professornana (professornana) wrote,

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When I click to open up mail on YAHOO!, I am often intrigued by their headlines. It is sort of like a daily fox of The National Enquirer or like a paper version of TMZ or ET. I rarely follow the links provided, but sometimes they are just too appealing to ignore. So it was this morning as I sipped coffee and read Twitter and Facebook feeds (where people participating in Screen Free Week were posting, what is THAT about?) and headed over to YAHOO! The first headline caught my eye:

25 Universities with the Worst Professors

Clicking on the link takes you here:

Thanks to CBS Money Watch, I now know about these HORRIFIC colleges with the WORST professors ever. And how is this determined, you might ask? Why that is easy-peasy! "Researchers" (and I am uncomfortable using that term even with the ironic quotes) used the student opinions at RATE MY Yes, that bastion of scientific, empirical wisdom: student ratings. This dovetails into a discussion we had yesterday about our student evaluations. The powers that be decided to add announcements to all our classes "reminding" students to complete their online evaluation of the instructor. Great. Just great. Here it is, the end of the semester, and someone outside of my class is adding stress to my students. Guess where that can be reflected, oh ye wise folks who do not teach? Yep, that's right.

I do not mind having students evaluate the course and my teaching. It has been part of my work since I went to the university almost 2 years ago. However, I do know that ratings are affected by many factors over which I have little or no control. If the server goes down or our CMS gets wonky after an update (both occurred this semester) or if students test my NO LATE WORK policy to find it is strict. Bottom line: evaluations are generally completed by one of two types of folks: the ones who LOVED everything and the ones who HATED everything.

Note: the scores in our college and in our department in particular are among the highest at the university. However, the cockamamie system we use "adjusts" our raw scores (and I attended 5 hours of workshop this past semester to try to understand why and how this occurs). It also penalizes us if students elect NOT to complete the evaluations. Sigh.

Back to the YAHOO! link. How many folks really read the story? How many click to see the worst colleges and think, "Well! I would never send my child THERE?" And so it is with numbers, be they test scores, Lexiles, ATOS, or other sets of digits without the CONTEXT of other factors. Read a book beneath your designated Lexile? Sorry, that does not count. Read a book too far above your ATOS? Unfortunately, I cannot believe you actually understood it. Score off the charts in math and just sort of in the middle of ELAR? Blame the ELAR teacher and give the math teacher a raise. It seems inconceivable that this is taking place. Sometimes I feel as though I am in some strange alternate universe similar to Alice when she goes down the rabbit hole. The Cheshire Cat represents the architects of CCSS; the Red Queen is Michelle Rhee. You get the drift.

But let's end on that note of HOPE (VISION) for the day. Yesterday, Arne Duncan (he of the slam dunk talent but no real classroom experience) was bombarded when he made an appearance at AERA (did he NOT understand what those initials stand for, I wonder?). Pointed questions were asked (and ducked, of course). But at least my colleagues were bringing up issues of poverty, testing, etc. I am seeing more and more push back and response to the idiocy (and honestly, I cannot think of a more appropriate word right now) involved in moving forward with a flawed document, tests that do not measure the standards, and computer sites that CRASH when a school attempts to conform to the testing schedules. So, I have a VISION (HOPE) that the days of CCSS are numbered. I have faith that if we keep pointing to the absurdities, we might just be able to save our kids.
Tags: ccss, evaluations, idiocy, ratings

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