Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 28 2008

Up The Down Staircase

I know that at some point, my mother once spoke to me about the novel Up the Down Staircase. I hadn’t picked it up to read until recently, and I find myself instantly sucked into a book about myself.

Well, not entirely. I don’t teach high school. And there’s a little bit more technology these days.

But otherwise, yep, that book’s the story of my life.

Surrounded by red tape and bloated bureaucracy, I find myself continuously unable to accomplish anything. Every time I’ve written what I think is a truly solid week’s plan, I find out that there’s something else that has to happen, which forces me to change my plan and cut things out.

From random assemblies, to ridiculously large assessments, to minimum days for parent conferences, to vacation days, something has been weird about each week for a period of about 4 weeks now. You’d think we would have grown out of this.

Thing #1 that blows my mind (but probably shouldn’t): last week we had a review week at the end of our first reading unit. It does make total sense to give an end of unit assessment during this week. What does not make sense is to give a unit assessment and a benchmark assessment in the same day. Yep, the district scheduled our testing so that we would have to give 2 10-page assessments to our students at the same time. No, I did not follow this guide, and neither did any other teacher. Regardless, though, there goes an entire week of reading instruction. The best part is, those tests aren’t even helpful in guiding instruction. The way the curriculum is set up, there’s no time to go back to those concepts if they didn’t get them. Awesome.

Thing #2 that blows my mind (but probably shouldn’t): in addition to the ridiculousness of the reading tests, we also had to give a math benchmark. This test I didn’t feel so bad about giving because it was clearly standards-aligned, and I have more flexibility in math to re-teach. So, I and the other teachers at my grade level happily go forth and give the test on the assigned day. The next day, the principal delivers an envelope to our grade level leader. In it were scantron sheets for the math benchmark. Apparently, that test was supposed to be a scantron exam, but nobody ever told us. Plus, we received the scantrons the day after we gave the exam! The other teacher asked our principal when she had gotten them, wondering just who it was who dropped the ball here. The principal said she gave them to us as soon as she got them. So, the other teacher emailed the person in charge of them at the district and told her that we didn’t use them since we didn’t have them. The district person told her that the scantrons had been sent out on Monday. So, basically, nobody was in charge, so it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Long story short? I get to sharpen my number 2 pencil and bubble in all those scantron sheets myself. Great. I guess I’ll do that between parent conferences this week. Oh, did I mention that we have to have them in by Friday?

I have to wonder- there must be a better way, right?

2 Responses

  1. I’m a TFA alum, and I’ve also had Up A Down Staircase sitting on my shelf for years now, but never read it. Upon your recommendation, I think I might have to crack it open.

    The testing is ridiculous. In some ways I think it’s worse for Elem teachers than HS ones. (I was a HS teacher.) At least I only had one exam we were constantly working towards instead of multiple ones.

    In the kinder room I worked in last year, the district gave the kids a multiple choice, written benchmark the third month of school. Apparently no one stopped to think, “oh wait, they’ve only been in kinder three months and probably can’t READ yet.” So we then had to read the test out loud, and question number 2 was “Circle the number two from the choices provided.” So what did the kids do? They circled the 2 from the question number and got the question wrong. Unreal.

  2. I *love* that book! I co-directed the play version of that with a group of my kids last year. It was creepy to see the kids act out…oh, MY LIFE!

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About this Blog

"All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

Region
Bay Area
Grade
Elementary School
Subject
Elementary Education

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