Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kids as Employees, II

Faithful readers of this blog will recall the discussion about Grading for Learning, in which I quoted Glen's comment:

Near monopolies often forget who works for whom. It's easy for teachers to start thinking of themselves as bosses and the kids as employees. Bosses usually "grade" employees based on how much their behaviors and attitudes benefit the boss and "the team".

So take a look at this video, which has been making the rounds:

MAP Goal Setting

What is this if not a business meeting, with management reviewing the employees' performance? Those poor kids are stuck in a Dilbert cartoon.

Holy Cow! Here's another one:

Cagle: MAP Goal Setting

It's Dilbert with a southern accent!


  1. PsychMom says:

    The only context where I would find this kind of discussion in these videos relevant for learning is if it was a statistics lesson given to university students in an intro stats course, in an effort to teach means, modes, percentiles etc. To reduce kids to their scores as a measure of their success is just so wrong.

    The date on the wall in the first video is Feb 2010, so this is going on in classrooms all over America (and in places in Canada too probably) right now. I guess this meets the "Race to the Top" criteria.

  2. I like the second video as her communication skills are a lot better than the person in the first one. Plus she leaves it up to the kids to think and act. She seems to get the message across a little bit better what a great student/learner/person needs to do.

    The first one bothered me as you know for a fact those kids don't know what the scores mean. They are to young to "get it". I saw it more as that lady's way of getting her 15 mins of fame.

  3. Anonymous, I agree that the second video is a lot easier to take. The teacher comes across as warm and likable. Are we OK with her dialect? It's not just her pronunciation, she says things like "might could" without any apparent knowledge that this is nonstandard.

    However, the main point of both videos is the same. The purpose of going to school is to score well on tests. If a kid started school curious, engaged, and wanting to learn, that will be pretty well drummed out of him by a few years of test-taking mania.

    Did you notice on the second video that the teacher said they would take the MAP test for the *second* time in December? How many times a year do they take the test?

  4. I listened again for the exact quote on the second video: here's what the teacher says:

    "I want you to think of some things you might could do ..."

    If one of the kids writes "might could" on a written response, they'll be marked down for it.

  5. PsychMom says:

    Are you sure FedUpMom? Because with some of the grammar we've seen over the years from teachers, I'm not so sure they'd pick up on the mistake.

  6. PsychMom, the kids are taking a national standardized test. They won't be graded by their teacher. They'll be graded by a bunch of overworked, underpaid temps, which is another story.

    I would think that regionalisms like "might could" are exactly the kind of simple thing that temps could be trained to mark down.

  7. PsychMom said:

    Ah, I wasn't thinking of the standardized tests, but of course you are correct, FedUpMom. Nova Scotians would be up the creek on a lot of language questions then too.

    "Heard tell", "paining" "Where are you at?", but to name a few.

  8. Gah! Five km is NOT just about the same as five miles. Closer to three.

    I'm sure most people might could make a grammar mistake occasionally when speaking before a group, but the larger problems are 1)coercing the children think these tests are important and 2) taking class time (and tax dollars!) to do it.

    And the thought that you are NOT ALLOWED to set your goals lower than the computer-generated ideals? Evil. Setting my goals at zero and working toward getting every question wrong on the test should be MY choice. :)

  9. Sorry... it should read "coercing the children to think." Take a few points off for that one...

  10. I think I should clarify -- I'm actually pro-dialect. My husband is a linguist and I have heard many a lecture on the subject. We all speak a dialect -- my dialect happens to coincide with the ruling class, so it's called "standard".

    The dialect spoken by the teacher in the second video is non-standard. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, or that it's grammatically incorrect. It's a slightly different grammar, that's all.

    I personally would never say "might could", not because I don't make mistakes, but because it just isn't part of my dialect. I wouldn't say "paining" either, for the same reason. I'm more than capable of making mistakes, but they'd be within my dialect.

    The problem that I see for the second teacher is that she's preparing the kids for a national standardized test, which will, I think, penalize non-standard English. The kids in her class are already at a disadvantage, because they speak, and hear at school, a non-standard dialect.

    OK, that's one issue -- I'll put the next issue in a separate comment.

  11. Dialect issues aside, the bottom line is that both the videos are depressing examples of teaching to the test. The idea that a child's goal at school should be to get a slightly higher score on a test is outrageous.

    It's the opposite of forming a life-long learner -- they're really saying that the only point of learning is to do well on a test. If there's no test, there's no reason to learn. They don't even allow for the possibility of learning out of curiosity, or because the subject is an important one that everyone should understand.

  12. Back to the dialect issue. When the teacher said "I want you to think of some things you might could do", she wasn't making a mistake. She was speaking correctly in her dialect. It just doesn't work in "standard" English.

  13. FedUpMom: Who knew you spoke CBC English (the standard for us Canucks :)?

  14. I don't know -- would I have to say "eh"?

  15. From PsychMom:

    Only when you're wearing a touque, while watching a John Candy film.

  16. OK, so I had to look up "touque". Apparently it's a knitted cap. I learn so much from you guys!

  17. Also, I am now able to find Halifax on a map. Just looked it up!

  18. PsychMom laughing...

    I knew you would look up touque....

    You know what gets me about America/Canada culture? I can answer final Jeopardy questions, with responses like "What Is independence Hall?", "Who is Betsy Ross? "What is Rhode Island?" "What is the Executive Branch? and could probably place 95 percent (the midwest confuses me) of the States on a map. We are so American-ized up here.

  19. Good heavens, PsychMom, your predicament of knowing a lot about the US sounds preferable to my predicament of knowing hardly anything about Canada.

    I can't place the Midwest either! There's a famous map drawn for the New Yorker that shows the East Coast in great detail, then a big empty space, then the West Coast in detail. That actually corresponds pretty well to my mental map. I'll see if I can find a link --

  20. I knew FedUpMom wouldn't know what "toque" meant; I wasn't sure if she'd look it up. (Blame it on my "Canadian inferiority complex"--thanks Wikileaks!)

    Funny map, btw. In Canada, Torontonians are thought (by non-Torontonians) to have a comparable mental map, with Toronto at the centre, Montreal (and perhaps Ottawa) off to the side somewhere, and the rest simply "West" and "East."

  21. PsychMom says:

    Love the New Yorker cover...I hadn't seen that. The problem with Canada is that it's just so damn big, with these great gaps of nothing but rocks, trees and lakes. Sometimes on long road trips, I still can't believe how many evergreens there are between Halifax and the Quebec/New Brunswick border.

    So FedUpMom, if you ever want to know anything about trees, in Canada, just ask. Or lakes. Or rocks.

  22. So you are saying we should never test children to see how much they have retain and then never offer them a second chance to improve.

    Perhaps we should give them a test and then never provide them with feedback or should we never test at all because it would be to stressful on them to assign them a grade.

    I think the only reason we started the standardize test is because of adult who are a bit to competitive.
    I am not sure yet what it has evolved into; my wish is it will be used more to find non preforming teachers and remove them from their position. But what I do see, as my kids have been in a school that has failed AYP on and off for 8 years now, is the ability for a lot of excuses to be made. It has gotten so bad that last year the blame was put on "5 black kids" (our newspaper quoted a PTA mom.)
    It is certainly true the fun is being left out of education but blaming problems on someone accent is about as dumb as the mom who is blaming children for an adult's bad organization and time management skills. We need to have a better plan of action when a school falls behind. Throwing after hour tutoring at the kids shouldn't be the first thing on the list. A review of the current curriculum should be the first. How the day is organized, should be the second.

  23. Anonymous says:

    So you are saying we should never test children to see how much they have retain and then never offer them a second chance to improve.

    I never said anything remotely like that.

    Tests can be useful if they're used well. One of the many problems with standardized tests is that it's actually impossible for students to use them well, because they never get the test back to see what questions they missed. They just get a score.

    If they knew exactly what questions they missed, they could figure out, for instance, that they needed to do more work on fractions or decimals or whatever the particular problem was. As it is, they just keep doing more generalized test prep.

    blaming problems on someone accent is about as dumb as ...

    All I said was the kids in the second video are at a disadvantage because they speak, and hear from their teacher, a nonstandard dialect. It isn't just the accent, it's nonstandard grammar, for example, "might could". Anyone who speaks a nonstandard dialect is at a disadvantage when taking a standardized test. That's not a dumb thing to say, it's the truth.

  24. Here's an interesting article about the difference between teaching and test prep:

    The Ruinous Culture We've Created in Elementary Schools