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I'm an Associate Professor of English Education. My time is spent preparing to teach, teaching, reading, writing, working with pre-service and practicing teachers, serving on various committees, and trying to keep my office from over flowing into the hallway.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Want reform? Why not ask teachers for ideas?

Want reform? Why not ask teachers for ideas?

Asking teachers about what the accountability model for their profession should be: What a concept! Are people afraid of this? If so, why? It's back to the same argument--would we get someone outside the profession to judge doctors, lawyers, engineers? I still want to know how easy it would be to get Cathy Black's old job in advertising, applying with the credentials of a former teacher.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Our schools are basketcases of anxiety."

Thank you, Ms. Young! More people need to hear what you have to say. There is already a real problem getting good teachers into urban schools. Now with value-added teacher assessment, why would any teacher want to go to a school where, too often, stressful living conditions due to poverty keep students from performing as well as their peers in wealthier neighborhoods? I already have pre-service teachers who are putting this system together; Future teachers who truly want to teach in inner-city, urban schools, now recognize that the new system will cause their students' test scores to follow them throughout their career. How will we bring teachers into urban schools now?
That all teachers, especially those just starting out, can't be a "superman/woman," a Jamie Escalante (Stand and Deliver), an Erin Gruwell (Freedom Writers), or a Rafe Esquith (Hobart Shakespeareans), is a given. Even Mr. Esquith, who has become famous for inspiring his students to excel by challenging them to read Shakespeare, had to take time to learn. How do we give beginning teachers a chance to establish themselves?
Ms. Young points out the high turn over rate in her own children's school. Teachers quit in the middle of the school year, a common occurrence in urban schools, leaving the students with a substitute, or worse, a security guard in the cafeteria. The teacher who gets these same students next year will be held responsible for their poor test scores. What Ms. Young says is true, and my friends who have taught in and/or attended school in urban settings can attest to the veracity of her statements on some level.
Ms. Young also speaks the truth about the freedom that many suburban and more affluent schools have: These schools do not teach to the test like poor,urban schools do. Parents don't allow it. As Ms. Young points out, the students in her children's schools are hammered with down pressure from teachers, who are pressured from principals, who are getting it from district administrators, who are getting it from the state, who get it from the federal government that these kids in the inner city need to get their test scores up, so give them more test preparation: Teach to the test, when they get a teacher.
That the Esquiths and the Gruwells have movies and documentaries made about them is not surprising. It's not the students that these teachers have to battle. It's not the hallways that are scary; rather, these days it's the scripted curriculum, the looming end of grade tests, the scarlet numbers that will be posted in the newspaper for everyone to see, and the non-educators, those from outside their profession, who are coming in to film, evaluate, and possibly even take over.
Ms. Young, thank you for being one voice that is talking loudly as a parent in support of teachers and ultimately in support of your children.