Log in  |  Search

Archive for April, 2014

An apology to public school teachers

At the Huffington Post, blogger Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg has a message for public school teachers: We apologize.

“We refuse to allow public education to be privatized, perverted by profits, and reduced to endless hours of test preparation,” writes Weill-Greenberg in a post titled “An Open Letter to Public School Teachers: We Apologize.” “We refuse to allow our schools to be judged, opened, closed, and funded on the basis of test scores. We refuse to allow the teaching profession to be scripted and threatened.”

Weill-Greenberg, who lives in New Jersey, highlights an outrageous irony in Highland Park: Almost a dozen positions (including literacy coaches and a substance abuse counselor) were eliminated, only to be replaced by a data analyst and administrators earning a six-figure salary. Administrators went on to issue guidelines to teachers on exactly how to craft their bulletin boards and based their evaluations of teachers partly on bulletin board displays.

“And so, to those educators who value play, critical thinking and creativity, we apologize,” Weill-Greenberg concludes. “We are angry, fed up, and inspired to opt out, speak out and stand with you.”

Read the full post here.

A teacher who loves tests — but not the ELA

“I love tests,” declares Leah Brunski, a 3rd-grade teacher at PS 29 in Brooklyn. “They help me do a better job teaching. They show me what’s going well and what’s not, which kids are learning concepts and mastering skills and which ones aren’t. They even show me whether or not I’m being effective as a teacher.”

But even Brunski — who’s in her 10th year of teaching — couldn’t stomach the state’s English language arts exam, which she calls “developmentally inappropriate.”

Jean Piaget, one of the godfathers of cognitive development, is likely rolling in his grave knowing that New York is asking kids equipped with 45-minute attention spans to focus for almost twice that amount of time. It felt cruel to ask students to go back and check their work after the 60+ minutes many had already spent reading and then re-reading passages, writing and revising their responses.

In an op-ed in the Daily News titled “Why state exams fail my test,” Brunski highlights the length (240 minutes over three days) and complexity of this year’s ELA. The veteran teacher, who frequently uses her own assessments to shape her lessons, also notes that teachers and students don’t receive the results of the exams until students have already moved on to the next grade — too late to inform instruction.

“[The test] may as well have disappeared into thin air the day my students were done with it,” Brunski concludes.

Read the full op-ed here.

Is the ELA turning children into “test-taking drones”? This teacher thinks so

Teachers, parents and students at more than 35 schools in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn mounted early-morning protests on April 11,  incensed by what they said were confusing, developmentally inappropriate or needlessly long questions on this year’s English language arts exams.

In a blog post at Slate that originally appeared on Testing Talk — a forum for sharing observations about standardized tests — an anonymous New York State public school teacher who worked hard to develop her students’ love of reading writes about how the tests “are sucking the life and love out of students’ literary lives.”

“During the test, my readers, who months ago couldn’t get their noses out of books, complained of stomachaches as they persevered and tried to read texts that were over their heads and had no relevance to their lives, age, or backgrounds,” writes the 3rd-grade teacher.

The teacher, who supports the Common Core Learning Standards, observes that the ELA’s “complex and nonsensical” questions bore little resemblance to the kind that should encourage critical thinking.

Instead of a question like: “What caused the character to (insert action here) in the middle of the story?” (which, mind you, is hard enough for an 8-year-old to identify as it is), there were questions like: “In Line 8 of Paragraph 4, the character says … and in Line 17 of Paragraph 5, the character does … Which of the following lines from Paragraph 7 best supports the character’s actions?” This, followed by four choices of lines from Paragraph 7 that could all, arguably, show motivation for the character’s actions in the preceding paragraphs.

Many across the city agreed. Twenty-five principals in Manhattan’s District 2 wrote a letter to families saying they were disappointed by the design and quality of the tests.

The anonymous teacher concludes, “It is not my job to take children who are developing, who are trying to make sense of the world and the books around them, and turn them into test-taking drones who read and write with the intention of dissection and choosing the best answer out of four complex answer choices that all say little to nothing about what the text actually meant.”

Read the full post here.

Think you understand teachers? You’re wrong

You may think you know who teachers are and what they do, but you’re wrong, argues Sarah Blaine in this blog post at Parenting the Core.

Blaine, a former teacher who now practices law, notes that ” people I encounter out in the world now respect me as a lawyer, as a professional, in part because the vast majority of them have absolutely no idea what I really do.”

Yet because nearly everyone has had the opportunity to observe teachers at work, everyone thinks they understand the teaching profession — and everyone feels qualified to criticize teachers.

“The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do,” Blaine writes. “We need to stop thinking that we know anything about teaching merely by virtue of having once been students.”

Read the full post here.