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Katie Lapham: Data Shows Not Enough Teaching

Guest post by Katie Lapham

As all U.S. teachers in public education know, in today's schools there exists a huge emphasis on data collection and analysis. Schools have formed data inquiry and teacher inquiry teams, and three-hole punching print-outs of students' test scores consumes many a prep period.

I did some of my own data analysis to determine how many school days will be non-teaching for me this year. It does not include the amount of classroom time that was lost to preparing my students for state tests. That data is forthcoming. In addition to the 40 days I will have spent doing state test work, seven school days were devoted to attending New York City DOE professional development workshops. A few were quite useful to my teaching practice; at one I learned new strategies for teaching reading and writing to ELLs (English-language learners), and another validated my collaborative teaching efforts. However, the others dealt solely with accountability matters such as learning how to use the AMAO (Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives) estimation tools, and looking at the new Common Core-fortified NYSESLAT assessment. The NYSESLAT is an annual four-part assessment given every spring to ELLs in New York State.

The math I did is pretty simple and did not require the costly services of outside consultants (I may, however, have to enlist the support of my 5th grade math experts when calculating the amount of instructional time lost to test prep).

40 + 7 = 47 non-teaching school days.

There are 180 school days in the school year. 47/180 = 26%. A quarter of my school year was non-instructional. Am I a teacher or a tester?

Here's my response to intervention: Let me teach!

Update, to clarify:
* As an ESL push-in teacher, I do not have my own classroom. I provide mandated ESL services to ELLs of varying levels in four different classrooms. Apart from teaching, my other responsibilities this year included identifying new ESL students through the LAB-R, a standardized test that I administered to potential ELLs over the course of nine days in September. I was also required -along with another freestanding ESL teacher - to test all 156 ELLs in speaking, listening, reading and writing in English (April 17 - May 17).

Next week, two colleagues and I will score the writing section. In addition, because of my out-of-classroom position, I was pulled out of my teaching program to assist with the organization of the state ELA and math testing materials and to proctor the exams, including make-up tests. All of this state test work, which I recorded in my plan book, adds up to 40 days. On these days my ESL students - many of whom are beginning ELLs and struggling students - were deprived of my services.

What do you think? How much of your school year has been consumed by testing? What is YOUR response?

Katie Lapham teaches in New York City.

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