As I mentioned before, last week I spent time with one of my BFFs and her brand new, totally adorable baby. However, what I did NOT mention was that I also spent time with some family and, in particular, my fourteen year old cousin.
Why bring up babies and now fourteen year old cousins on the old blog?
BECAUSE MY FOURTEEN YEAR OLD COUSIN IS ABLE TO GRASP A CONCEPT THAT SOMEHOW CONTINUES TO ELUDE ARNE DUNCAN.
You see, in a lovely display of family solidarity, my cousin wrote a book report about my book for his english class. My first thought was, "that is insanely sweet!" My second thought was *gasp* "Please tell me you warned your teacher about some of my, um, language and she approved this book." And my third thought was, "Did she at least buy a copy after she read your report?"
Here is his thesis: "Mrs. Mimi's experiences prove that public school teachers in Harlem need versatility, creativity, and most of all love for their jobs to get through each day."
(He also called Mrs Mimi a "miracle worker." Um, hello? Insert tears here people. I am the proud cousin of a phenomenal writer.)
I mean, SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! This kid is fourteen!! And. He. Gets. It. (My cousin also got a 95 on his book report...I'm not sure the same could be said in a report of the head of the firing squad, Mr. Duncan.)
Then, as I scrolled through the various blogs I read, I stumbled upon this piece in the Washington Post.
In a nutshell...if you can put any of the drama that is the current state of public education into a nutshell, the authors are arguing that Obama (and his boy, the Dunks) basically did a 180 when he went from bashing NCLB in campaign speeches to basically initiating a war cry of, "Let's test the crap out of them! Yeee haw!"
(Was the "Yeee haw!" too much? I couldn't decide. I think maybe just some fist bumping would have been sufficient. Either way...Obama and Duncan are celebrating ridiculousness. Bumping fists with one hand and firing teachers with the other.)
This whole testing testing testing mentality has killed my inner teacher along with any sort of flexibility teachers may have had to do any sort of actual, you know, teaching because it makes test prep the All Mighty. For some reason, the Non-Teacher Powers That Be assume that more testing equals better insight into what children actually know, which I guess is true if we are curious if children actually know how to bubble in bubbles and select a nice sharp number two pencil. However, I'm not convinced that a parent will be impressed with these results in their next parent-teacher conference. In all my years, I never had a parent sweat their child's ability to color in bubbles. They seemed more concerned with stuff like, oh I don't know...reading. Just off the top of my head.
Does more standardized testing equal more information that will actually help us be better teachers? Uh, no. No, more testing equals more test prep with equals more mind numbing hours teaching children about the tricks of a test rather than to be inquisitive beings capable of independent thought. We are robbing teachers (and their students) of the creativity, versatility and love of learning that my cousin (Did I mention that he is only fourteen?) clearly sees as key ingredients to a rich educational experience.
A few quotes from this opinion piece:
"In the classroom of any reasonably competent teacher, student progress is being evaluated constantly, each time he or she looks at classroom work, not to mention frequent quizzes, papers, projects and discussions.
"[T]he feds should help states that develop systems that build on the assessments teachers already do...That will enable teachers to go back to teaching, not running test prep programs."
Hmmmmm, sounds right on to me. And pretty flexible...what was the word my fourteen year old cousin used....ah yes! "Versatility."
Well said, my friend. Teachers need versatility. Not fear of losing their jobs. Not a script. And not more tests.
Granted, I don't LOVE that these authors keep referring to "reasonably competent teachers." Kind of makes me want to go, "WTF? Aim low enough?" However, I think their points about testing more than make up for this error in wording.
If we had "reasonably competent" people in positions of power (Should I nominate my cousin?) (Or a teacher?) perhaps we could get back to square one and fix this mess we've gotten ourselves into.
*P.S. - More square one talk thinking to come...