Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Part 3: What I Think

If Pigs was in charge and someone would actually listen to a mere teacher, here are some of the things that I think would help to fix our little NCLB snafu. These are some things that have always confused me, and I would love it if someone would address some of them.

1. It seems to me that it would be a lot easier to monitor, assess, and teach students as a nation if we actually had a more similar curriculum from state to state with the exception of state history classes. It seems to me that it would make a lot more sense if we were all held to the same standards and the same tests. Having taught all subjects in the same elementary grade in two states, I have noticed just a smidge of difference [be sure to read my sarcasm here] in expectations and skills taught. Call me crazy, but why aren't we comparing apples to apples here?

2. I think that instead of labeling high SES schools as "exemplary" and low SES schools as "unacceptable," perhaps we should start looking at student growth instead of hanging banners on schools which - let's be realistic here - ought to say things like Our Families Can Afford to Hire a Tutor if There's Trouble or Our Kids Come to Us in Kindergarten Reading! And don't say it's not true. I think it's ridiculous that I work in a school with a great rating, but I have also worked in two schools with failing ratings. Did I suddenly change my teaching style when I came to a more affluent school? Sure didn't, but getting those kids to pass was suspiciously a lot easier! Quite honestly, I had to be a much better teacher in the failing schools.
I think that every school should be expected to make gains every year. Let's say there's a point system (not a percentage or percentile) assigned to the tests. Each year a student should be required to make a certain number of points growth to achieve a year's worth of learning. Any points beyond that should be gravy! If school ratings were based on growth year to year, which schools do you think would be seeing the biggest gains? Not my school! It would also force high SES schools to put the appropriate amount of effort into a gifted student. Do you know how hard it is to move someone to show growth when they are already at the top? Tie some merit pay to that and see where the good teachers want to teach...

3. We seriously need some support for our low IQ/non-Special Education students. I know people love to say that kids are being overly diagnosed with learning disabilities and that if you're a good teacher, you should be able to make a monkey pass that test, but come ON. If Bobby's still sounding out his words in the fourth grade letter by letter, Bobby ain't gonna get any comprehension out of the TAKS reading passage about Vietnamese holidays. I promise. And if I - as a good teacher - spend the amount of one-on-one time that I need to with Bobby to help him make a year's worth of growth, two things are going to happen. First, my friend Bobby's still not going to pass that test. Second, I have just done an injustice to 20 other kids.

That's really all I have to say, and I'm sure that many will be relieved to know that I am now ending my rant. Though, while I have your attention, I'd like to state one slightly off topic bit of advice to parents.

4. Teachers need some respect. We are working like dogs every day for next to nothing. Treating your child's teacher like your maid or other servant does absolutely nothing to help your child. The teacher is there for your child's education. She is not there to provide your child with a Super!Fun experience every day. It is your job to support the teacher because - this may be shocking to some people I know - she really does know what she's talking about! She has a college degree in the field and everything! Homework is not negotiable. If a child fails a test, do not come argue it with the teacher. Instead, take the time to go over the material with your child. That's all I have to say about that.

Pigs is going to take a rest now and put her tired self to bed. She's been teaching like a demon all day and is a bit winded from all of this pontification. Please do not fret, there will certainly be a post that involves some poo or a klutzy accident coming soon. No worries.

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