Friday, March 12, 2010

Datil Update and Playing Hooky

This week was FCAT week at school.

The FCAT is Florida's high stakes test involving about 3 days of testing in which the kids dutifully fill in little bubbles with their number two pencils.

Fail the reading, math, or language arts portions ... and you are going to be in a double period remediation (as in teach directly to the test) class next year in that topic.


If you are a tenth grader ... your graduation is now in jeopardy, no matter how good your GPA is. You will be retaking it next fall ... and you'd better pass.

Science is the odd child out here. Unlike the three R's FCAT tests which the kids take from every year starting as an in utero fetus, the science FCAT is only taken in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades.

And it only counts as part of the overall school grade per the state, or "Adequate Yearly Progress" under NCLB madness.


The kids know the science FCAT doesn't count for them individually. That means that for many of them, it's a Christmas Tree experience.

And it is the last test they take in a week of grueling tests. Guess what their motivation level is...

Yet, their science teacher's evaluation will be partially based on their performance.

It doesn't matter that you are teaching biology and the science FCAT will test them on all the other and very different fields of science, along with biology.

Picture these two high school teachers ...
It doesn't matter that the classes Jane Earth Science Teacher has are composed mostly of kids who read at a 4th grade level, while all the college bound whiz kids took Joe Physics Teacher's class.

Jane and Joe are going to be rated on how their students do.

Sound fair to you?

It's good to be Joe in that situation.

This is just one thing that makes teacher accountability and performance pay such a challenging quest. It's needed, but how do you make the playing field level so it's fair?

Teaching is too often compared to the business model and it just ain't so. It's a whole 'nother beast and it's frustrating to be held accountable for the progress of kids, whose "parents" didn't nurture them in those crucial first 5 years.
It's hard to fix that deficit.

I don't have the answer, by the way.

Ignore the teacher's unions, because they are practically communist in their quest for mediocrity and uniform treatment across the board.

Oh, and here's something you may not know ... it's incorrect to call them teacher's unions, because they are education unions with lots of non teaching members.

I once had a fun verbal battle with a union guy at our school. The "discussion" was over merit pay and increased pay for teachers who go out and hustle to get special endorsements. The union was against "some " teachers getting more pay than others ... even if they had made themselves more qualified.

I am of the "more skills, more pay" school of thought so we clashed.

He had only taught for 8 years and hadn't been in a classroom for the past 10.


Anyway ... sorry for the mini-rant. The point is's a high stakes week in Florida schools.

By Friday, the kids are spent.

Me too.

So, I chose this Friday to use an extra day of leave I earned ... which means ... I'M OFF DUDES AND DUDETTES!

Let us talk of other things ...

The picture above shows a datil pepper just getting it's TRUE leaves. This was taken a week ago, so they are a little bigger now.

Thank you to everyone who requested datil seeds. My goal of spreading the good datil news across the world is on track. I am getting about 60% germination from the same seed mix so I hope you all get at least that. I'm going to start another round of seeds soon.

The little plant above was started back in the first week of February. They grow pretty slow until things warm up and we have been so consistently cold that these little guys haven't had much outside time.

Those of you with greenhouses or growlight setups will have faster growth.

I have some grape tomatoes, variety "Juliette Hybrid" started too. This also is a photo from last week, so they are looking friskier too.

A few weeks ago, while looking up one plant, I came across info on another ... as is the internet way.

I knew of azolla, but did not realize that it is a nitrogen fixing little wonder plant. It's being promoted across rural areas world wide as a fast growing source of nitrogen fertilizer and even animal fodder ... poultry mostly.

After I read that, I scooped up a bit, just a few plants really, and tossed them into some of my ponds. A week later they had covered the surface of the partly shady ponds.

Here's a close up of our native azolla and a single non-native cousin, salvinia ...

... the green sheep of the family.

It's been raining here for two days and it has warmed up a bit, so if y'all will excuse me now, I'm going outside to play with Bear in the puddles.


kathy a. said...

bleah on the testing testing testing. i'm with you 100% on the unfairness of using the results punitively, too -- your example of "jane" working with students facing lots of academic obstacles is a good one. i think the goal of public education is to help each student do their personal best and progress. the intense focus on testing does not advance that goal.

kathy a. said...

about the datils: i put about 2 seeds in each peat thingy, for a total of 5 peat things. we'll be fine if we can get at least 2 plants going well, one for us and one for son -- any extras would be great. i'll probably start some more early april. we're cooler here in summer than florida, so this is an experiement for sure!

Did it MY way said...

Puddles and Bear sounds like fun to me.

See Ya.

kevin said...

Seriously, what has science ever done for us anyway?

Floridacracker said...

Kathy A,
bleah is right.
Sounds like a good strategy with the datils. If you get a plant or two, you should be loaded with peppers throughout the summer.

My Way,
It was!

Yo, seriously dude ... what the hey?

robin andrea said...

Glad you had a day off, FC. I think we should still have little school houses in small communities, merit pay, and getting fired if you are incompetent. I don't understand the world in which we live, and there are no easy answers to rectify the mess that has been made.

Deb said...

Ahh...testing and teacher's been on my mind a lot lately since our local high school was recently named one of the lowest performing schools in Minnesota, and under Obama's education initiative, on top of NCLB, some changes are mandated to be made. Initially the media jumped on the worst case scenario: that the teachers are terrible and therefore they must all be fired and/or the school closed and opened under new management. I don't buy into that crap. Teachers cannot be blamed for what they are given. Our district is much like yours, underfunded and in an area of high poverty. Hopefully as a result of this censure the school will get some extra funds to do what it has to. And, as a parent of three kids who raise the bar for test scores around here (not to brag, although I have wonderful kids!) I sincerely hope that in the effort to serve the underachievers (I mean, raise test score averages), the overachievers will still be given the opportunity to achieve their potential.

I should not be ranting this much on a Friday night!

Floridacracker said...

Good points. It is a mess and incompoops should be fired to find their niche in some other field! I agree, which is one of the reasons I am solidly anti-union.

Well, I agree with everything you said. Like you and the Hermit, we took the time (and love) to nurture, read to, encourage our kids early and they all raise the bar too.

It's just not being done by a huge percentage of "parents".

Lynn said...

Rant away!! I hate the FCAT. I hate that the teachers have to teach to a test. I hate that good teachers can still be penalized by one rogue student.
and budget cuts. My school is no longer having music or art next year. Which means my soon to be 3rd grader won't have the option to join the art club since it will no longer exist.

Kimberlee said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto! Our own version of "hell week" is coming up at the beginning of April. We are five on the performance scale and I have no idea what will happen if we don't make AYP this year. It's beyond frustrating.

Floridacracker said...

Art has been dead at my school ever since NCLB came around. I hear ya.

Madness, absolute madness. It's as if accountants had taken over education.

Ibrahimblogs said...

I feel pity for the students. Life is so tough for them!!
Lets wish them all the best!!

This is Ibrahim from Israeli Uncensored News