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Turnabout - or - Standardize This!



I got my first teaching job two years ago, right out of college. At the time, I posted this:

"The school has no art, music, gym, recess, or extra-curriculars. These were all shut down because of low test scores.

The school itself is on the verge of being shut down by the government (depending on this year's test scores)."

Bruin Fisher replied with this:

"Cool. You will hit the school like a tornado. Its grades will shoot through the roof, the kids will become well-motivated, the arts courses will be re-established."

I have my suspicions that Mr. Fisher might be a psychic. Or a witch. Here's what's happened:

The incompetent teachers and abusive administrators were kicked to the curb.

We now have art, music, gym, and an after school program.

We put on school plays every six weeks.

Our test scores have shot up, making us one of the best performing public schools in the area.

I don't have the data from other teachers, but my kids went up an average of two and a half grade levels in the last year.

I'm happy about the test scores. But seriously, who cares about test scores? Any educator you ask will tell you how ridiculous standardized tests are. Until kids have standardized lives, standardized parental support, standardized health, and standardized neighborhoods, standardized tests will always be BS.

Yeah, I teach my kids to read. But you'll know which ones are mine because they'll be smiling. They'll be the ones juggling and performing slight-of-hand tricks. They'll be the ones wearing goofy hats and reciting poems while standing on one foot. They'll be standing on tables and role-playing characters from fiction and history. They'll be singing their answers and reading aloud in different accents every day.

Officially, I'm going against the curriculum. The administration and the government say that I'm supposed to take kids who can't read and teach them how to fake it well enough to bluff their way through a standardized test. But when no one's looking, I close the door and teach them to read.

Screw the tests. Screw the standards. Let's teach.


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I didn 't have a teacher who ignored the rules and conventions and his bosses. I had ones who did as they were supposed to do and lasted forever in the school system.And I became a sheep myself because of it.Where were you when I needed you?C

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I'm offering my services as soothsayer for a small fee. The entrails of a sheep should be posted to me at....My original response was based on my confidence in your inspirational influence and I'm so glad i was right. Don't underestimate the extent to which your arrival and subsequent influence affected this wonderful turnaround in the school. Long may your power prevail, you are the teacher I would have liked to have been. Kudos.

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I don't understand how you can fake being able to read enough to take a test.... In fact my brain is boggling at the idea.I wish you'd been my teacher. So get your time machine working and then you can be. ;)

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I'd like to buck the trend for a sec. EleCivil's cranium is starting to get all bloated. (Actually, I think he deserves the praise.)

For the past few years, the best caregiver my grandmother has had has been a lady now over 70, closer to 75. She has common sense, a big heart, and she's honest. Of course, she can work it too, and she's a character. But I kinda like that. Also, she can cuss like a sailor, but you always know where you stand with her. Why mention her, aside from general praise?

This lady grew up a poor country farmer, a lot like my grandmother. Also like my grandmother, she's naturally intelligent, observant, sharp. But because she's of a rather darker skin color than ultra-pale me, she did not get a decent education. Her literacy skills are not very good. She masks it like a master sleight of hand artist. She can read. She can write. But her spelling is...even more original than my dad's. (He grew up a poor farmer too, but was taught the three R's before he ever got to school. He never could spell, though. He was an engineer. 'Nuff said.)

She is a proud woman. She was around, an adult, during the Civil Rights Movement. Every single one of her kids graduated high school, some went to college, all are solid people. -- But I have known trying to work on literacy with her was probably not going to fly. More than one of her kids (most my age or older) are skilled enough they could teach her.

She's what's called an "unskilled" caregiver, meaning she doesn't have a formal degree and training certifications. But I'd put her up against a lot of others.

I often have wondered just what she would have been, if she'd been given a fair chance and the special time needed to teach literacy, to gain a truly complete high school education or college education.

My grandmother, likewise, never went to college. She was good at spelling, reading, writing, basic math, bookkeeping. She always tried to educate and better herself. You never would've guessed she didn't go to college, unless she said so.

The difference between them? About 25 to 30 years and one has more melanin in her skin. Upbringing somewhat, but not as much as the crucial difference of being poor, rural, female, and black at a time when being any of those things, especially being black, meant disadvantages in education in every way possible.

One of her daughters has only a high school degree and maybe some college. But if you didn't know it, you'd never guess she isn't a college graduate. She's got class. -- And if she were single and I was straight, I might even be interested, but she's happily married and I'm a gay white boy. :)

So....It just annoys the crap out of me that Mrs. T. has had to go through life with limited literacy, when she is plainly college material, all because she wasn't lily-white enough or well off enough or a million other things, to get at least the same quality of education my grandmother got a generation prior.

So EleCivil, keep it up. Keep showing those kids, black and Latino and white and Asian and whatever, that they have a ticket out of the hood by getting a decent education.

My neighborhood is an aging subdivision inside the loop, midway between one of the richest parts of town on one side and one of the poorest parts of town on the other, very ghetto. My neighborhood is middle class...but of course, that's shrinking. In other words, I know the hood isn't far away. I'm in the middle of the city. Not too far away from me, if I were out at night much, I'd see bums and hookers and all. Not quite right here, but not so far away as to be outside notice. Oh yeah, and I'm somewhat near one of the gay/arts parts of town. You'll find just about any demographic marker you could think of in the five zip codes surrounding me.

A friend who's a special needs teacher near here once told me about her school day, getting one kid out from under his desk. (Special needs, in her case, means any kid from handicapped to profoundly at risk; emotional, mental, and physical issues; or living in the projects with something that loosely approximates a family unit...if they're lucky.)

In other words, yeah, I get it, somewhat.

Me? I grew up on the edge of the city limits. My high school was in the suburbs, above average to very good school district at the time.

A few years ago, they started a GSA. Amazing to me, since "homosexual" didn't appear anywhere in the student handbook back when I went.

But also in the last few years, I know at least twice, kids have brought guns to school. -- But then, one girl when I went got high and tried to fly, I mean, jump out the window. (Unfortunately, she did jump.) So in other words, it wasn't perfect back then either. -- And kids in my school district wear school uniforms now. We didn't.

The times, they are a-changin'. But not fast enough, and not always in the right direction. Weird, the 60's and 70's music I grew up with, along with the 80's and 90's stuff, still applies just as much.

Keep on rockin' the ed, EC.

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