Opine I will

I am an elementary school teacher just trying to do the right thing

Archive for the tag “Language Arts”

This is our Sputnik moment.

School’s all across the nation are either starting or about to start a new academic year. It’s suppose to be an exciting time for students and teacher. However, this year may be much, much different.  This has been the summer of Trump. Our students  have been subjected to Trumpism all summer.

Before this weekend’s horrific events in Charlottesville, I was wondering where did we go astray. How could our nation elect someone like Trump? After this weekend, I think I have the answer.

As a teacher, it’s hard for me to admit this. I view this past year as a failure of our education system. As educators we have not fought hard enough to protect our curriculum, our methods, our standards and our public schools.

All too often we  observe teachers dutifully, following directives that they don’t agree with. We observe teachers, following standards that are not research based and often inappropriate for the children they teach.

I have watched  Social Studies lessons being put aside for high stakes testing skills and subjects. I have observed Social Studies standards morph into ‘big ideas’ that often lack correlation with history. For example, teaching about the Articles of Confederation without taking the necessary time to teach the events that led up to them.

Social Studies is being put aside. Now we hear STEM is the new ‘ big idea’. Science Technology Engineering and Math is turning into this year’s new focus. We’ve already witnessed literature, take a back seat to non-fiction in Common Core.  Look at the results, look at society, and ask yourself, “ can we really afford to abandoned the humanities”?

We need to refocus our teaching towards Social Studies. Link your lessons towards teaching history. Not a whitewashed version, but real history. The history of the peoples of the world.

We now have a President that has no understanding of our nation’s past. We have thousands marching in the streets protesting things they do not understand.

This is our Sputnik moment. We need to emulate the counter protesters of this weekend by resisting any attempt to water down our curriculum. We need to stand against those that want us to teach a revisionists version of history.

Forget the damn high stakes tests. It’s time to roll up our collective sleeves and do what we need to do to save our nation. Resist and teach like our future depends on it, because it does.

The End is Near

 

the-end-sign

Public education is our nation’s most important asset that is responsible for protecting and nurturing our nation’s most precious asset, our children. Public Education is about to be dismantled and sold off to the highest bidder in every state of our nation. Trump’s legacy will someday describe this real estate scoundrel as the demolition expert that has destroyed an American institution that began in 1690.  Unfortunately, a large portion of our populace do not realize that the end is near.

No matter which party you support or who you voted for, you will soon feel the real pain of a Trump administration. Some have said, we may survive four years of Trump, but will we survive many years of an ultra-Right Wing Supreme Court? Will we survive a Tea party controlled Congress? Will our schools survive?

The “end” for public education is one step closer with Trump’s pick for Education Secretary billionaire Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a conservative activist that has pushed for school vouchers across the nation. She supports raiding taxpayer revenues and funneling them to private and parochial schools. She has no experience in education and will be the chief architect in Trump’s demolition plan.

Trump’s demolition plan includes the destruction of unions. The very same unions that advocate for highly effective schools, strong standards that are appropriate, school safety, and protect the needs of our most challenged students.   Trump has signaled that he would establish Right to Work laws nationwide. Trump’s plan would impede all unions’ abilities to provide the much-needed advocacy that has protected our schools and in turn our middle class.

The end will arrive for many of our union sisters and brothers when a Trump Supreme Court dismantles public unions’ bargaining rights and his wrecking ball destroys tenure protections. Public schools will be immediately impacted when teachers that advocate for their students are fired without due process. Public schools will be systematically taken over by private for profit corporations that will not be subjected to collective bargaining. Profits and the bottom line will be the only measure that is important.

The end is near for public pensions. Trump’s demolition crew is about to blow up a system that has allowed hard working public sector employees to contribute to a system that would protect them in their end years. Trump’s crew will raid our pensions and turn them over to his private sector buddies. Public sector employees will now face the same questionable future as the private sector workers who have lost their future.

The end is near for our curricula. Our Science programs will be distorted with creationists warped views, Social Studies will be used as a tool to indoctrinate and not liberate the mind. The Arts will be lost forever. The focus will be on a false accountability system, based on a failed business model invented in some boardroom.

The end is near for our freedoms. Our freedom to worship as we choose, love who we choose, opine as we choose and severely limit our individual life choices. Trump’s demolition crew is about to dismantle our Inalienable Rights.  Disguised as the Righteous, his crew is about to destroy the very fabric of our nation.

We all know what we witnessed the day after election day. Many of us saw our own union sisters and brothers celebrate Trump’s win. Many of us lashed out on social media and even got into heated arguments. We could not believe that our sisters and brothers and even our loved ones failed to see that Trumps win will destroy us all.

If we put aside Trumps racism, bigoted, misogynist statements. We are still left with the unpleasant truth that the end is near. Unfortunately, it will be pain that will eventually open the eyes of many of our union sisters and brothers. The pain will be swift and devastating. It will be too late for I told you so’s. It will be our demise. Unless we stop him!

Resist! Resist! Resist! Put your niceties aside. Inform, argue, debate and be relentless. Boycott when told to, protest when you can. Throw up roadblocks, stand your ground. Don’t accept “maybe things will get better” or give him a chance. All the signs are there. Point everyone out. Point every threat to our way of life. Point out every conflict, every attack, every enemy.

Do what we do best. Teach! Teach others how the end is near and how it will be a reality if we do not wake up. Our national nightmare is here.

Cuomo and Tisch- Guilty !

The New York State Education Department and Governor Andrew Cuomo should be held accountable for abusing their authority and the children of our state.

Over the past two weeks, I was ordered to administer New York States Common Core assessments to 44% of my 5th grade class, while 56% of my students refused to take the test. They were all in the same room during the assessments, so I designed a quiet independent Language Arts activity for those not taking the test. I didn’t want to waste any potential ‘learning time’ for any of my students. They worked silently, without disturbing those struggling with the test, and afterwords they reported to me that they enjoyed the assignment and they were excited to share what they learned.

A parent complained and I was advised, after the first portion of the test,  to not have the other students working on anything else because it may be a violation of testing rules and that the Superintendent stated we couldn’t. So, for the last 4.5 hours 56% of my class was told that they can only read silently from their own novel while the others in the room struggled with the assessment. Under these conditions, I observed many of the students had a difficult time remaining silent and often disturbed those struggling with the tests.

Those children, who I had to order to sit quietly for 9 hours the past week while their peers struggled with their purposely confusing questions, were basically under arrest. Metaphorically handcuffing them to their desks, they were forced to sit quietly for an extremely long time (even those with attention deficit issues or hyperactivity issues). How many adults would subject themselves to that nonsense?

Those taking the test struggled with questions, day after day, that were unfair assessments of their capabilities. The Language Arts section of the tests consisted of way too many boring reading selections and were above a typical 5th grader’s reading level. The questions focused on minutia, lacked clarity, and played with the nuances of plausibility.

Over the past several years the Language Arts portion of the assessments always had poetry included in them. Often poems that were difficult and could be interpreted in many different ways were part of every assessment. Poetry has always been an integral part of my Language Arts curriculum.  I thought I met the challenge and that my students were well prepared to analyze just about any poem place in front of them. After all, that is part of our curriculum.  I was shocked to see that this year’s 5th grade assessments had no poetry in it. Why?

My students were prepared, but the evidence is mounting that these assessments are not about seeing if my students were prepared or are learning. There is a more sinister reason coming into focus.

The Math portion of the tests included multi- step problems that were beyond the capability of most 5th grade students. My students are capable of doing a typical 5th grade multi-step problem, but these questions were purposely misleading, often included a misdirecting clause and were often nonsensical and unrealistic.

We know that a student needs to use some background knowledge to understand a word problem.  I wonder how many students were confused when the star of a softball team hit the softball  a towering 2 yards and the others measured their distances against his.  Realistic? Hardly!  I wondered if my students really thought that knowing the fraction of the volume of a cubby used to store a teachers’ papers was a really something adults calculate.

A typical 5th grade math word problem in Pearson’s own Common Core aligned textbook has 3 or 4 steps that must be completed to solve. This year’s Pearson’s tests blew the lid off that. Students had to complete many more steps to solve these test questions. About as far from fair as you can get.

More evidence that these assessments are not about seeing if my students were prepared or are learning, that a sinister reason is coming unto focus.

I have been shouting that these tests are institutional child abuse and this week Cuomo confirmed my declaration that yes, the New York is using our children in a sinister way.

Read these excerpts from a Times Union Article:

“The grades are meaningless to the students,” Cuomo said in a brief press gaggle following an Association for a Better New York breakfast event in New York City.

“Cuomo said he believes they haven’t done a good job of publicizing the fact that the tests, for at least the next five years, won’t count at all for the students.”

“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count.”

Meaningless? Children subjected to headaches, anxiety, upset stomachs, a feeling of failure for meaningless tests!

Cuomo also says these tests are supposed to be used to evaluate teachers. That is using 9 hours of a child’s labor to do an adult’s job. Let’s not forget the imbedded field test items that Pearson sneaks in there to help them boost their corporate profits.

The evidence is overwhelming. The New York State Education Department and Governor Andrew Cuomo are guilty of abusing their authority and the children of our state.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch, are guilty as charged and should be forced to resign.

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