Indiana has a problem. The Crossroadians of American are not happy with the exam they use to test aspiring teacher into or out of the profession. They are in a situation many states find themselves: contract with test company Pearson to build a test around your state’s specific standards and goals for teachers. The problem? The test likely has a poor design since it hasn’t been piloted and refined through use across other states. The other option: contract with Educational Testing Services and get a test that has been refined to at least some degree through use across multiple states. The problem here is that the test isn’t built around the standards and goals driving teacher education in your specific state. This is the corner states back themselves into when they rely on high-stakes, standardized exams for teacher quality control.
I obviously have a lot to say about this topic. Much is beyond state’s control, but not the policies they set. The stakes of these exams are highest when policies allow them to trump every single other indicator of an aspiring teacher’s promise: grades, direct observations of teaching, etc. If exam results are only one of many information sources used to make professional decisions about teachers, then getting the exam right or wrong becomes less important. Then again, they could get rid of the exams altogether.
Listening: I’ve been thinking on and off about the Heat Rocks episode from a while back on ODB’s Return to the 36th Chambers. This got me back listening to the Wu’s 1st album this week and, of course, GZA’s Liquid Swords. (And no, I’m not watching the Netflix show.) What hit me listening to these two albums is how much my memory of what’s on them is shaped by a tape of collected Wu tracks I somehow acquired in a year I don’t even know. What I do know is that listening to it over and over in the early 2000s somehow rewrote my memory of which tracks are on which albums, their orders, and more. I only realized the effect this week while listening to these albums straight through. Now I’m wondering how I ended up with that tape and what ever happened to it.
Reading: Adam Mansbach’s Angry Black White Boy. I last taught this novel in 2012. I wondered how the novel would feel reading it in today’s racial climate. I’ve noticed how dated characters flipping open their phones or pulling out the phone antenna sound. What doesn’t sound dated are the critiques of white guilt and attempted absolution via proximity to Blackness. Still here. I’m interested in hearing my students’ read of it next week.
Writing: This piece on forms and teacher education has me thinking about design, and how things are already designed and, thus, we are all already designers. It probably means I need to read this, or at least learn from my excellent co-author’s reading of it.
Teaching: I’m coming out of teaching Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper and thinking about how its loosely configured hip-hop world affords agency and freedom for its characters. This insight only makes sense comparing the hip-hop worlds of Shadowshaper to Show & Prove from last week. Whereas S&P builds a tightly-configured hip-hop world – battles, rhymes, crews, etc. – Shadowshaper is a world with hip-hop but not confined to hip-hop. So Sierra paints, but bombing, being all-city, winning the style wars – none of these terrain the world she travels. Ancestors and their spirits do. What results is a world with different – maybe fuller – opportunities for growth and freedom.