test-driven curriculum provided her with so few opportunities to use her creativity and talent so that kids understand mathematical concepts. Rather, she must drill kids in formulas so that they score well on tests.

She is not even thinking of her own pay, which is Duncan’s incentive to teach to tests; she is concerned about helping kids move toward graduation by drilling them in preparation for the endless batteries of tests that serve as gateways to that end. I found myself deeply distressed that someone of such ability could not recommend to her own son that he take up the profession. And my sadness extends to the whole of the profession because, in the name of reform, schools are headed toward an assembly-line model that few people of talent, either students or teachers, could ever find satisfying.

Peter Smagorinsky is professor of English Education at the University of Georgia.

50 comments Add your comment


May 29th, 2010
10:28 am

Arne Duncan is a moron. He was in the classroom for what, 3 years? I didn’t vote for Obama (or the last waste of humanity who held the job before him) because he didn’t really have a plan…just a catchy phrase about “change”.

As far as teaching to a test, we have been doing that since NCLB started and now it has gotten to the point of shear stupidity. I’m tired of telling kids to mark their answers on the test sheet to keep from screwing up the scan sheet (sometimes the machines are sensitive to erasures and reads them as the answer & I don’t want to be accused of cheating if there are too many erased answers!). I know some people are making a good living designing these poorly constructed tests but they aren’t helping kids learn.


May 29th, 2010
10:29 am

Strong teachers will have good test scores. This has always been the case. However, what has changed for many teachers is the push to use “cookie cutter” approaches like Reading First or the new math performance tasks. Most strong teachers bristle at being forced to use these methods and feel that their hands are being tied when it comes to teaching.

Based on what I’ve been reading recently, Mr. Duncan and the Obama administration’s plan for education is scary. Mr. Duncan has not changed the ideology behind NCLB. He has just given it a new name. He has basically taken a bitter pill, sprinkled it with a little sugar, and forced it down the throats of teachers.

Thank you Mr. Smagorinsky for so eloquently putting into words the frustration and dismay so many teachers are feeling.


May 29th, 2010
10:43 am

Good teachers definitely make a difference, but tests do not measure their worth. More than anything, test scores tell us about the socio-economics of a classroom…and little else.

Some of my very best teachers are special ed teachers. Their students, who should not even be taking the CRCT, IMO, will never score well on the test.

We give students from other countries the CRCT in English and we pretend we are measuring their math skills….even though all of the directions are in English and test items are all word problems.

We develop individualized education plans for special needs students and then ignore them in lieu of the almighty NCLB. We may try to teach a 10 year old his letters and numbers based on his ability and then we expect him to pass a regular 5th grade CRCT.

The idea of using test scores to judge a teacher’s worth is so far removed from reality that it boggles the mind.

Those of us in the trenches have looked at government decisions over the last 10 years and merely shake our heads in disillusion.


May 29th, 2010
11:01 am

I disagree that Reading First is a “cookie cutter” approach…but that is a debate for another day!

Merit-based pay scares me because it isn’t equitable to all. How are support teachers going to be included (SPED, EIP, Title-1, etc…)? What about inclusion teachers? And how would art, PE, and music be assessed?

I think what scares me the most in these very difficult economic times is that state boards of education will jump through any hoops to help their budgets without thinking of the short or long-term consequences. Then, once again, who will bear the brunt of the requirements? The classroom teacher! We can throw my hard-earned pay after banks and car companies, but quibble about education? Something is broken in the US….and that makes me very sad.

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The problem

May 29th, 2010
11:13 am

The problem is people like Duncan, and Rod “Houston Miracle” Paige before him, have a complete and total lack of integrity and are fundamentally dishonest to the core.

The only fix is to limit their power, since power is their only concern.


May 29th, 2010
11:14 am

So why has Alvin Wilbanks, one of the first supporters of NCLB and standardized testing been allowed to stay in his positions all these years? These good professors at UGA do not criticize nor teach their students to think critically about school administrators or policy. Its all about looking the other way, to be successful in education. Nor do these professors assist anyone wishing to change the status quo.
Alvin has done plenty to raise questions about his ethics, and whether his brand of nepotism has hurt public education. Yet no one from UGA has criticized him. How do they expect Georgia to improve?

N. Ga Teacher

May 29th, 2010
11:33 am

Professor Smagorinski is dead on with his analysis. The best teachers assist students in learning how to think critically, and to improve work habits and academic discipline as well as master subject matter. What standardized test scores TEND to really measure is the socioeconomic level of the student. Good teachers do not necessesarily produce high student test scores, because even the greatest teachers cannot erase years of family and community pathology, poor parenting or poverty environments. Nor can great teachers motivate kids whose only goal is disruption and mayhem. What Arne Duncan needs to realize is that there is a socioeconomic crisis, a family crisis, and a curriculum crisis in America. Today’s American schoolchildren are not nearly as homogeneous as we baby boomers were. Grouping kids by age is anachronistic, and we must group kids by learning stage. Teenagers must be allowed to proceed as they do in European nations, with several tracks available. The new math curriculum is brutal for the traditional votech kid who is motivated and competent in his own right but stifled and frustrated by the GPS curriculum. Standardized tests don’t really help kids. They are actually a watchdog on teachers and schools. A better way to watchdog is to have more adults frequently observe and help out in classrooms. Not with the “gotcha” mentality for firing teachers but with a helpful, cooperative effort and a reminder to student reprobates that adults are watching them and that they will not be allowed to interfere with the learning of other children.

The problem

May 29th, 2010
11:56 am

Has anybody at UGA proposed any significant changes that would empower teachers and protect them from administrative abuses and systemic lack of support?

Ed Johnson

May 29th, 2010
12:02 pm

The whole notion of the Gates-Obama-Duncan “Race to the Top competition” – competition, mind you, with winners and losers by design! – should strike one as being offensive to and corruptive of democratic ideals in service to the common good.


May 29th, 2010
12:56 pm

Hello All,

Okay, I read the articles down to paragraph 5 and then……………………….

Now let me make it clear that yes, there are some teachers that may not belong inside the classroom. However, I am miffed at the fact that teachers are always being blammed for poor test scores, poor academic results of students, etc. Let me first start by saying education DOES NOT, DOES NOT, begin inside the classroom. Its value begins at home and if that value is not consistent no matter what a teacher does in the classroom will make much of a difference. Yes, there will be that one along the way that you may be able to get through to however, in majority you won’t. Parents over power teachers in every sense of the word. Most of us charish the words of our parents even if the were good or poor at being parents or even being human beings. So, lets STOP always blamming teachers and find a way to make Parents, Students, and teachers responsible for the academics of student success.

I am beyond sick of those who have not yet been in a classroom for any real length of time telling we who are in the classroom 35-40 hours a week 190 days a year what our problems are. If a survey were to be taken of 100 non-teachers 99.9% would tell you that they don’t want to be bothered with the behaviors of children because of the hassels. Duncan teaches on the college level for a reason and it ain’t because he loves children. Many professors are not even certified teachers (yes, I know that they don’t have to be) however, if they were much of the crap they talk about would be null and void. They need to spend at least three months to six inside a public school classroom and that does include all of the capitol hill know it alls and the locals then I can guarentee they would not have so little respect for those of us who are the lowest paid professionals and must maintain continued education to maintain our certification status.

Let me end with this thought to all of the know it alls – ALL OF YOU WOULD NOT BE WHERE YOU ARE TODAY IF YOU DID NOT HAVE A TEACHER THAT TAUGHT YOU – (and maybe you too had parents that were your backbone as well).

P.S. Just for the record 99.9% of perspective teachers go into the to college and begin our first jobs with the faith, love, gusto, eagarness, etc. that we are going to – save the world, make ever child a genius, etc.
WELL, that is not the D— reailty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

high school teacher

May 29th, 2010
1:00 pm

Generally speaking, I have observed that age is irrelevant with regard to good teachers. Older teachers who are weak were probably weak as younger teachers as well.

The problem with keeping bad teachers on staff really begins at the university level with student teaching. Imagine spending 30k for an education (or more), only to be told at the end of 15 weeks in the classroom that you really aren’t cut out for the profession. That’s a tough job for supervising teachers, and many simply give the student teacher a passing grade. What we need is an innovative change in teacher education programs. Students interested in an education major should visit classrooms as early as their sophomore year, and more than just a three week practicum. I don’t know how to effect such a change, but it’s a starting place.

Dr. Smagorinsky, I would love to go back to teaching literature one day… just for the sake of teaching literature. But those days are gone…


May 29th, 2010
1:27 pm

A group of 9th grade honors students could most likely all pass the Physical Science or Biology EOCT on the first day of school. They only have to get 42-45% of the answers correct, and honors students probably remember enough from middle school and could make educated guesses and do that.

On the other hand, students who have been socially promoted, those on IEPs for reading/math problems, and ESOL students will probably have difficulty at the end of the year, no matter how gifted their teacher.

Teacher Reader

May 29th, 2010
1:28 pm

As a classroom teacher, I take the state standards and use them as the minimum of what my students should know. I ignore the crap that the district wants me to do-only teach the standards and drill and kill for the test. I close the door and teach. I challenge my students to do their personal best. I challenge them to use their minds and think deeply and critically.

My students were initially focused on what would be on the test. I tried to get them to understand that we would cover that material and so much more. Changing their mind set was a challenge. My students were not able to use the words “this work is too hard.” They had to use the words “this work is very challenging.” With the use of these words, the children’s mind set gradually changed as they saw that yes, this was going to take work, but that they could do it and do it well.

When I look at my students’ scores, they were just as good, and better in some case,s than the other teachers at my grade level. I had no gifted cluster of children to have my scores enhanced. I had average students who were willing to work hard and wanted their minds to be engaged and challenged.

As I was taught in grad school (not in Georgia), good teachers do not teach to any test. Good teachers use the state standards as the basis of the children’s learning and allow the children to soar from there. Good teachers challenge their students,require them to think deeply and help children express their thoughts in a number of ways.

Our education system is currently all about tests. The only people who benefit from these tests are the test making companies, and the politicians who get campaign contributions from these companies. The children do not benefit, as they see the tests as the means to an end. When the tests are done, and weeks or months of the school year still lay in front of them, they have shut down because in their eyes the year is over, because the test is done.

The education of American Children is getting poorer and poorer. I call it the dumbing of America? I am not sure if this is intentional, but I am beginning to think it is.

No Child Left Behind, is leaving many children behind. As a child I struggled with learning to read and did not learn to read well until fifth/sixth grade. Today I see children with similar early reading difficulties as myself, who are not given help, but instead have modifications made to their work, so that they have less to do. Now these children really need to be pulled out of class and given instruction to help them with their reading disabilities, but that is not what is happening to our children. We worry about them not having a good self esteem. Let me tell you, my self esteem would have been much lower if I was not given help and seeing myself progress. I wanted to learn to read and read well, more than anything else in the world. I knew that I wasn’t good at it, but I tried my hardest in the safe environment of my skilled teacher.

I shutter to think of what I would be able to do, if I did not receive the reading help that I did back in the early eighties. We know so much more on how to help our children with the reading process,because of brain scans and research that have been done in universities like Yale. Are we using this knowledge in our public schools to help our children improve their abilities? Very few teachers know about this research and even fewer are using it to improve the quality of education going into their classrooms.

I left teaching this year, not because I do not like teaching or was burned out. I left because of the frustration of having to close my door and pray that I would not loose my job because I was not towing the county line. Being a good teacher is a passion that I have, however, I look back and see who left teaching from retiring this year, where let go because of budget cuts, or have left the profession all together because of disgust, and I wonder what will happen to the children of America who are in our government schools. I realize that I cannot rely on the government to educate my children, but must do it myself and homeschool them. I do not fit the mold of many homeschool families. I am not super religious or overly conservative. I simply want my children to be thinkers, doers, and people who love to learn new things. I want them to be able to do anything that they set their mind to, and have the knowledge to think and question things that do not seem right in our world and not just go along with the flow.

I agree, I do not recommend education as a profession if one really wants to impart the ability to think and learn on to their students. If you are one who is okay with towing the county line and teaching only the standards and doing what the county wants even when it appears not to be in the best interest of your students, than teaching is the right profession for you.


May 29th, 2010
1:38 pm

As a teacher who has been recognized for test scores lets look at the variables:

1. the students- it doesnt matter if the students don’t care
2. engage the students, find something they are interested in and engage them, they will be more likely to buy into what you are doing if you show you care in them
3. Ask and thank, ask and thank
4. engage everyone in the class, not just the top students

As for the other things in this blog- I heard one poster who compared the GCPS head to Mr. Potter, that fits. well done.

Until teachers stand up for themselves and tell abusive administrators to stop, nothing will change. they shouldn’t be shamed into no pay raises and furlough days and be told they should be thankful to have a job.

LOL- (this isn’t 1905 Chicago slaughterhouses here)


May 29th, 2010
2:00 pm

I guess the filter doesn’t like percent symbols?

I can't recommend teaching as a profession

May 29th, 2010
2:56 pm

I can’t recommend teaching as a profession to anyone right now. My son taught for one year and quit. I really don’t blame him. I object to the idea that every student should be able to pass a state test on grade level. If you have to modify the state test for a student, that student should not be tested. Develop another test, give a more appropriate test, or allow the student to test at the level he functions at. The problem with NCLB is that teachers are the enemy. Most of the teachers I work with are competent, caring individuals. They work hard and have the best interests of their students at heart. I’m tired of being threatened with my job every year at testing time.

Veteran teacher, 2

May 29th, 2010
3:47 pm

Why is the Federal Governement into education, anyway? People, we can change this, and change it now. The government belongs to us. Write the representatives in Washington and Atlanta at least weekly. Vote, and more importantly, encourage everyone you know to vote. EVERY ELECTION!


May 29th, 2010
3:51 pm

I have a question after reading the articles and post. Are we truly interested in the facts or are we just hearing what we want to hear and see? Many think that they know but I am here to tell you, you only know what they/we want you to know about education never the down low facts only an abbreviation.

Legend of Len Barker

May 29th, 2010
5:34 pm

“Of course, senior teachers are often among the finest and most respected teachers in their schools, and my point is not to equate seniority with senility.”

Most of the older teachers I worked with had something to contribute. They usually knew the tricks to get things to work. However, some are at a big disadvantage now.

Technology is an integral part of the classroom experience. Five years ago, you could get by with using very little. You can’t now. Unfortunately, some of the most experienced teachers were the most resistant to technology, even email, despite that it’s been phased in for the past 10 years. There was more than one teacher that I had to do basic things for, such as create their CRCT practice tests. We provided annual training in this department, instruction manuals, and used online CRCT from September to March.

Teachers do not have to be proficient at technology to be good teachers. But because of the diversification in students, methods, and materials, I’d be wary these days of any teacher who struggled with the basics. Technology isn’t a the be-all, end-all, but the ability to adapt is.


May 29th, 2010
5:49 pm

Isn’t much of this problem the result of adults looking for easy ways to compare schools?

If we didn’t put so much on the easy way of comparison there would be less teaching to the test.

If there were 3 or 4 national standards and school districts chose which one they wanted to use as their benchmark, that would at least give some control over the madness. Imagine if schools had to deal with these tests only 3 or 4 times over a K-12 cycle, there would be 8 or 9 grades of teaching the way teachers think is best.

Now we look for easy numbers to compare everything. That has put the wrong type of pressure on school systems. If you are not sure of this fact, look at it another way. Do the top private schools in your area stress over teaching to a standardized test? If not, how do you know they are any good at all? Somehow, we have concluded that there are some very good schools even though they don’t take and publish CRCT scores every year for every grade.

It’s fine to evaluate, but let’s put enough space in between the evaluation tests to get some innovative, inspired educational activity into these classrooms. That way, we might keep more of the teachers that growe our kids minds and inspire them.

Adults have damaged education with their use of standardized testing. It’s not the tests that are the problems, it is how we use them to beat the crap out of people. Let’s instead use them to make education better.

HS Teacher

May 29th, 2010
5:58 pm

As a teacher with top notch students, I can say without a doubt that the teacher is NOT the main variable. My students score tops in all standardized tests. However, I would never claim that this is mainly due to my teaching.

From my experience, it is mainly because of the student which is a direct result of the home life (parents, local community, etc.). My students are respectful, listen rather than talk, have a strong desire to succeed, want a high level future, and want to please not only me but also their parents. The parents and the students are absolutely horrified if I ever have to call their home regarding their behavior – and the only response I have ever gotten from the parents is… “we will deal with this issue immediately.”

It has nothing to do with technology. Technology is only a mechanism to make something happen.

An average teacher with great students would get the same results as a strong teacher with great students.

If you want your local school to improve, then you need to find a way to teach the local parents HOW TO PARENT!

double take

May 29th, 2010
7:43 pm

so what about the great teacher that has the lowest ESL or students taking the same course for the 2nd or 3rd time. those teachers are usually raked over the coals due to low test scores.

my friend was RIF’d and the admin said her students test score were low for the math I test and none of her kids even passed the 8th grade CRCT. they were socially promoted. In one year are these teachers suppose to be miracle workers?

V for Vendetta

May 29th, 2010
9:03 pm


I disagree. I was a student in the MEd program at UGA. Many of the professors there attempt to rock the boat, Smagorinsky included. WE don’t, or choose not to, because the power at the top–as you have already pointed out–is in many cases absolute. With so many teachers looking for employment, you can be sure that a teacher who spreads discord from within would be summarily axed.

I believe that collective bargaining has its place, and, perhaps, the time has come to explore such avenues. (However, I want to point out that I think Unions are inherently evil and anti-capitalistic.) I’m not sure where or when it will happen, but I think the teachers of this state–especially certain counties–will stand up together and declare an end to local, state, and federal tyranny. I don’t see any of our ‘”professional” organizations being the tip of the spear–just everyday educators who are sick of being kicked around by the system.

All we need is a leader.


May 29th, 2010
9:56 pm

Yeah, I laugh about this all the time: in the classroom we are told to differentiate and modify and plan needs-based lessons (even though what the kid needs is several years back in school) AND YET teach them the grade-level material to prepare them for a test that is NOT differentiated or modified or needs-based in content!

When a third of your class cannot add or subtract (with their fingers!) accurately to 20, it is pretty tough to teach them two digit multiplication or long division. You do “needs based” with them for 20 minutes a day but how do you make up 3 years of skills in 20 minutes–much of which the current year’s success is dependent on?

And, let’s talk about modifying. One type of modifying is to give the child fewer problems to work. Okay, so instead when they take the CRCT, they do NOT get fewer problems. Or, let them use a printed multiplication chart. HOWEVER, on the CRCT, NO WAY.

Could someone point out how these things are supposed to work?

And don’t even get me started on Reading First (the program that even with terrible results as per federal evaluations seems to go on and on)! I’d like 5 dollars for every kid at my school who can “read” 170-200 wpm and can’t tell you a thing about what they “read.” “Reading” without comprehension is not reading at all!

I am so bone-weary tired of idiots who know nothing running the show!


May 29th, 2010
10:02 pm

@ HS Teacher. I agree that good parenting makes for a better student. However, you see the difference in good teachers and bad teachers in the lower socio-economic schools. That is where you will have a teacher get students to pass an AP exam when no one at the school has ever done it before. That’s where you’ll see gains in test scores.

As far as teaching to the test, in GA you have to teach to the standards if you want successful test scores. That does not mean you can’t teach anything else, but it sure puts the time crunch on. It takes an effective teacher to do both teach the standards and teach other relevant information. Poor teachers can’t do this.

HS Teacher

May 30th, 2010
12:41 am

@ FLAWoodLayer

Those teachers you mention that get students to pass an AP exam in lower soci-economic schools are doing way more than teaching – they are also parenting. I am firmly against that no matter what. School teachers are not in the business of being parents and should not be expected to do so. I know way too many that have gotten into BIG trouble because they did try to parent students.

PARENTS should parent. TEACHERS should teach.

And, if a teacher does parent students successfully, it doesn’t make them a ‘better’ teacher.

My point is that teachers really are NOT the main variable in education – no matter what the politicans would have you think. The main variable is PARENTS and how they raise their children. Because society refuses to address that issue, they quickly point a finger at teachers – an easy target (but the wrong one).

Carter is a Fool

May 30th, 2010
12:57 am

GSU pilots texting program
Georgia State began using the technology in about 15 business classes earlier this year, and more professors are expected to use it this fall, university officials said. Vick said the university pays about $10,000 a month to run the program.

This is neat tech toy, but It is NOT WORTH $120,000 yearly. Students can email a professor or simply ASK A QUESTION. This is why our schools and universities are not being wise stewards of the funds given them. I currently teach and these types of gimmicky expenses are why the budget runs red and people are being laid off and furloughed or fired.

Schools are underfunded and the current Politicians are underfunding them more every year, but education must not spend money on GIMMICKS and TOP HEAVY Administration. Look at the mess in Dekalb for a problem with Administrative salaries and outright Fraud.

AJC do your job

May 30th, 2010
1:07 am

AJC ask for a list of every job description of every central office administrative position in DeKalb County schools, so taxpayer can see exactly what they are paying for instead of a classroom teacher.

Bell Curve

May 30th, 2010
6:51 am

Not everyone one is going to excel, the bell curve is and always be valid. Some students don’t really want to do anymore than just pass. For some, a 70 is all they wan.

Ed Johnson

May 30th, 2010
9:49 am

The bell curve is a lazy fallback excuse for failing, not caring, or not knowing how to learn to help advance all students’ learning competencies. Certainly, particular students’ learning competencies may fit a bell curve, at a particular time. However, to aim or settle for the bell curve is downright irresponsible and is no different from intentionally and arbitrarily creating as few winner-students as possible and as many loser-students as possible.

Instead, the aim must be the J-curve, with the teaching system continually learning to help advance students’ learning competencies from an L-curve, through a bell curve, and into a J-curve.

Admittedly, as a continuation of the Bush administration’s “No Child Left Behind” program, the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top competition” makes it extremely hard for our public schools to have effective leadership and administration of teaching systems committed to J-curve aims.

It is time to give up the bell curve mythology. Our children’s futures depend on us doing that.


May 30th, 2010
10:45 am

Asking for excellence in teaching while basing the standard on low level tests such as our CRCT is absurd. I teach 8th grade LA and SS. Several of my students who passed the Reading CRCT are on fourth grade reading level by other test standards. Meanwhile students know SS does not count and could not care less about it.

We need to rethink what we want in education in Georgia. Go back and read Gov. Perdue’s glowing intro to IE2. I don’t know whetehr to laugh or cry at the reality 6 years later.

concerned educator

May 30th, 2010
11:59 am

I really enjoyed reading and concur with Smagorinsky….but even more so with Teacher Reader. Your words were eloquent, true, and spoken directly from the heart.

Consider this….it is long past time that we change the structure of the educational community. It needs to be an inclusive community (not hierarchical) where teachers are a part of the conversation, not just being told what to do…….if we are to move forward in what is best for all (including students, teachers, parents, communities etc) we have to have common ground, common goals, and consensus about solutions. Don’t tell teachers what to do….include them in the conversation about what needs to be done. The “whole of us” is such much bigger, better and stronger than the “isolated and unengaged ones of us”.


May 30th, 2010
12:21 pm

“I left teaching this year, NOT because I do not like teaching or was burned out. I left because of the frustration of having to close my door and pray that I would not loose my job because I was not towing the county line.”

Sounds just like why I… and quite a few other experienced teachers… left Dekalb 5 years ago after the outrageously expensive America’s Choice became the be all and end all in my Title I school, over half of whose students spoke little or no English.

We all had a passion for teaching and for taking on the challenges in our Title I school. Contrary to the type of testing mania in fashion today, we Always gave pre-tests at the beginning of the year and post tests and the end to see if our teaching strategies were working. Our students never disappointed us, and even those most challenging students always showed amazing progress.

When the educrats began to measure student progress and teacher accountability by comparing totally different groups of students ..i.e. this year’s 8th graders to last year’s 8th graders,… we knew that,… even though we tried to show the morons running the show the erroneous premise of that type of testing,….they would never give teachers a say.

We have never regretted leaving even for a moment. We have and do regret what is happening to the students. The gifted totally overlooked, the speakers of other languages ignored, those with other special needs disregarded, and educated and experienced teachers being treated so dreadfully.

have left the profession all together because of disgust, and I wonder what will happen to the children of America who are in our government schools.


May 30th, 2010
12:26 pm

Filter Filter on the wall
Into you my posts do fall…
Long or short or pro or con
Nevermind, they’re always gone!!!


May 30th, 2010
6:53 pm

Here is the funny thing about the CRCT. Checking one of my student’s scores I noticed something strange. In 4th grade this student had level 3 in reading and level 2 in the other 4 test. In 5th grade the student had level 2 in reading and level 3 in everything else. In 6th grade the student had a level 3 in reading and then level three in 2 other test.
Three years and three totally different results. No pattern what so ever. This is a great student who made straight As all year. My only guess is that your looking at very different test with different cut scores. Anyway, looking at my best student’s scores and not seeing any pattern over the last three years, made me worried about any idea of judging teachers from one single test.

Dekalb Teacher

May 30th, 2010
11:26 pm

Vince: Very well put. I couldn’t agree with you more. Students with disabilities have IEPs for a reason. Because of the NCLB, IEPs are pretty well ignored because “it is always Exceptional Ed that keeps us from making AYP” Well, an exceptional ed teacher may be teaching several students that are on a second grade level, middle school curriculum. If you are in Dekalb county at least most of the accommodations have been taken away. Exceptional Ed is nothing more that a label any more. In the four years that I have taught math in Dekalb county, we have used Springboard, Connected Math, and now America’s Choice (in title one schools) The curriculum is so scripted that you are hardly teaching. You are regurgitating what the script says. Maybe if they would let teachers use their dynamics, their imagination, their skills, there would be a real difference in what the students can achieve. It used to be teachers were allowed to teach not attempt to train students to take a test by using a scripted text.

Exceptional Ed Parent

May 31st, 2010
12:42 pm

Dekalb Teacher- be careful what you say! I am a regular ed teacher and a parent of a child with an IEP. My exceptional ed child’s test scores are better than the tyical of regulare ed scores. My child has scored a perfect score in Reading in the CRCT for the last two years and scored in the meets standard for every subject in every grade except third – when a child with aspergers, adhd, and anxiety was placed in a classroom where the teacher only wanted typical children. My child’s ITBS scores were threw the roof 99%- the lead special ed director wanted to know why my child was not in the gifted program. The reason is my child attends a school with a principal and many teachers like you. Do not knock the exceptional child. No, many exceptional and typical children do not perform well on standardized test- I was taught in all of my training not to put all egggs in one basket. That is what we have happening with NCLB. I will say if it were not for NCLB my child would never have takes any of these test. Now the school wants my child’s test scores! I have taught the scripted programs and the non scripted programs. Lets be honest- you can not use one program. I always pull from other rescources. Be careful what you say and how you put every student down!


May 31st, 2010
2:00 pm

You got it!

“This is neat tech toy, but It is NOT WORTH $120,000 yearly. Students can email a professor or simply ASK A QUESTION. This is why our schools and universities are not being wise stewards of the funds given them. I currently teach and these types of gimmicky expenses are why the budget runs red and people are being laid off and furloughed or fired.”

Atlanta Public Schools receives SO much money (much is if you dont use it, you lose it) and it is simply wasted on B*LLS**T. Our principal sends us an email to keep an eye out on your email because 13 teachers will not be returning to North Atlanta High School this year. F*** you Mygrant and have a great summer!

WE NEED A UNION. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


May 31st, 2010
2:20 pm

@Dekalb Teacher,

I do not agree that Exceptional Ed students are the reason schools don’t make AYP. What I see more of the problem is that Inclusion is not a good idea. I have taught Inclusion classes twice and the SE teacher expects for the classroom teacher to do the work with all of the students using the same lesson plan. I am not a special ed teacher and neither did I sign up to become a special teacher. I do believe that many special education students can pass the CRCT however, they need for all skills to be modified at a slower pace not on a lower grade level.

Oh, I am a DCSS teacher as well – and I do agree with you about AC – but fear not I don’t think they will be back. All summer Pro-development classes have been cancelled and word on the street is that they won’t be back.

@ Exceptional Ed Parent,

Perhaps what you might want to say and think is to fight for Exceptional Ed students to be placed in self-contained classes with smaller groups. It is great that your child has passed the test over the past few years however, not all students are as lucky or savey. Remember education does not begin with us inside the classroom but it begins at home. It seems to me that you are an involved parent not many others are.

Again, might I add that if you are not in the schools much of what you think you know has been abbreviated.

Exceptional Ed Parent

May 31st, 2010
2:38 pm

@Angela- my child is in a regular ed classroom without any support. I have things like textooks at home, notes from smartboards or white boards handed to my child.I am in a school every day, I teach at a title 1 school with 100% free or reduced lunch. I do realize that education begins at home. That is why I do not rely on schools to educate my children, especially in GA. Glad you and Decalb teacher are not teaching my child. Children are in small groups that truly need them- at least where I teach. My child does not need small group. Better yet- why don’t we go back to the days where special ed children were placed in seperate schools or instututions! That would make many happy not having to deal with them- like my child’s third grade teacher.

V for Vendetta

May 31st, 2010
4:48 pm

Exceptional Ed Parent,

Sounds to me like you have some issues. I do not think Dekalb Teacher and Angela were saying anything negative; however, you were quick to respond with “I am glad you are not teaching my child.” Do you have some guilt/anxiety stemming from being the parent of an “exceptional ed.” child–a term I despise by the way.

This past year I taught a student who was diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD, and anxiety issues. He was neurotic, annoying, and completely unequipped to handle real life.

I had a blast teaching him.

When he left, he was far more socially acceptable, much more responsible, and his neurosis was not as crippling as it was before. He ended the year with the highest average in my class, and he also had one of the highest grades on the EOCT–despite being told repeatedly by his parents that he was “not a good standardized test taker.” He said I was his favorite teacher. I’m fairly certain I was the first person who showed him what he COULD do, not told him what he COULDN’T do. (Telling these children what they can do is equally worthless; they have to be SHOWN that they are capable of being an efficacious learner, and that means treating them like normal students when they’re placed in a normal classroom.)

You sound to me like the type of parent who hides behind garbage legislation like IDEA and places the blame on everyone around him or her because you have some other deep-seeded issues, probably stemming from the fact that YOUR GENETICS are responsible for your child’s state of being. I’m glad I don’t teach your child.

Dekalb Teacher

May 31st, 2010
5:01 pm

Exceptional Ed Parent: Apparently either I stated things that were misunderstood, or you did not read what I said totally. I stated that in my comment “Well, an exceptional ed teacher may be teaching several students that are on a second grade level, middle school curriculum.” This is not to say that all the students are at that level. The problem is that no matter what the disability or level, NCLB treats them all the same. Some exceptional ed students are at a higher level than the regular ed studets. By the way “gifted” actually falls under the exceptional ed program. I do not advocate that all students need to be in a small group. It is the best setting for some, but not for all. The problem is that this group of students are not being treated as individuals with individual needs in most schools. They are even labeled as a subgroup in NCLB. You obviously do not know me. I am one of the most vocal advocates for the exceptional ed students. Angela: I did not say that exceptional ed students are the reason for schools not making AYP. I said that they are usually the ones blamed for the school not making it. As a subgroup, they usually catch the blame. By the way, the school in which I teach is also a Title 1 school and yes we did make AYP last year. So whether you would like me to teach your child or not, apparently I must be doing something right. I have taught regular ed, and special ed in both inclusive and resource settings. I have also been observed and filmed by a major university with a co teacher for an example of what the inclusive classroom should look like. The inclusive classroom can work if the correct teachers are working together for the benefit of ALL of the students.


May 31st, 2010
9:43 pm

@ V for Vendetta,

@ Dekalb Teacher

I perhaps misunderstoood however, below is what I read and what was printed.
Dekalb Teacher

May 30th, 2010
11:26 pm
Vince: Very well put. I couldn’t agree with you more. Students with disabilities have IEPs for a reason. Because of the NCLB, IEPs are pretty well ignored because “it is always Exceptional Ed that keeps us from making AYP” Well, (WHILE) an exceptional ed teacher may be teaching several students that are on a second grade level, middle school curriculum.
@ Exceptional Ed Parent,

I do agree with V. It seems to me that you have issues in accepting who your child is and some. I have no problem teaching special ed students if that was what I choose however, it was not – just as I am expected to perform my duties with the normal students (and I say that loosely) I expect for those certified SE teachers to perform their duties when there is inclusion and otherwise. My experience was not that they did their jobs to accommodate their students.

Please let me say to you if you do have some bottled shame, anger, etc. about your child being special needs (ED) believe me your child feels it. Soooooooo perhaps you might want to check your self and get some help. Your child is the most important person in all of this and if you are having problems with who he/she is he will have problems being comfortable with who he/she is. He/She is a wonderful human being with a little unique need not for anyone to have resentment or any other ill feelings. HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


June 1st, 2010
8:38 am

Here is how it goes: Lower standards, teach the test, inflate the grades, and then brag about how many honor graduates you have. If our educational system is so great, why are our SAT and ACT scores still so low. Oh, I forgot. We don’t teach to those tests, because the teachers wouldn’t do well on it either. Getting an education degree is a joke in and of itself. What we need are industry veterans who don’t buy into all of this educational mumbo jumbo, and who can teach students what they actually need to know in the real world Raising teacher salaries simply gives people a reason to keep parents happy, make their students “look smart” and keep their jobs!! Who wouldn’t want to get paid $50,000+ for handing out worksheets everyday that is simply a review of the test the students will take in April? It’s a joke, and it’s getting worse.

William Casey

June 1st, 2010
10:20 am

Standardized testing is an important and integral part of education. However, it is NOT education. I taught Advanced Placement American history from 1983 until I retired in 2006. I annoyed many of the weaker students by spending very little time training them on “how-to-ace-the-AP-exam-testing-strategies.” I provided such materials but students had to use them on their own time. My class time was precious and I was determined to teach a true college-level course… tons of content and high level discussion. No regrets.

Our current testing mania has the tail wagging the dog for serious students. We should be teaching how to think rather than jumping through hoops. Lest you think I only taught the cream of the crop, I also team-taught inclusion classes with special ed teachers. Great experience. Learning to actually think and work efficiently is the key at all levels. The only way to truly guage teacher competence is through regular classroom observations by experienced/knowledgeable evaluators, not the twice yearly “observations” we have now, often by administrators who aren’t familiar with the subject matter. This would be expensive and is one of the reasons behind “testing mania.” I could evaluate history teachers quite well after 31 years of experience. I would be an “outsider” uninvolved in school politics. Teaching would improve with constant feedback. Real learning would also improve.


June 1st, 2010
5:35 pm

@Leigh – “What we need are industry veterans who don’t buy into all of this educational mumbo jumbo, and who can teach students what they actually need to know in the real world.”

Might be able to get a few now, with all the layoffs, but generally industry veterans don’t want to work harder for 1/3 the pay.


June 1st, 2010
7:03 pm

Separate the kids into two groups. The ones that want to learn and the others. Teach the teachable and flush the others at age 16. Get rid of the social/economic safety nets and let them suffer the consequences.

V for Vendetta

June 1st, 2010
9:02 pm


I suppose you’re right. I’ll get some “industry experts” to teach. Let’s see, who would be good for Science? A doctor? Sure, but I don’t see many doctors making that switch. Better try Math instead. Who would be good for that? An engineer? Hmmm, same problem as the doctor. I guess we should try English. I bet we could get Stephen King or Dean Koontz to take over a class. Wait, they’re busy earning millions of dollars? I guess not.

Well, there’s always Social Studies . . .


June 1st, 2010
11:23 pm

I’m no great fan of testing myself….but let’s not forget that tests are really just a symptom and not the disease.

If we weren’t having tons of kids get all the way to high school while only operating at a 6th grade level, then we wouldn’t be having to do all of this would we?