Jul 9, 2012

BLOG: Choice

The choice they don’t want you to have 

"Under No Child Left Behind, my local public schools -- and all public schools in America, in fact -- now must pursue the policy of raising standardized test scores at all costs. School officials who don’t raise standardized test scores can end up losing their jobs. But if they turn out kids with no intellectual curiosity, kids who see reading as a chore, kids who perform just to please the teacher and get by, kids who’ve never learned how to use good judgment, ask a good question, or make a good decision, kids who see adults as adversaries, kids who take no pleasure in learning -- nothing bad will happen to them."

"For the kids in the Federal Option, school would look a lot like it does now. No Child Left Behind would be in full force, and the district and its school personnel would have to meet NCLB’s standardized testing benchmarks or face the statutory penalties. In these classrooms, the district would do whatever it takes to raise math and reading test scores, regardless of the other values that might have to be sacrificed. Subjects with no direct bearing on standardized test results, such as art and music, would be cut back as necessary. Recess and lunch would be minimized. Untestable qualities such as curiosity, skepticism, creativity, and initiative would not be pursued. Whether the kids actually enjoy learning would be a secondary concern, at best. To keep the kids from squirming during their lengthy test prep sessions -- er, I mean, lessons -- the teachers would instruct them on the importance of unquestioning compliance with rules, and would single out the quiet and obedient students for special praise and rewards."

The blogger goes on to discuss the Local Option school, which sounds much better. 

We live in a nation in which the decision-makers love their standardized tests. And, since they have no idea what they're doing, they've decided to rule with threats and penalties. Now, as teachers, we feel the pressure and pass it down to our students. Students, here are the rules and here is our goal--if you keep us from our goal, you will face the consequences! An ugly system. 

We can't avoid the test, but we can avoid its control over our classrooms. I know that we can be successful, grow relationships, and enjoy our career without letting those stupid tests run our lives. Let other people worry about the tests--you know, those who haven't been in classroom or those who have forgotten what it's like to teach.

I know that four things will save us. 
1) A safe, respectful, and enjoyable environment
2) Strong, positive relationships with students and parents
3) Differentiated instruction
4) High expectations

I know, some of those are no-duhs, but I hear people complain about time more than they share successful ideas. Because of time or student effort or family involvement or [insert another excuse], I've not tried to strengthen and perfect those four things. I can keep complaining or I can try.

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