Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things That Irk Me

Found this picture on the internet. It speaketh the truth.

My sweet husband needs a break. Yeah, I agree. He's not that sweet. But he still needs a break. A break from what? A break from my incessant complaining about public education and where it seems to be headed.

Now, before someone, a public school teacher or teacher's relative perhaps, begins to feel a little on the defensive before I even get started let me share with you that I, too, am an educator in a public school, as is my husband. And, as such, I have a license to speak on such an issue.

Seeing as how there's just more and more about public education that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like a cheap off-brand diet soda, I'll have to break it down into periodic gripe sessions.

For my inaugural issue on school matters that rile...

Yearly Achievement Testing Given Before the End of the Year, Waayy Before.

It has always been somewhat perplexing to me that teachers are given a yearly curriculum and ten months in which students are under their tutelage and said curriculum can be covered and yet the achievement test - covering a year's worth of learning - is given in March or Early April. Originally, the powers that be stated that the tests must be given this early to ensure (or is it insure? I always get mixed up on that)they are scored and returned to the schools and students by the end of the school year. This apparently isn't an issue anymore as we NEVER get the tests back until well into the summer. So what's the rush?

Early in my career it wasn't such a problem. I taught third grade. If I was unable to get to, let's say, long division by March it wasn't a big deal! I would keep right on teaching and before the end of the year we would cover long division. And, you know what? My students actually learned more than they do today.

How is this possible you may ask. It was made possible by being given time. Time. To. Teach. You taught something, practiced it, reviewed it, tested over it, and retaught when needed. And that practicing part could last a few days. The important thing then was making sure that most of your students became proficient in the skills. By the end of the year my students had a solid foundation on which they could continue building in the years to come.

But, Tyla. Aren't grade school students being introduced to things that you or I didn't learn until high school or college? Why, with all these changes, students today should be much smarter than their parents. So, what gives? I'll tell you what gives - High stakes testing.

Now, with all this testing nonsense the government is insistent on shoving down everyone's throat teachers can't take the time to truly teach and children are not allowed the time to learn. New skills are thrown up on the board, practiced, reviewed and tested within 2 school days. It's become a "teach to the best and drag the rest" world. And despite the hope that no children get left behind they still do.

The group getting left behind is a very large one, too. We call them our "average students". You see, your high achieving students typically have an easier time learning new information so it doesn't necessarily hurt them when a new skill is taught and quickly left. And, of course, special education students have always had ooodles of help - from tutoring, special classes, and individualized education programs (we call them IEPs), which allow them to do less work, have more time to do less work, and make failing almost impossible. It's the average students - who can and will master the material when given the time to thoroughly practice it - that are getting left behind.

Of course, the powers that be tell us that if we throw everything at them early on and keep doing this year after year they will eventually master it. They dream. You cannot divide unless you know how to multiply. And if students aren't afforded the time to master this skill they're, pardon my language, screwed when it comes to most every math skill thereafter.

Again, in today's test-obsessed society there is no time for teachers to teach at the pace most of the students sitting in their classroom require. All material must be covered by March. Still haven't figured out what think April and May are there for.

I should have known we were headed in this direction when I heard the following comments come out of the mouth of a central office supervisor years ago...

1.) "Make sure all new learning is done by January so that you can start reviewing for the test." Yes, THE test.


2.) This little conversation that took place when a supervisor overheard a group of third grade teachers discussing the skill of telling time.

Supervisor: "Telling time? Why are you teaching that?"

Teachers: "Because it's in the math book and it's something they need to be able to do."

Supervisor: "Nope. Skip it. It's not on the test. Don't waste the time."

Well, they may not know how to read a non-digital clock but, BY GEORGE, they'll know how to take a test.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Preach it, sister!