22 February 2009

VA Schools Need an Education!

I've always said that I preferred MA schools to VA ones. The special ed people (not the teachers, who are exemplary in both states but the office dweebs in SPED in VA) are a nightmare, compared to MA, for instance. Just one of many complaints I had, while we were in VA.

But, I have a new one that takes the cake, sent to me by a friend who is still a teacher in VA.

According to my friend, the teachers were administering a standardized test that was to test "history," history being used in the general to mean geography, culture...all the social studies subclasses, on grade level. Now, on one hand, that's pretty cool. I don't know if this was a city-standardized test or state or school-administered to test their teachers against each other, but... MA standardized testing does math, reading, vocabulary...science, at the upper levels. I've never heard of a standardized test for social studies, so I found that of note...a plus, until I heard the rest.

One of the other teachers on the floor came up with a problem. Her students insisted that the correct answer to a question wasn't ON the test. The question was: "Most of the rivers in VA flow which direction?" with a multiple choice set of directions the rivers might flow. The students insisted (and are correct) that most of the rivers flow west to east, which wasn't a choice.

Said teacher got a proctor and went off in search of the testing specialist, who informed the classroom teacher that she was incorrect and the correct answer was north to south. Knowing that was wrong, the teacher produced a textbook proving her case, at which point the following (more or less) occurred.

S: "Water flows from high ground to low...north to south."

T: "You're correct that water flows from high ground to low, but that high ground is the mountains to the west, and the low ground is the ocean to the east."

S: "It flows north to south, high to low. The children must be able to pick the right answer out of those given, and that would be north to south."

T: "You do realize that compass points and high ground have nothing to do with each other, right?"

Blank stare.

T: "So...what you're saying is that the people in Egypt are happily watching the Nile run from the Mediterranean Sea back down into the center of Africa?" (the opposite of the direction it runs, since the Nile is one of the notable major rivers that runs south to north)

Why are you screwing with me stare.

Apparently, according to my friend, the poor teacher involved proceeded to repeat this head-banging experience with six other teachers. The first FOUR of them fully believed that north was uphill and south downhill, and obviously the rivers SHOULD run north to south as a result of that.

Finally, she talked to my friend and another teacher, who both thankfully not only have brains (because the evidence of speech and vital signs prove the other five had brains) but also have the ability to logically follow a simple scientific principal to its end results. Ah...maybe that's why they teach social studies? They don't understand science?

Those two understood the problem perfectly, though it probably won't help the VA students with a woefully incorrect standardized test question. Dare I suggest that, in VA, you get a better grade if you get the same wrong answer that 60% of VA teachers get? (NOTE: Tongue in cheek and admission that eight teachers is a lousy cross-section sample with a huge standard deviation. I taught statistics.)

Clue to VA teachers... Standing in front of a mountain and holding up a map does not make the top of the mountain north nor the base south. If rain falls on top of said mountain, a portion is going to flow in each direction, and where it goes at the base will be based on grade of the land and other topographical elements.

It's yet another case of the teachers needing an education. And here I thought NOTHING could top the one teacher in MA who didn't know simple Roman Numerals, because she taught second grade, and the kids didn't learn them until fourth. Um...didn't SHE learn them in fourth?



Water said...

This reminds me of the time my husband's stepmom was making a trip to Illinois from Georgia. She insisted less gas would be used on the way back because it would be downhill and more on the way there because they were going uphill. This too was based on the going from north to south and vice versa. Nothing I could say would convince her any different but then she wasn't a teacher. You would think these are basic principles a teacher would know. Man those poor kids. They knew the difference and were being told they were wrong. What a mess.

Heather Mullaney said...

*sigh* That reminds me of the history teacher at the school I work at. He wanted to do a PowerPoint project on the Roman Empire. He asked me if I have any Gregorian Monk chat music. (LOL! I listen to everything.) He wanted to add it to his project. I asked him if he was aware that there wasn't any Catholicism during the Roman Empire so the chant music wouldn't fit. He just gave me that 'deer in the headlights' look. And he's the one who majored in history...*sigh*