Sunday, February 08, 2009

Big coaching days...

Kids seem to be peaking at the right spite of taking only seven kids to the meet yesterday, my forensicators and master-debaters took third place in sweeps at this weekends small-but-high-quality meet. Had a second in LD, a second in PuFo, a second in Expos, a third in IR, a third in OO. Not too shabby.

The most interesting stretch now will be the next 48 hours or so, because on Tuesday we host the state qualifier for Public Forum (well, it's technically not a real state event, but rather a mere "state demonstration event," because the WIAA and our state forensics committee still treats PuFo as a second-class citizen, but hey, I'm working on it as hard as I can). We're using the March topic to get ready for Nat Quals and State, and it's proving quite interesting. The topic is as follows:

Resolved: That, on balance, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has improved academic achievement in the United States.

The issue here isn't so much that NCLB sucks, it's that most of the judges the kids will encounter will be teachers, who, try as they might to leave their biases at the door, will almost universally be predisposed to believe arguments against NCLB. Teams this weekend who won the coin toss almost exclusively selected "Con."

So we took our PuFo boys and treated this past weekend as a bit of a warm-up; an opportunity to spar with the other good teams in our district merely 3 days before attempting to qualify for state using the same topic. We actually told them to select Pro if they won the toss so they could flex those muscles a bit. (Usually, however, we coach our boys to build two strong cases and then elect to speak second if they win the toss. Net result: they almost exclusively speak second.) Then, after four rounds, and after Swankette and I had judged a few rounds each, we went for burgers after the meet and coached hard so we could spend today researching some stuff.

What it looks like, to me, is that the resolution's focus on "academic achievement" is going to lead to stat wars. The kids with the best stats won't win. The kids with the most stat savvy will. The best kids I saw (and the ones that eventually won the debate) blasted the round open with this great argument: "My opponents say that test scores have improved. However, teachers can teach to the test, and according to this education professor, once teachers start teaching to the test, the test loses all meaning as an indicator of academic achievement. Our numbers say that student test scores have not improved. Our numbers are reliable because their from a test that's given to random school districts every year, so there's no teaching to the test since the kids don't even know they'll be tested. Therefore, our numbers should be the ones you trust."

Wow. Not bad for a couple of HS freshmen. Their opponents were left silent and open-mouthed. Game over.

So, PuFo Debaters working the March topic: Get behind, around, under, and into the numbers. That'll win you some meets.

Anyhow, with 72 hours to look at the same ballots and make some quick coaching and research decisions, I feel right now like coaching will have a larger impact than usual on this Tuesday's state quals results. It's going to be fun.


QRohlf said...

what test were they referring to?

TeacherRefPoet said...

I don't remember, I'm afraid. But most state NCLB-required tests have seen an uptick. You shouldn't have trouble finding stats.

QRohlf said...

The problem I'm having is finding stats for con that show a negative impact of NCLB on test scores. All of the stats I've seen show a positive trend. Our current plan is to contest whether NCLB was the cause of these higher scores, but even so, it would be great to have a test that showed a decline in academic achievement since '03.

TeacherRefPoet said...


You're not going to find any downward trend in test scores. Most of these tests were introduced in the early part of this decade in response to NCLB. As students take the tests (and teachers prep the students for them), scores will inevitably go up. The big question is whether getting kids ready for a specific test is "academic achievement." The best Con cases I've seen approached it that way. The case I referred to above had a great article that essentially said that test scores become useless indicators of achievement the second teachers teach to the test, and their case had a test that is randomly given to kids as a surprise...and it showed no gains.

Unfortunately (for you), I don't remember their source. But it was damn good.

Your goal: tell why test scores are not academic achievement. Good luck.

QRohlf said...

Thank you for the help! I'll keep that in mind for our con case.