Category Archives: marching band

Getting Schooled on Testing

Florida Parents Sue Over State Testing


The war has started.  The first shots have been fired in Florida by an irate group of parents in seven different school districts.  Their children were a part of the growing wave of “test-day opt-outs” that are occurring in every State that uses a high-stakes State test to determine students’ fitness for being promoted to the next grade, consideration for accelerated programs, and evaluating teachers for competence, ability, and possible execution.  State tests have developed such power over our learning lives that students and teachers obsess about them to the point of making themselves ill with stress.

The districts being sued have all decided that since the students who opted out did not take the tests, they have therefore not passed the tests, and have no right to be promoted to the next grade level.  So, a whole lot of sweet, pig-tailed little honors students that avoided super-stressful testing are now weeping over the prospects of still being in the third grade as their BFF’s now advance to fourth grade.  180+ days of instruction with a teacher does not apparently count at all towards advancement.  State tests are sacred.

You can tell by Florida Governor Skeletor Scott’s evil grin that he is quite satisfied with how State tests are working out.  After all, State tests provide aggregate data that public schools are failing in Florida.  Emperor Perry and the Crowned Prince Gregg Abbott of Texas have used them for the same purposes in the State where I spent my career teaching.  Low performing schools are taken over and run by a State agency.  Funds are cut to public schools.  Art and band and music programs are dropped in favor of remedial teaching and repetitive basic courses.  More money is given to private schools, magnet schools, and charter schools whose test scores prove they are more worthy of spending it (especially since the wealthier kids with fewer handicaps from their background are the ones going there, while kids from lower-income groups, minorities, special-needs students, and English language learners are generally kept out).

And, of course, State tests can weed out the teachers that the State deems incompetent, unworthy, and, well… goofy because those teachers who don’t mindlessly engage in test preparation, don’t have students who score well on tests.  The State can use this means to get rid of teachers who are too innovative, popular among their students, creative, engaging and nice.  It can promote teachers who have “good discipline” because students constantly fill out test-preparation worksheets mindlessly in their classes all day.

But the numbers are there to prove the State is right about education.  Test data exists in black and white.  How can anyone argue that numbers don’t tell us which kids are stupid and which kids are acceptable?  How can I argue it?


Well, it helps to be able to understand the endlessly boring hours of test analysis that teachers are subjected to by school administrators panicking about how poorly they are soon to do on the high-stakes test.  I happen to be smart enough to hear and understand how the tests measure what they measure, and what they actually mean.  For example, the reading portion of the State test emphasizes certain skills over other skills.  Inference, the ability to draw conclusions from the evidence given in the text and determine what is true by logic, is given more weight in the scoring than simpler abilities like factual recall or simple spelling ability.  Scores are not a matter of the percent of questions the student answer correctly.  They are based on which skills and sub-skills the student shows mastery (80% or higher success).  A student can get 80% of all questions correct and still fail the test.  And for some students with learning difficulties, developmental delays, or English-as-a-second-language difficulties, those more valued portions of the test are still beyond their current level of functioning.  I have worked for schools that received commendations for their tests scores.  I led a middle school writing program that topped expectations on writing scores through middle school and high school. I have also worked at schools who were punished for low test scores, and worked for good principals who lost their jobs because the scores were beyond their control.

I pray that the judge in Florida will support the parents and censure both the heartless school districts and the State testing program of Florida itself.  Darth Vader’s education system should not be winning.  We need to go back to the source and learn from Jedi Master Kenobi…. or even Yoda again.


Filed under angry rant, autobiography, education, humor, marching band, Paffooney, pessimism, rants, teaching, Texas

Band Battles and Ballgames


It was “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” night last night, because the Princess’ middle school band was expected to attend the football game and participate in the Newman Smith Trojans’ halftime show experience.  This of course took me away from where my heart was really located, as the St. Louis Cardinals took on the Chicago Cubs in their first ever playoff game.  Seriously, the Cubbies have never taken on the Cards in the whole history of baseball playoffs because they are in the same division and the wild card format had never brought them into playoff conflict before now.  Okay, before my brain bursts in cardinal red flames, the redbirds won and I only missed a fantastic playoff performance by pitcher John Lackey.  The band thing simply had to take precedence.


So, we went to Standridge Stadium to watch the football team from the high school where number one son did his four years.  They were doomed from the outset.  The one and four Trojans were facing the Woodrow Wilson Wildcats who had reversed the Trojans’ record, winning four and losing only one.  The opening drive for a touchdown by the Wildcats let me know immediately that there would be no hope.  And then the Trojan kick returner fumbled the kickoff that followed.  It was going to be a long night in Trojan town.  And yet, it wasn’t.  The boys in green were able to intercept a pass and run their way back down the field to tie the game up.  It proved that the real way to win the game was for one side to be bright enough to never throw the dang ball.  What happened next was a horrible mishmash of long runs and end-arounds punctuated by pass interceptions and penalties.  At the half, the Trojans were behind 14 to 7.


That brought us to the real event, the band performing at halftime.  Number one son had always adored the band program at Newman Smith.  Their marching band was award-winning and top-rated super-spiffy.  Dorin, my number one son, worked hard for four years to help them stay a number one rated band while he was in high school.  My daughter is seriously considering following in his footsteps.  But the band competition between Woodrow and Newman Smith was far more lopsided than the football game.  Only in our direction.

You can kinda see in the picture how pitifully small and powerless their band really was.  Of course, it didn’t help that they were facing away toward the visitor’s side, only showing us their little band butts during the entirety of their show.  And you see how their little red ants on either side of the marching band outnumber them?  Those little midget girls (apparently you made the girls’ dance team based on not being over four feet tall in high school) numbered about a hundred.  And all they did was turn around in circles and wave little sticks with blue and silver Christmas-tree tinsel on the ends.  The band performed their UIL competition routine entitled “Elvis on Mars”, or “Sram no Sivle” as their signs read from our point of view.  Their routine even included a boogie dance where the band put their horns and stuff down to wiggle their behinds at us.  How is that marching?  They weren’t even playing music at that point.

So, we came to the performance of the Mighty Trojan Band, and the performances of “Main Street America” and “Maestro” seemed to be marching band times twelve by comparison.  They actually marched in formation and impressed with a loud, bold, and highly musical sound.  Their lines were crisp and their corners sharp and my wife and I really appreciated that they haven’t lost their edge even a little bit since Dorin played the mellophone among them.

The marching band performance made the effort and expense worth it for the evening.  We thoroughly enjoyed it.  And then, like good band parents, we proceeded to go home after halftime.  Football game?  What about it?  That’s not why we went there.  Yet, the team had other ideas.  They ran the second half kickoff three quarters of the way to the goal line.  And they put on an unstoppable running game that took them down into the red zone.  And as we were exiting, they scored the tying touchdown.

“Do you want to stay and watch the game?” my wife asked with eyes that told me the answer had to be “no.”  And I did not feel particularly well from sitting in the cold wind on metal stadium benches.  So I let the aches and pains over-rule the game watching mania that nearly claimed me.  We went home.  I later learned that the Trojans lost in double overtime.  Dang!  But we won the battle of the bands hands down.


Filed under autobiography, humor, marching band, photo paffoonies