Notes from a 5th grade teacher who is a member of our teacher group:
… our only talk is about "The Assessment," how to score it, and how to enter the scores on the computer. We don’t have collaborative conversations in which we share stories about our kiddos, talk about our teaching, and share good books.
Because of the slow and gradual take over we didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late. There was no time to think and talk with others after we took care of all the mandates. We are emotionally and physically exhausted.
Literacy expertise is untapped or wasted because teachers in the literacy positions are collecting data, giving in-services on test prep to the MAP, etc. etc., etc. We feel that financial and human resources are diverted from desperately needed programs.
Students in my classroom include several with severe emotional disturbances, two with fathers in jail, three whose fathers have died within the past few years . . . a mom who was 15 when her child was born. I have a student who was not at school for over six weeks . . . it’s possible that the child is prostituting herself at this time. -- Now, let's give them a high-stakes test!
In closing, teachers have devoted their lives to leaving no child behind. They search inside and outside classrooms for ways to keep their students safe, healthy, happy and always inquiring and learning.
We must support these teachers by making our voices heard – heard by parents, legislators, school boards, all our citizens. Let’s return our children and their classrooms to those who are dedicated to helping them build a democratic and compassionate world. Let’s return our children to prepared and knowledgeable decision makers, their teachers.
The Education Wars
From a classroom teacher...
Last week I was in an inservice where a graphic was displayed that showed the national average test scores in reading over a several year period among several age groups. The lines across the page ran almost perfectly straight - hardly a ripple up or down the line. Of course the presenter was making the point that we were not doing our jobs, we were not making enough progress. Hmmm, I guess I was looking at the “data” in a different way. It seems to me that it didn’t matter whether we were using whole language, half language or the Johnny Neutron, molecular theory of phonemic awareness, children were scoring about the same. It didn’t seem to matter whether we were into skill and drill or fluff and stuff, they scored just about the same. Didn’t seem to matter whether the coffers were full or empty, the raises were large or small, they scored just about the same. Even back when we used to leave children behind and now that we don’t - they scored just about the same. We’ve Iowa Basic Skills Tested ‘em, M.M.A.T.ed ‘em, M.A.P.ed ‘em, and Dibel-ed ‘em - we’ve read the numbers till we’re blue in the face and guess what - they’re still testing just about the same.
I wonder what that might tell us - could it be that the hidden message in all those numbers is that 6-year-olds are 6-year-olds and 8-year-olds are 8-year olds and 14-year-olds are 14-year-olds? Could it mean that expectations should be appropriate and developmental and trying to make first graders into third graders isn’t working all that well? Setting the bar high is admirable - but when that bar trips some kids, that is unacceptable - and when that bar is set so high that it chokes other kids, that is unforgivable. We in the classroom know that we work with each child to work to his/her potential - not just to some artificial benchmark or number of points. I am not interested in closing a gap between or among any group or groups of students. I am only interested in closing the gap between the achievement and potential of each and every one of the students entrusted to my tutelage. And I believe the day every student in America has the vision, the confidence, the tools and the responsibility to strive for that personal goal, there will be no achievement gap in this country.
I am so proud to be a teacher. I am so proud to be a part of a group who goes out every day and despite “4 p’s” of education (the paperwork, the politics, the negative press, and the powers that be) we still give it all we’ve got and we still manage to channel enough energy to focus on the forgotten “c” of education - the Children. It’s time we downplayed the quantification of education and got back to the qualification of education. We need to quit playing the numbers game and play some children’s games again.
Does that mean we stop, give up, accept status quo? Absolutely not? Anything we can learn through classes, action research, collaboration, professional reading, etc. that can help support any single child to have a more literate life is a worthwhile endeavor and we will not accept less than the best we can offer our children. (And please note I said more literate life, not raise a test score.)
Next year is my 34th and last year of teaching - but I will not go gently into the good night. I will fight for the rights of my kids to be kids and to be learners - not just numbers lost in a multi-million dollar techno-frenzied databank. We will read and write and we will solve math problems, but we will also read aloud and we will finger paint and we will bake bread and we will sing at the top of our out of tune voices and we will dance the good dance- and I have a feeling they will test just about the same.