Table of Contents

  • Free Our Climate Crisis Is an Education Crisis

    Edited By the editors of Rethinking Schools Why is there so little teaching or discussion of climate change in classrooms?
  • Cover Story
  • Free Got Coal?

    Teaching about the most dangerous rock in America

    Authored By Bill Bigelow Students play a game promoted by the coal industrythen dig beneath the surface to look at the realities of mountaintop removal mining.
  • Coal at the Movies

    Classroom DVDs on coal and mountaintop removal mining

    Authored By Compiled by Bill Bigelow Video resources for the classroom, plus links to activist websites.
  • Science for the People

    High school students investigate community air quality

    Authored By Tony Marks-Block Ninth graders develop science literacy as they become neighborhood environmental experts and activists.
  • Features
  • Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?

    Authored By Stan Karp To build an effective movement against the top-down strategies that are ripping public education apart, we need to take a closer look at who wants reform and why.
  • Keepers of the Second Throat

    Authored By Patricia Smith When Chicago stole my mothers tongue, it also stole all her yesterdays. A poets lyric plea for teachers to nurture their students voices and stories.
  • Talking Back to the World

    Turning poetic lines into visual poetry

    Authored By Renee Watson Student poetry about what raised me is woven into graphic art.
  • Bad Signs

    Authored By Alfie Kohn What are the real messages in the inspirational slogans covering classroom walls? Plus some better alternatives.
  • Fuzzy Math

    A meditation on test scoring

    Authored By Meredith Jacks A middle school writing teacher reflects on a day spent scoring districtwide math tests.
  • Support That Can’t Support

    My induction program experience

    Authored By Elaine Engel Are peer mentoring programs bowing to the pressure to teach to the test?
  • Departments Free
  • Action News • Wisconsin Uprising

  • Good Stuff

    Authored By Herb Kohl
  • First and Second title both empty, Update me!

  • Scholastic Inc

    Authored By Bill Bigelow

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Fuzzy Math

A meditation on test scoring
Fuzzy Math

As a public school English teacher, I observe standardized testing season each year with a sort of grim fascination. So this is it, I think as I pace around my silent classroom, peering over kids shoulders at articles about parasailing. Line graphs tracking the rainfall in Tulsa. Parts of speech. Functions of x. These are the 34 questions that will determine some aspect of my students futuresas well as our schools yearly progress report, my own teacher report card, and soon, possibly, my salary. I wince at my young charges careless mistakes. I see eyes rove. I know who came in yawning, whos feeling sick, whose brother is back in jail. So many variables (input) producing a single-digit score (output). Functions of x.

Last month, several weeks after those long quiet mornings, I got another glimpse inside the testing industrial complex. Instead of reporting to my own school and teaching my 8th-grade writing classes, I reported to the gymnasium of a middle school uptown, along with 100-odd other New York City teachers, to score 5th-grade New York State math exams. I was there in place of a colleague, a special education teacheras are the vast majority of the educators pulled out of schools to grade the state testswho had already spent most of the prior week scoring reading tests and begged me to take her spot in the warehouse. (I should note that most standardized test scoring is done not by teachers, but by temp workerswho must possess at least a four-year college degree and are paid a low hourly rate.)

I arrived on the Upper East Side that Tuesday morning in a chilly May downpour, already on my second cup of coffee. Students with overstuffed backpacks jostled into the schools double doors ahead of me, squealing about the rain. Inside, I headed toward the open gym door, where I could see 20 round tables, bedecked in red and blue plastic tablecloths. Clusters of damp-haired teachers were settling into the folding chairs, chatting quietly, leafing through newspapers. They were mostly young, in their 30ssome older and distinguished lookingwith bright eyes, sensible footwear, books. This was no temp crew; these seemed like people who should be off teaching children. I took my seat among them.

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