Opinion: It's All About the Words

Sandy Asper points out the sometimes ridiculous "educationese".

What is it about humans that they have to change the names of things, make up new names, and sometimes purposely confuse names? In education it's particularly prevalent.

In some cases it's a new program that just calls out for a cute name. Some are just plain bewildering, and for all intents and purposes the absolute wrong name. ZAP was a program that some schools in our district had for awhile and it is a perfect example of a bad name for a program for which the jury is still out.

When students are Zapped because they haven't done their homework, the teacher has to fill out a form for each of the student's who are then sent to the office to make the dreaded parental phone call. Then these humble students are sent back to class to be collected after school and taken to a homework room to finish it. Other than the name which conjures of a vision of flies being zapped, it doesn't sound like a bad idea, right?

Well, it lasted in the full flush of success for the few years that the administrator was there, along with the money that was appropriated somehow, but now continues with limited success as a skeleton of the original.

School Loop isn't as bad, in that it is a pretty cool device between and among teachers, parents, and students. I wish that it had a different name. "Loop" kind of diminishes the seriousness of the effort. It's a little loopy.

These names and acronyms have paragraphs that flesh out their meaning with more puzzling "educationese" but I have taken the opportunity to give you a couple of  shortened versions: Best Practices is my all time favorite. It means "what works"; Conflict Management: methods for breaking up fights; Differentiated Instruction:teachers breaking their necks to try to figure out what every one of their 175-180 students need; Language Arts: English. Yep it's just English which forever will include reading, writing, spelling and grammar. Get it? It's an art.

And then there are the tests. It's not that these tests should not be understood, it's the collective  number of them, and this is only a partial list because as my editor wisely said about an earlier column, "People don't like to read lists."

So here's my abbreviated list.

-California Achievement Test (CAT/6)

-California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA)

-California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS)

-California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST)

-California Content Standards

-California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE)

(Don't you love the name CAHSEE? ) "Why didn't you pass this test to exit high school, Samantha?" Samantha says "Cahsee." (CAHSEE why?", "Because I didn't study!"

-California Standards Tests (CST)

And everyone's favorite, sometimes nicknamed "Nichalbee"

-NCLB (No Child Left Behind) This is the testing that has done more to promote baldness among teachers, both male and female; while tearing their hair out trying to be "Highly Qualified) while still actually teaching.

Of course these terms and this jargon has NOTHING TO DO WITH ACTUAL TEACHING!

*** Just a note about my columns. I have purposely not written anything negative or critical about the district administration these past few weeks because I trust Dr. Barbot. Considering the negative last five years, I feel that the district is going to try very hard to make Newport-Mesa the district everyone wants it go be for the students and the teachers. Fingers crossed.

Just Sayin...

Myth Free Life May 22, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Sandy- It's hard to make out if you are being funny or critical? While everyone in education knows it's full of acronyms, and endlessly whines about it, aren't most professions? And maybe that's the real point here- people involved in education that have NEVER worked in another profession. Coming out of college and starting to teach leaves a lot to be desired in the classroom- I know many teachers and the ones with the best attitudes, experience, and knowledge are 'second career' individuals. They don't complain about lazy students, 'how it was' back in the day, or acronyms. They teach. Period. So don't complain about ZAP (BTW it stands for Zero's Aren't Permitted) being a strange name- focus on the students who are now being held accountable on a daily basis for doing homework- and the parents that are now aware of it. that seems like a pretty good thing at any level, yes?


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