Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

How I almost became a standardized test grader

When you need a job, sometimes you’ll go to any lengths to be considered.

During my time on the unemployment rolls, I was seriously looking for something to keep me busy and provide me with a paycheck, even though any money I made was deducted from my unemployment benefits.

So when I saw the ad for test grader, I sent out a resume and cover letter, but never expected to get a response. My job search was becoming futile, and it was a bummer of an experience. Here I was, an intelligent, educated man, and I couldn’t even get a job pushing shopping carts at Wal-Mart.

I was stunned beyond belief when I got a response from the testing firm, and was asked to report to the location for an interview.

They actually treated me like a human being in the place, and I filled out paperwork with the feeling that it might not be a waste of time.

I was told about the job and what it entailed. It was grading the writing portion of standardized tests. We’d be given a rubric, like grading for content but not spelling, grammar or punctuation, or maybe grading for all the above, and we’d read essays on the screen. Recognizing my experience, the interviewer cautioned me: you’re not an editor, just a grader.

In a room, me and a few other people were given pencils, printed essays and time to read and grade the essays. In this case, I was to act as an editor and show that I could grade the way they wanted. I guess I impressed them enough because I was then interviewed with another fellow, and told that I had what they were looking for.

A few weeks later, I was called and told that with the vast number of people looking for work, I could not be hired, but the guy said he’d keep me in mind for a future opportunity. He never called back. Maybe it was for the best.

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June 4, 2012 Posted by | Life lessons, The jobless chronicles | , , , , | Leave a comment

FCAT week full of importance – for Florida politicians

This past week has been the biggest week in Florida public education in recorded history.

When just about everything depends on kids’ performance on the dreaded Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, aka the “Eff-cat,” you can be sure that anybody in education, from the janitors to the governor, will be looking to take the credit if “scores go up,” and blame the teachers if “scores go down.”

I suppose the most hilarious statement of all came from a spokes-moron for someone in former Gov. Jeb Bush’s latest education reform scam, when it said that “we care about the children.”

Gov. Rick Scott says he cares about the children, too. He cares so much, he’s trying to destroy the education system in Florida, rid the state of its unionized teachers and voucherize everything to the Xian schools.

As I was driving to the library in Gainesville, I passed a few public schools and saw that one had a sign asking for quiet because of the FCAT testing.

I suppose the people who will be gnawing their fingernails to the bone in the months until the tests are graded – if they are graded – will be local elected officials, and not kids, their parents or their teachers. This test decides if county commissioners become state legislators, if state legislators become congressmen, if congressmen become senators and if a senator has a shot at being a governor, or even the president.

Every ward heeler sees school test scores as either something to run on, or to blame on someone else.

Ever since I worked on the campaign of a guy at Florida Atlantic University who was running for State House, I knew that running for office involved a certain degree of artifice. Thus, a photograph of the candidate in a classroom (with small desks, a blackboard and a child (preferably a black child) nearby, while the candidate looks like he’s listening) could serve as a symbol that – unlike everyone else out there – he’s for education.

Suckering the news media into showing up at a school so the candidate or incumbent can read to children and get taped and photographed doing so is what separates the hacks from the winners in this world.

I feel sorry for the kids. They’re just trying to get through the day, and here are all these adults, almost none of whom really has any interest or concern for them, acting like they care. At least those of us outside education know the truth, and many inside education know the politicians and candidates couldn’t care less about education, but appearing to care is the name of the game.

So long as the kids lose, no one really cares about them. It’s winning elections that matters, and the way to do that is to push testing like the FCAT, and pretend that it matters.

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Education, Living in the modern age, Politics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wonders of the sky available to all

It was kind of a bittersweet night last Saturday at the “Sidewalk Astronomy” event in Lakewood Ranch.

Many people who had never looked through a telescope before got to see Saturn, and most believed that we weren’t putting them on; that really was the ringed planet (though the rings are getting closer to edge-on.)

The Moon was a joy, as it always is when you can show the shadows of the mountains and craters, and many a kid walked away almost stunned. Many a parent was grateful that we in the Local Group were willing to take out our expensive equipment and share the wonders of the night sky with others.

Of course, while organized events are over for now, I plan on doing a lot of observing in the interim either in front of or behind my house. I recently decided to upgrade my mount to one of those new-fangled “Go-To” types, and there will be a learning curve for me, but I had some experience helping a good friend with his “Go-To” telescope, so I think I’m up to the challenge.

The astronomy club has done so much to keep the flame of science burning bright. Schools are cutting back pretty much anything that isn’t on the FCAT, and it’s good that they know that we amateur astronomers can supplement their efforts. We had some amazing events at schools this past year, and I can remember the kids bursting out of the school auditorium at one event and almost running for our telescopes.

Actually, while the kids were amazed, the parents were also thrilled. “I’ve never looked through a telescope before,” several parents said to me.

“I’ve never seen telescopes like that before,” a few said to me. It looks like we’re packing mortars, some of us, with our short-tube Schmidt-Cassegrains (a few have Newtonians, Dobsonians and refractors, though). But when they see the Orion Nebula, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Double Cluster or any of those other wondrous objects in the sky, I know we’ve made some headway.

I’ll be sharing views in front of my house this summer, if the bugs cooperate. It’s never too late to learn the wonders of the sky, I always say.

In the meantime, as Jack Horkheimer says, keep looking up!

May 6, 2009 Posted by | Observations with Vinny | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment