At the Vanderbilt University physics building there used to be a huge, several storied pendulum with a mesmerizing swing. I know about pendulums; I believe in the pendulum swing. Education philosophies, methods, and approaches go through full pendulum swings with regularity. I’ve both observed and read about the swings. For example, phonics was relegated to one end of the arc and whole language to the other end. In the middle, for a brief time, we get to experience teaching that makes sense. Some of us have always tried to maintain that focus, rather like keeping true North on a compass.
My latest posts have been reblogs of a few of the many outstanding posts about testing and opting out. I have interrupted my blog posts “I Am That Teacher Too” (Letters to Former Students) because of what is currently happening in education. It is that important. I have waited for it. I have hoped for it. I have prayed for it. The pendulum is starting to swing back towards the middle. I know it is a small movement, but it is movement, and compared to the recent years of intransigence, this is a big thing. The catalyst was the actual testing. For every force there is an opposite and equal reaction. When the force of testing was applied, brave parents and students reacted and said “NO!” They said “no” not just once, but over and over again and in many states. For the first time in years, I have real hope that future generations of students and teachers will not have to endure CCSS and over-testing. I have real hope that joy and creativity will be restored to the learning process.
You definitely need to read the linked article. It gives the data for the “Follow the Money” theory I have espoused since the implementation of CCSS. The three scariest take-aways are lobbying costs, Pearson’s purchases of other companies, and Pearson’s poising itself to begin ADHD testing. Pearson earns an F on education issues and an A+ on business acumen.
This is one of the best articles you will read about Common Core and testing. It appears in the Long Island Business News. It shows the big business of testing, with a focus on Pearson.
Race to the Top, it turns out, unleashed a dash to the cash. And Pearson was the biggest winner. Since 1996, it has been buying up other companies in the testing industry. It is now the biggest provider of testing in the U. S.
You will learn about the big money behing the political decisions that affect children and why their parents want them to opt out.
Tisch’s offer to continue CCSS and testing, with a delay, is proof that the opt-out parents have gotten policy makers’ attention; it is also proof that the policy makers are still not listening to “core” concerns.
The best explanation of the problems with CCSS and inappropriate tests yet.
This is a powerful letter from a teacher in New York City who realized that the test mania has grown out of control and must be reigned in. Although, as she puts it, she is not a risk taker, she concluded that she had to speak out. This is her letter:
To the Parents of New York City Public School Children:
I must preface this letter by stating that I am not a risk taker. I have played by the rules my entire life and prefer it that way. Follow directions, work hard, get rewarded. But what do you do when you feel like you are playing fair and square against an opponent who isn’t? I’ve been a teacher in the New York City Public School System for 10 years. I’ve watched the emphasis on, and stakes attached to, standardized testing in New York State increase each year, while simultaneously…
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Dear Former Students,
What do I hope you remember about me?
Our Special Learning Space
I hope you remember our room. Bright, colorful, creative, inspirational. Most years, our room and our studies focused on a theme which varied from year to year. It might have been dinosaurs or space or animals. Maybe you were with me when we explored the rainforest. Whatever the topic, it was real; it didn’t just provide decorations. It was the springboard for learning—reading, math, language, science, social studies, art and music. We did it all centered around our theme. Sometimes we jumped outside the theme and that was OK. Creativity, learning, and children—none of them belong in a box.
I spent the summer vacation dreaming, planning, and creating for our learning base for the coming year. Until the Testing Monster emerged to swallow up the joy and adventure of learning. After that I spent summers investigating Common Core State Standards. I learned that first graders should be ready to do what had always been expected of second graders. I learned that a Kindergartener was a failure if he or she was not reading by the end of the year. I had nightmares of angry administrators and nonsense posters and charts. I tried to make sense of a disjointed melange, a mishmash of portions of reading programs, books, and plans stuck together by an “expert” to create a hideous and unworkable mess. BUT even then, I tried to create a warm and welcoming place to learn with a fun reading corner and an area for some messy art and forbidden science.
I know you must have felt my efforts. You would come into the room before school (and again at lunch) when you should have been on the playground.
You wanted to put your things away.
You wanted to say hello, to find out what we were going to be doing that day, not from the required posted chart, but from your teacher who had big plans for you.
You wanted to be reassured that despite your problems at home, you were safe at school and could have a good day.
Then after a hug or a smile or a moment to chat, I shooed you outside and we were both happy and ready to begin the adventure.
In writing these letters to former students, I want to provide a glimpse of my classroom and inspiration for yours.
Dear Former Students,
What do I hope you remember about me?
I hope you remember smiles and hugs. I worked hard to make our room a safe and happy place. Even if I was having a bad day or you were having a bad day. I hope you know that I always loved you. I hope it showed in what I said and did. Each one of you was (and is) special to me. You have a personality and gifts that make you unique. I tried to help you find that best part of yourself.
All those beautiful new school supplies…
I also tried to help you get along with others and learn to share. We pooled all of our school supplies. That was initially hard for some of you. You had never had 24 perfect crayons all of your own. As a teacher I had learned that shared supplies last longer. I didn’t want anyone to feel left out. We avoided arguments over possession and cleaning up. Most importantly, it is hard to share so we worked on that first. When you are grown up, there is plenty of time to possess all by yourself. But I hope you will always remember to share.
I have an enviable viewpoint: I am retired after 34 years as an educator. I loved being in the classroom, but then I received an incredible opportunity to work with the entire student body. I spent 14 years as a computer lab teacher. That job began as the ultimate in creativity and technology curriculum development and disintegrated into the role of babysitter so teachers could attend their Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings and the role of proctor for the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) exams. Then I ($$$$$) was replaced by an assistant ($) and offered a job in the classroom again. The enviable part is that I only put in three years as a classroom teacher during the current epoch of Testing and Tears. At that point, I had more than enough time in the system to say, “I will not do this to kids or to myself anymore.” I walked away at the end of the school year. Since I am blogging about education issues, it is obvious I have not stopped caring.
I recently read a blog post written by a colleague who teaches reading to sixth graders in New York state. She has to teach using modules aligned with CCSS and to subject her students yearly to the NYS high stakes test. Those tests sound comparable to the PARCC exams. Her post “I Am That Teacher” (https://standingupforthefuture.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/I-am-that-teacher/) describes how she wants to be thought of by her students as “that teacher.” Her post is the inspiration for my thoughts on how I hope my students remember me and my time with them. I will be writing from an Early Childhood perspective with a touch of PreK-6th grade computer instruction. I will be addressing my thoughts to my students as I used to do in a daily letter to them, but I hope that current teachers will get some ideas of what a classroom can be like without CCSS. Perhaps, if you are a renegade, you will feel support as you try to sneak in real instruction. Hats off to the blogger of STANDINGUPFORTHEFUTURE! You are a kindred spirit, and I know your students will remember you with smiles.
The information I want to share is much too long for one blog post, so I have divided it into sections (letters). I hope you will follow me and return to read these letters. Also, I encourage you to read the original post of “I Am That Teacher” for more inspiration.