Testing Season

April 27, 2011

This week marks the beginning of testing season at my school. 

My students start with the California Standards Test (CST) and will spend the next four days bubbling their knowledge onto scantrons.  I will proctor the exam and get a TON of work done on my desk, on my computer, and in my classroom. 

Following this week of testing, students move into AP and IB testing for the next three weeks. That means that on any given day the mix of students attending my classes will vary and I will teach, re-teach, and hope that my lessons reach everyone…eventually.  I am still trying to get through original material.

I teach great kids. The sophomores and juniors who are testing in my room are honors, AP and IB students. So it is quiet in my room as the students deftly move their pencils through the testing booklet. They spend the extra time studying and this allows me valuable time to plan, grade, and organize.   Seniors are not tested until the next round. 

This week marks the beginning of the end. After testing seasons is over we are close to Memorial Day weekend (framed by a furlough day)  and only about two weeks out of graduation.  The pace is changing. There are  disruptions and frustrations. There are crazy schedules and big blocks of time. There is stress and relief as each day of testing season ticks away.

What is the value?  School accountability and college credit. Things for the future… not for learning now. Not for quality NOW.   NOT NOW!

And that is why I hate testing season.  Learning and inquiry are put on hold (or stopped) and students work for some elusive goal (800 API; passing scores on APs; an IB Diploma).    This is the end of the academic year.

Rest in peace, education.

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Smart People in the Room

April 23, 2011

I am fortunate to serve on a state-level education committee.

The Committee on Accreditation (COA) is commissioned by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) with the important task of issuing accreditation decisions based on institutional reviews or teacher preparation programs.

What makes this service extraordinary is the fact that I am a classroom teacher… the only classroom teacher on the committee. I serve with other educators, but the term educator is broad and encompasses former superintendents, former elementary school teachers, TOSA’s and members who have titles at Institutes of Higher Education (IHE’s). I am the only one currently in the classroom on a daily basis.

We meet about every two months (sometimes every month when business heats up) and I leave each meeting thankful that I get to sit with smart people in the room.  The committee members are diverse in their experiences and their opinions.  As we make decisions regarding policy and standards for teacher preparation in the State of California, it is guaranteed that many perspectives get presented.  It is great to be part of the process.

I fight feelings of inadequacy and worry that if I speak up that what I may say is irrelevant and misguided. There are times when staff to the committee respond to a statement I make and I feel scolded.  My amazing colleagues on the committee encourage me to comment and validate many of the things I say. Yet, I still hear that tiny voice in the back of my head that says, “I’m just a teacher. What do I know?”

We have dialogues and conversations that reflect teachers, administrators, students and institutions throughout the state. We grapple with big issues admidst fiscal restraints. We constantly evaluate, revise, study, improve and think about quality programs to ensure quality educators for all students. We recognize problems, call out institutions, tighten the ropes, open our minds, and work for realistic, effective policy. My experience on the COA has provided me with insight to a process that many classroom teachers did not even know exist.

I am a teacher. And I know a lot. Turns out… I am one of the smart people in the room!


Outrage

April 22, 2011

Sharing the sentiment. Outraged.


Destroying the system

April 18, 2011

Why the US is destroying it’s education system

Important read.   Think. Speak out.


Spring Break

April 15, 2011

The kids and the faculty need the break. Loaded up with assignments to counter the number of furlough days this year, students take work with them on planes, trains and autos to enjoy time with families, visit colleges and just to get away.

I cannot afford a vacation, and I am loaded up with work but at least I have the TIME to get some stuff done. I will grade and plan. That is my break.
When we return from break, the testing season begins and for the next four weeks my students will take state tests, AP tests and IB tests. Curriculum is restricted to mostly review and quality teaching takes a back seat to cramming information into brains.

That is my reality. This break is needed and timely… but politics and policy continue to swirl.

 Outside my school the bashing continues on the teaching profession. And that is why I am re-posting this commentary from Alan Haskvitz – I’m sorry I’m a teacher.


Idealism

April 9, 2011

I slipped in class today and said something I would not normally say.

The discussion was on the federal government shutdown (possibility) and budgets (reality). A student questioned why there was so little national governance over state educational policy and as a class we put the topic of federalism into the nice neat box of reserved and exclusive powers. Drawing parallels to the crisis in the State of California, I commented that the current disagreements are a  partisan issue. The student then asked, “Why would Republicans be willing to do this much damage to our education system?” There was not even a second before I responded, “Because Republicans want to destroy the existing system and privatize it all.”

I was embarrassed the minute the words came out of my mouth. I do not typically share my personal views with the class without clear labels in a safe conversation. It was an ardent political statement, and I was upset with myself for saying it.  But it was out there.

My students enjoyed my discomfort for a minute as I apologized for being so blunt. I re-focused the conversation and we continued on with class.

Analyzing the conversation again while waiting for news on our (possible) federal shutdown I have re-confirmed that I am an idealist.

I believe our elected representatives can work together.
I believe they want to act for the best interest of our country and not solely for moral and money purposes.
I believe that political will is all that is needed to take action.
I believe in democracy.

Idealism in education leads me to these thoughts:
I believe my students can learn.
I believe good teachers make a difference in students’ lives.
I believe in a public education system that provides ALL people access to educational opportunities.
I believe educational issues can be addressed with visionary policy.
I believe I have a voice.

I will return to my objective stance in the classroom and encourage my students to converse on topics and issues that are important to them. I hope my idealism is catchy and the conversations will focus on the positive possibilities and realities as everyone works for change.  But I guess that, too, is idealistic.


Revolutionary Wisdom

April 4, 2011

“Groundwork for Durable Democracy” (Sharp, 1993)
Excerpts for thought and discussion:

Revolutionary Wisdom: A primer