All right y'all. As I have said many times before on this blog, I am not ready to get into a conversation about unions. I have my opinions, but, for now and for ONCE, I'm going to keep them to myself. REGARDLESS, I saw this recent petition and seriously felt chilled to the very core of my being. Maybe because I taught first and second grade friends for years and my heart belongs with the little guys or maybe because every fiber in my being knows that this scary reality will destroy any wonder we have left in the primary grades.
According to this petition, Bloomberg and Klein are proposing that children in grades K-2 in NYC be subjected to a battery of standardized tests. In addition to ALL THE TESTS AND RAMPANT DATA COLLECTION that is already in place!
And I'm sure we're not talking about data collection to drive instruction - because that would make too much sense - I bet we're talking data collection for the sake of having lots of numbers and graphs that evidently give the Powers That Be a sense of accomplishment or superiority (or hard ons, for all I know).
As if things aren't bad enough as primary grade teachers run around like crazy people trying to "progress monitor" in a timely fashion (read every two weeks for children who are deemed "at risk") instead of actually teaching. (Check out this sad but brutally honest piece I found over at Edwize about the toll testing and test prep can take on a classroom and our friends' perception of learning.)
I mean, just turn on the news and you will see that many school districts don't have two nickels to rub together, but we're going to spend ho-jillions of dollars developing standardized tests for babies?!?! Can we say "misappropriation of funds"?? Anyone? Sound it out with me. "Mis-a-...."
Whatever. Just give me the money and I'll get some teachers together and show you what real improvement looks like. Boo-yah!
Now, we've been threatened with this reality before, but somehow, in this horribly punitive, finger pointing happy, numbers hungry, be damned with real improvement for the sake of appearances climate, this latest threat feels a little more, well, threatening.
A little moment from my memories of data collection for the sake of having numbers on a chart that I never used, looked at, or thought about when planning instruction not because I'm lazy, but because those numbers were freaking meaningless.
Setting: My fabulous classroom. Although on this day, instead of sitting at desks arranged in collaborative groups, my friends sat in single rows. Rows I had to waste precious instructional time teaching them how to form because of an administrative demand that insisted on the Re-Creation Of The Testing Environment. (Insert the Powers That Be drooling over visions of me in a white lab coat, laughing maniacally as I hold my clipboard and prod at children at regular intervals...all mad scientist style.)
Scene: I have just passed out a literacy assessment, in which I have to ask my second grade friends (whose reading levels span mid-first grade all the way through mid-third grade) to read forty FORTY! paragraphs about the most boring and mundane un-relatable shit known to man and then answer a multiple choice question on that paragraph. They then have to successfully transfer their answer to a separate bubble sheet which, at the start of second grade, can feel like asking them to climb Mount Everest in flip flops. Yes, they are that prepared. Oh, the best part? EACH child has to finish. Which means that I have to make some of them sit there for OVER AN HOUR while those who are finished (and those who simply think they are finished) must sit in silence as their opportunity for real learning ticks away.
Sounds like a party, no?
Don't tell anyone, but I used to just call it quits after a while. I mean, enough is enough, right?
Me: (noticing that one friend, a friend who struggles in reading... I mean STRUGGLES) (kneeling down and whispering) Are you okay?
Friend: (tears streaming down face) (STREAMING!) I just can't do it anymore. (Is your heart breaking yet?)
Me: I know it's hard, sweetie, but you just have to do your best.
Friend: The words are just too hard. I'm not smart enough.
Me: (trying not to let tears stream down my face because I have to get this kid to try and finish) Just try a few more and then we'll stop.
Friend: And we'll go back to learning?
Me: (choking back sob) Yes, honey, we'll go back to learning.
I mean COME ON!