This Blue Fairy’s Life

Random stuff…straight from my head to your computer.

Testing, Conforming, and All That Jazz April 10, 2011

Filed under: Family,Political Commentary,Rant,Teaching — merrywether @ 10:20 pm

I’ve been posting a lot of links to education articles and opinion pieces on my Facebook status lately. Probably more than my friends care to read. I can’t help it. Our students’ enthusiasm for learning has taken a nosedive in the past several years, and for my colleagues and me, it’s been more than disheartening; it’s been sickening. Watching those who have no experience or training in education (read: billionaires who contribute funds to education-related issues) push meaningless high-stakes testing (and using the results to evaluate teachers into our laws) is killing – not damaging – KILLING effective education. Your kids and mine deserve more.
Several years ago, our federal government sought out the private sector and invited them into the discussion of school reform because there was a concern (credible) that students weren’t leaving schools (both high school and college) with the critical thinking and communication skills necessary to be successful in the business world. The problem with government seeking business involvement with education is that our government is cash-strapped, big business is not, and quid pro quo means that education gets money, big business gets a nation of boutique school reform and tax breaks, and students and their teachers get told to perform or quit. As a bonus, students become very adept at filling in little circles completely within the lines and panicking at not being able to write to an artificial, meaningless writing prompt because either a) they can’t relate to the topic or b) they can’t read some of the words in the prompt and have no idea what it’s asking, as they are not allowed to utilize a dictionary, and the test administrator is not allowed to tell them what any word says or what it means – even if the student has learning difficulties, and even if they are reading at below grade level.
So, why, as a professional, are my (read: teachers’) opinions met with the public outcry “teachers are just whining!”. This makes no sense to me at all. Why am I not treated as a professional? I’ve been required to attain 150 hours of professional development every five years to maintain my certifications. I hold a master’s degree in education, and I spend six hours a day with children who need me to teach them how to read, write, compute, and express themselves coherently while making sure they are comfortable and safe, and comforting them about the police raid that happened at their apartment last night or the beating that happened this morning, and reassuring them that their friend’s snub on the playground wasn’t the end of the friendship. After those six hours a day, I spend at least 2 or 3 more hours thinking about them and planning how I might improve my practice the next day and hoping that they are safe at home. I occasionally get bit, punched, spit on, kicked, and more often than not, sworn at for my efforts. Yet I can’t be trusted to tell the Department of Education what I think might work to improve teaching and learning in our nation’s schools?
Unlike the computer chips in Mr. Bill Gates’ factories, my students cannot be sent back to the manufacturer because they have faulty behaviors. Every student in this country is entitled to a free and appropriate public education. Teachers in public schools cannot be choosy about which students they would like to teach. We get our kids each day, warts and all….and we teach them – even when they are hungry, tired, scared, or manic. Even when their parents have forgotten to give them their medication, or have dumped them at their aunt’s house for the week because they went to Boston “on vacation”, even when they got no sleep because mom or dad’s “clients” were in and out all night, we teach them. Yet the complaints from teachers have garnered no more than ridicule and grandstanding from individuals woefully lacking in any real and credible information about what it means to educate a child – yes, I’m talking to YOU, Glenn Beck, and YOU Michele Rhee.
I’m also calling out NBC and Oprah Winfrey, who both decided that a discussion about education could be complete without the balanced participation of public school teachers. NBC’s Education Nation was a glorified “privatization of public education” hootenanny. Public school teachers who were invited to attend were given nary a moment to present alternative opinions to those of the champions of privatization and high-states testing who were given much more time to state their cases. They’re planning on having another Education Nation this year. Oprah Winfrey’s coverage of education reform happened in much the same regard. When the whole country is debating public school reform, why are no public school teachers included in that discussion? How can you call my colleagues “whiners” for asking that question?  If you want highly-qualified teachers, and you retain highly-qualified teachers, then you should be intelligent enough to realize that you NEED highly-qualified teachers to help this country pull schools out of the black hole that it has created with all of this bickering.
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is up for renewal soon. NCLB is what started this brouhaha in the first place. It, and its equally sinister program “Race to the Top” have had good intentions, but terribly damaging results – making schools compete for funding, and with strong and dangerous strings-attached, instead of working with all stakeholders (health, education, social services, families) to improve education. If you aren’t aware, at NCLB’s inception, in order to qualify for federal funds, all public school districts in the country had to commit to make sure every student in their district is proficient in reading by the year 2014 – EVERY STUDENT. Yes, your child, his classmates, and their friends. Your nephew in Arizona and your granddaughter in Vermont. PROFICIENT. Dyslexic? Proficient. Developmental Delay? Proficient. Missed 74 days of school this year? Proficient. Homeless and no safe place to sleep? Proficient.
But I’m just a whiner.
For your perusal:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/standardized-tests-prove-im-better-than-michael-jordan/2011/03/29/AF4sdL4C_story.html
http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_of_the_year/2010/01/teachers_should_be_seen_and_no.html

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One Response to “Testing, Conforming, and All That Jazz”

  1. Jan Says:

    I’m so sorry you are going thru this mess. I am sorry that children these days are in this mess as well…as they are at the will of the government and everyone else making these poor decisions. They have all forgotten the individual child and instead are treating education as a business. It’s super sad. I can’t even begin to comprehend your frustration and every single teacher’s frustration … I know your blog isn’t even the tippity tip of the iceberg with regard to that. It blows me away to think that all this, (testing, the way education is being handled, all the changes you stated and including the preposterous NCLB) could fold up the education system like how many businesses fail in in the first 5 years, and all the kids in this era will struggle their whole lives because of it. Did that just make sense? I’m trying to say that it looks like…”oh let’s try this and see if it works”…then a very big ‘nope that didn’t work!’ could be in the future and all the kids in that ‘try’ stage are going to be so screwed. They are playing with lives like pawns on a chess board…it’s sick. So sorry cuz. You should post this blog on every site imaginable and have it printed in all the big newspapers and call the tv and radio and start yelling. Get all the teachers to start yelling….loudly. Someone HAS TO listen… All the teachers and most parents are…why isn’t it loud enough to fix things? Aaargh. I feel for you. I’ll pray for you. And for this country!! Love you to pieces, Jan


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