a 14th-year public high school teacher in California. My school has a diverse student population – highly second-language, lower socioeconomic status, but also a liberal chunk of articulate, motivated, high functioning kids. By the way, those two groups are not mutually exclusive, more like a Venn diagram. Most of my career has been spent teaching juniors and seniors with the occasional sophomores sprinkled in. I have taught AP classes, regular classes, and TR (transitional English) classes.
a bit of a smart-ass. I think you can still laugh while taking something seriously. When it is generally agreed that everyone should be zigging, I desperately want to zag, just out of principle. When it comes to major issues, I truly believe that if everyone agrees, it must mean that we don’t really get it.
becoming a bit dispirited by the dystopia public schools have become in the wake of No Child Left Behind. That is, the notion that standards based testing is the be-all and end-all of whether or not we have done our jobs. In case you’re worried that I’m about to go off on a partisan diatribe against Dubya, let me assure you, Obama hasn’t done much better. Race to the Top was grounded on the same faulty premise.
I am not:
a cranky old man, resistant to change, hiding behind my union (whatever that means) or, all evidence to the contrary, a cynical asshole.
What you will and will not find on this blog:
One of the stereotypes that circulates among supporters of standards-based testing is that those of us who are not on board are old farts who resist “reform” because it is inconvenient to us. We don’t want to change the lesson plans we have been using, unaltered, since Rose Mary Woods manned the White House tape recorder. I want to give voice to the notion that our recalcitrance has more noble motives. I don’t oppose standards-based testing because I’m old and lazy (although I may be those things, I suppose). Rather, I have serious misgivings — ethical, educational, cognitive – regarding the validity of what is being done. This Blog, then, is simply my attempt to explain my beliefs, behaviors and concerns.
What you will not find here (or maybe rarely) is reference to, or quotations from, educational experts. If there’s anything I’ve learned to loathe over the last few years, it’s the high paid, published consultant who breezes into town selling the snake-oil cure for low achievement (My district buys two or three of these a year). While I understand the value of research and pedagogical experts, it has become clear to me that whatever your pedagogical belief, you can find a published guru to support your position – it’s all a matter of which gurus you choose to believe. To quote the old axiom, there are lies, damned lied and statistics. If you want to hear from famous educational celebrities who don’t automatically make me do a face-palm, I suggest Googling Stephen Krashen, maybe watch TED lecturer Sir Ken Robinson, or read something by Diane Ravitch.
If this Blog had a thesis statement it would be:
When reform takes the guise of standardization, whether that be in grading policies, information being taught, teaching strategies or whatever – anytime we all agree to do something the same way, it will be to the detriment of someone. Because we know about learning styles, modalities, and just plain-old human nature, it should be common sense that there is no one approach to anything that works for everyone – especially in education. Even if we do adopt a policy that is to the benefit of most of our students, it will, inevitably be to the detriment of others. Standardization without flexibility dooms some to failure – often the brightest, who don’t do well when penned in. The current push towards lock stepping, for the sole purpose of improving test scores, is misguided at best, disingenuous at worst. Standardization is an attempt to simplify what we do at a time when the role of public schools and the needs of our students are becoming more complex by the day.
What follows is simply observations and musings that I’ve thought over and elaborated on over the last year or two – just the reactions of one classroom teacher to what’s been happening to classrooms.