Friday, July 31, 2015

Why I Kept Firing Teachers in No Pineapple Left Behind - Yahoo Games

Why I Kept Firing Teachers in No Pineapple Left Behind - Yahoo Games:

Why I Kept Firing Teachers in No Pineapple Left Behind

I was starting my second semester of first grade when the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect. Passed in 2002, the act required states to develop standardized tests for its schools. To receive federal funding, a school had to administer the assessment to its students--and students must perform at or above certain levels for schools to avoid corrective action from state governments. In effect, school funding became based on student performance on those exams.
All I know of the American education system comes from a post-NCLB world, which means I have grown up with state-wide benchmarks and standardized tests. Each year, when Colorado's exams rolled around, teaching came to a screeching halt. Instead of lessons, our school days were filled with exams of wildly varying levels of quality and relevance.
I was lucky to live in an area with very good public schools, but my elementary school still struggled to conform to NCLB. Teachers were moved around and let go, and high-achieving students often had to find out-of-school ways to continue learning. I also had to deal with some pretty odd experiments in grading, including an incomprehensible four-point scale which granted the same grade to every test score between 75 percent and 95 percent. Written at the top of every one of my tests was: "3--Satisfactory."
That's why I've been interested in No Pineapple Left Behind. The game has about as much subtlety as a cruise missile, but it poses a scathing critique of the education system built in the wake of NCLB. It puts you in control of a school as it desperately tries to secure funding. You have to hire the teachers, determine how much energy they put into their classes, and monitor students to make sure they're learning. The better your students perform, the more money your school will be given.
As students concentrate more and do better, you're presented with a haunting tradeoff: the higher their grades, the lower their humanity. Over time, as they perform better, they'll lose humanity and, eventually, they'll turn into pineapples.
Pineapples are simple and single-minded, which means they are advantageous. Children, on the other hand, are complex; they are constantly preoccupied with thoughts and emotions. As I played the game, I found myself wishing more and more that my student body would turn completely into pineapples. In other words, I wanted them all to reach total uniformity--the mark that they were all satisfactory, and my school was making money.
The only way you can get students to earn better grades is by providing them with competent teachers. No Pineapple Left Behind gamifies teaching to the point of absurdity. Teachers are equipped with different "spells" which cost certain amounts of "energy." A spell that takes up more energy will increase grades faster, but at the risk of exhausting the teacher. Each spell has a certain probability of succeeding, which pushes grades up and humanity down. As a teacher's energy decreases, his or her chances of succeeding with a spell also decrease. Each day, a little bit of energy recharges.
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At first, the obtuse presentation and extreme gamification of this system nearly dissuaded me from playing the game. But as I completed each day at the school, the system started influencing the way I made decisions. I'd force the teachers to cast the most energy-intensive spells possible to try and save struggling classes. This would, in turn, cause the instructors to burn out. They'd begin to fail during each class period, and the grades would plummet. I'd start to lose money.
It's something I've seen several times before in real life: good teachers, assigned to under-performing classes, are pressured with the responsibility to get them up to a satisfactory level. They reach their breaking point and become exhausted. Thankfully, I've never seen a teacher laid off for Why I Kept Firing Teachers in No Pineapple Left Behind - Yahoo Games: