Teacher or Score Whore? August 13, 2011Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
Tags: Creativity, Divergent Thinkers, Education, Educational Reform, Educational Revoluation, Matt Damon, NCLB, No Child Left Behind, Score Whore, Sir Ken Robinson, Standardized Testing, Teaching, Third Grade, Urban Dictionary
“All perceived underachievement by students is entirely the fault of teachers.”
I’ve been mulling over posting Rewriting the Attack on Teachers from The Last Word on The Lawrence O’Donnell Show for over a week now. The show featured a clip of Matt Damon and his mom, who is a teacher, speaking out against this national obsession with standardized testing. The comment above is taken from the show. (And yes, if you click on the link, you have to sit through a commercial first. ^#^&8&.)
But in the meanwhile, MY students’ STAR test results came in. I was elated to learn that four of my 28 third graders scored a perfect 600 in math on the standardized STAR test given in May! Even more exciting, 24 scored Advanced and 2 at the Proficient level. I wasn’t surprised about the two students who didn’t make the grade. They struggled all year and scored Basic, but it could have been worse. There ARE sub-levels of failure including Below Basic and Far Below Basic.
It helped that this year I taught a cluster of GATE (Gifted and Talented Students). They made up half of the class. The four previous years, I taught an ELD (English Language Development) cluster where the test scores can sometimes make you wonder if you’ve been talking to yourself all year.
My students’ English Language Arts scores were less stellar, but that’s always the case. Whereas, math is black and white, the English Language is a moving target for my students. Still, if I taught in one of those districts that handed out money for test scores. Ka-ching! My initial reaction was, “Woo hoo!”
But then I got to thinking, something that teachers are prone to do. Though my class tested well, most of my students have difficulty writing a coherent paragraph. And with all that test prep, we barely touched on those two subjects that begin with S – Science and Social Studies. But these things aren’t “on the test” which is code for they must not be that important.
But what about imagination, passion, and creativity? Matt Damon asked. “None of these qualities that make me who I am can be tested.” Sssh! The elephant in the room has stirred!
In Not Your Imagination: Kids Today Really Are Less Creative, Study Says, Ron Beghetto, an educational psychologist at the University of Oregon, posits, “The current focus on testing in schools, and the idea that there is only one right answer to a question, may be hampering the development of creativity among kids,” adding, “There ‘s not much room for unexpected, novel or divergent thought.”
When it comes to talking not just about educational reform, but educational Revolution, I can think of no one as articulate and downright funny as Sir Ken Robinson. In his 18-minute talk at TED Bring on the Learning Revolution!, Robinson urges us to scrap the outdated industrial/manufacturing/fast food model of education where the goal is standardization and success is based on the standardized test in favor of a model where kids’ natural talents can flower. He also debunks the myths that “Everyone should go college” and “College begins in Kindergarten.”
It’s rousing food for thought, especially as a new school year awaits. Score whore no more! I’m a teacher. Period.
Credit: Score: Score Whore merchandise (yes, that’s the front of a notecard for the teachers in YOUR life) available through Urban Dictionary.
Falling Down the Rabbit Hole November 16, 2008Posted by alwaysjan in Holidays, Life, Teaching.
Tags: English Language Learners, Holidays, Humor, Life, No Child Left Behind, Teaching, Thanksgiving, Time Management
During the school year, those nearest and dearest to me know that I disappear down the rabbit hole. I have the best of intentions – but isn’t that what the Road to Hell is paved with? Between pushing all that paperwork around (without the benefit of a forklift) and being on-call to perform brain surgery daily (and according to NCLB, isn’t that what teachers are expected to do?), sometimes I’m hard pressed to know what day it is.
As a result, members of my family have abandoned all hope of receiving birthday cards. I don’t know how much a stamp costs anymore. My parents don’t count e-cards as real cards so I’ve been known to call them and have my entire class of third graders shout, “Happy Birthday!” And my parents, who are increasingly hard of hearing, have been known to hang up thinking it’s a prank call. Hey, I tried.
November is the worst month, what with the first report cards due and Parent/Teacher Conferences to schedule (and reschedule) and Thanksgiving. Every year I have my students write a paragraph about what they know about Thanksgiving. Some don’t get past the date. You have to understand that many of my students are not native born and Thanksgiving is an exotic concept when you’re from Korea, Pakistan or Bosnia. Most kids write a grocery list; turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. Last year one student wrote that Thanksgiving had something to do with Indians hunting buffalo wings.
But by Thanksgiving break, my students will be on a first name basis with Squanto and know that three women/girls did all that cooking for the first Thanksgiving, while the men played games. (No snide aside here as my husband does most of the cooking).
Next week my students will take home an adorable turkey made from a tie-dyed coffee filter. They’ll know what a “wattle” is and have written a paragraph about all of the things they’re grateful for that’s stapled to the back. And what about me? The day before Thanksgiving I have my last Parent/Teacher conference scheduled. As I drive home, I can finally start calculating how big a turkey I need to buy. Long lines and over-sized turkeys await. But I’m thankful that my students now know why THEY should be thankful.
December gets worser (Sorry, I slipped into 3rd grade mode when they’re still figuring out those slippery superlatives). As I read about winter festivals throughout the world, my students crank out adorable holiday crafts. Late at night, you’ll find me on-line ordering gifts to be delivered to my family in the Midwest. I do put some thought into this. Should I pay an extra $4 for a computer generated gift card? It’s a far cry from the day when I handmade gifts or at least bought them with my own two hands and packed them. At some point, the ritual of shuffling my gifts along with my feet in the line at UPS lost its allure. So while my students’ parents are oohing and ahhing (or so I’d like to think) as they unwrap those handmade treasures, my own family will have to settle for something that I personally added “to the basket.”
So don’t wait by your mailbox and expect anything from me. From September till the end of June, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.