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

Archive for the tag “Standards”

The End is Near



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.

CCSS feedback memorialized

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) is conducting a review of the New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. Several groups including NYSUT and Superintendents are asking for our feedback on the current standards.

Since I am a 5th grade teacher I have reviewed each 5th grade standard and made comments on the what should be changed. I will be forwarding my feedback to the appropriate groups.  I am also posting them here as a way to memorialize my feedback. Hopefully this will lead others to do the same as proof that we tried to work within the system.

Our particular comments must be made public. We have no assurances from NYSED that all comments will be read. Therefore let’s use a little grassroots activism to post our specific objections to each and every standard.

Here’s mine:

Suggested changes to 5th grade ELA and Math Standard

Reading Standards for Literature K–5

2-  Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

 ( not age appropriate very subjective)

3-Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).

( poor example leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

6-Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described. a. Recognize and describe how an author’s background and culture affect his or her perspective.

(Not age appropriate- student lack necessary schema)

7- Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

(Not appropriate—who decides what beauty is? )

9- Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.

(redundant and leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

Responding to Literature

  1. Recognize, interpret, and make connections in narratives, poetry, and drama, to other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, eras, personal events, and situations. a. Self-select text to develop personal preferences regarding favorite authors. b. Use established criteria to categorize, select texts and assess to make informed judgments about the quality of the pieces.

( Too subjective. Students lack schema to judge quality)

Reading Standards for Informational Text K–5

  1. Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

(quickly and efficiently are too subjective -leads to misinterpretation of the standard )

10-By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

(high end? Should be in the grade band)

Writing Standards K–5

  1. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.) a. Produce text (print or nonprint) that explores a variety of cultures and perspectives.

(Not age appropriate)

6- With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of two pages in a single sitting.

(How long is a sitting? Too subjective- leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Create and present an original poem, narrative, play, art work, or literary critique in response to a particular author or theme studied in class. a. Recognize and illustrate social, historical, and cultural features in the presentation of literary texts.

(Students lack schema- leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

Speaking and Listening Standards K–5

1-Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly. a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. c. Pose and respond to specific questions by making comments that contribute to the discussion and elaborate on the remarks of others. d. Review the key ideas expressed and draw conclusions in light of information and knowledge gained from the discussions. e. Seek to understand and communicate with individuals from different perspectives and cultural backgrounds. f. Use their experience and their knowledge of language and logic, as well as culture, to think analytically, address problems creatively, and advocate persuasively

( not age appropriate- students lack schema)

Language Standards K–5

3-Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening. a. Expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style. b. Compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems.

(To what extent?  Not age appropriate, students lack schema)




Number & Operations in Base Ten 5.NBT

  1. Find whole-number quotients of whole numbers with up to four-digit dividends and two-digit divisors, using strategies based on place value, the properties of operations, and/or the relationship between multiplication and division. Illustrate and explain the calculation by using equations, rectangular arrays, and/or area models.

(Strike “and”– area models are not mathematically sound in all situations- leads to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Add, subtract, multiply, and divide decimals to hundredths, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used.

(Strike ‘and” and replace with or- )

Number & Operations—Fractions 5.NF

  1. Solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of fractions referring to the same whole, including cases of unlike denominators, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. Use benchmark fractions and number sense of fractions to estimate mentally and assess the reasonableness of answers. For example, recognize an incorrect result 2/5 + 1/2 = 3/7, by observing that 3/7 < 1/2.

(the entire concept of reasonableness is too subjective.. using visual fraction models as an example leads to a misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Interpret a fraction as division of the numerator by the denominator (a/b = a ÷ b). Solve word problems involving division of whole numbers leading to answers in the form of fractions or mixed numbers, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem. For example, interpret 3/4 as the result of dividing 3 by 4, noting that 3/4 multiplied by 4 equals 3, and that when 3 wholes are shared equally among 4 people each person has a share of size 3/4. If 9 people want to share a 50-pound sack of rice equally by weight, how many pounds of rice should each person get? Between what two whole numbers does your answer lie?

( examples shown lead to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Apply and extend previous understandings of multiplication to multiply a fraction or whole number by a fraction. a. Interpret the product (a/b) × q as a parts of a partition of q into b equal parts; equivalently, as the result of a sequence of operations a × q ÷ b. For example, use a visual fraction model to show (2/3) × 4 = 8/3, and create a story context for this equation. Do the same with (2/3) × (4/5) = 8/15. (In general, (a/b) × (c/d) = ac/bd.) b. Find the area of a rectangle with fractional side lengths by tiling it with unit squares of the appropriate unit fraction side lengths, and show that the area is the same as would be found by multiplying the side lengths. Multiply fractional side lengths to find areas of rectangles, and represent fraction products as rectangular areas

( Not age appropriate, children often lack fine motor skills to perform the rectangle task above, and examples shown lead to misinterpretation of the standard)

  1. Interpret multiplication as scaling (resizing), by: a. Comparing the size of a product to the size of one factor on the basis of the size of the other factor, without performing the indicated multiplication. b. Explaining why multiplying a given number by a fraction greater than 1 results in a product greater than the given number (recognizing multiplication by whole numbers greater than 1 as a familiar case); explaining why multiplying a given number by a fraction less than 1 results in a product smaller than the given number; and relating the principle of fraction equivalence a/b = (n × a)/(n × b) to the effect of multiplying a/b by 1

( not age appropriate, should be in an upper grade)

  1. Solve real world problems involving multiplication of fractions and mixed numbers, e.g., by using visual fraction models or equations to represent the problem.

(Overreach – telling how to solve is a curriculum not a standard)

  1. Apply and extend previous understandings of division to divide unit fractions by whole numbers and whole numbers by unit fractions.1 a. Interpret division of a unit fraction by a non-zero whole number, and compute such quotients. For example, create a story context for (1/3) ÷ 4, and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient. Use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (1/3) ÷ 4 = 1/12 because (1/12) × 4 = 1/3. b. Interpret division of a whole number by a unit fraction, and compute such quotients. For example, create a story context for 4 ÷ (1/5), and use a visual fraction model to show the quotient. Use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that 4 ÷ (1/5) = 20 because 20 × (1/5) = 4. c. Solve real world problems involving division of unit fractions by non-zero whole numbers and division of whole numbers by unit fractions, e.g., by using visual fraction models and equations to represent the problem. For example, how much chocolate will each person get if 3 people share 1/2 lb of chocolate equally? How many 1/3-cup servings are in 2 cups of raisins?

(visual models should be a strategy than MAY be used not must be used)

Measurement & Data 5.MD

  1. Relate volume to the operations of multiplication and addition and solve real world and mathematical problems involving volume. a. Find the volume of a right rectangular prism with whole-number side lengths by packing it with unit cubes, and show that the volume is the same as would be found by multiplying the edge lengths, equivalently by multiplying the height by the area of the base. Represent threefold whole-number products as volumes, e.g., to represent the associative property of multiplication. b. Apply the formulas V = l × w × h and V = b × h for rectangular prisms to find volumes of right rectangular prisms with whole-number edge lengths in the context of solving real world and mathematical problems. c. Recognize volume as additive. Find volumes of solid figures composed of two non-overlapping right rectangular prisms by adding the volumes of the non-overlapping parts, applying this technique to solve real world problems

( V=bxh is misleading.. it should be V=lxwxh  in the first example lower case b represents the area of the base when finding the area of a triangle A=1/2bh   it confuses the  student and is not needed)

Frightened to the Core

As an educator I teach my students to think not just do, because if they know how to think, they will be able to do. I don’t want them to be common, I want them to be exceptional. I want them to feel, I want them to connect, I want them to be prepared, not just for college and future careers, I want them to be prepared for life. To be able to adjust, to be able to infer, to be able to recognize and respect the vast differences of our society and the world. The last thing I want is for them to be instructed via a common set of standards that dictate, what and how they should respond to questions or problems.

To be blunt.. the Common Core frightens  me. 

I’ve been reading about the new Common Core standards that are being mandated in states across the country. Next year, I’ll be required to follow these standards lockstep and barrel whether I agree with them or not. Even though my teacher contract guarantees  academic freedom, I’ll be required to cite each standard I cover during each lesson every minute of the day. I’ll be evaluated basedon tests and evaluations. These evaluations will be used to check up on me to make sure I follow these new standards. I’ve been told, that this is required to ensure that my students are college and career ready. Really? I’ll be teaching 5th grade next year, college and career ready?? What about ready for life??

I have been reading through a transcript of a presentation by David Coleman. David Coleman is considered the chief architect of the Common Core, so I guess we could consider him the expert, right? We’ll there are several things I picked up in this transcript that raises deep deep concerns for me. First of all, his association with Michelle Rhee’s Student First group should raise concerns for anyone mandated by the Common Core . Diane Ravitch clearly lays that concern on Mr. Coleman’s doorstep  in her blog. 

Mr. Coleman states,

remediation is a trap from which very few students escape’. 

I find this statement troubling. Is he suggesting that all of the recent research on differentiation, inclusion,and special ed is hog wash? The tremendous effort every district has undertook over the last 2 years implementing Response to Implementation ( RTI) is for nothing. Just what is he suggesting?

Mr. Coleman also states:

‘So the core standards for the first time demand that 50% of the text students encounter in kindergarten through 5th grade is informational text, meaning primarily text about science and history, text about the arts, the text through which students learn about the world.’

Then he goes on to condemn us all ”

That is a major shift and if you think about what’s happening in this country unintentionally literature and stories dominated the elementary curriculum. And then we expanded the literacy block. So we made the literacy block 80% of the time. Guess what that meant? We destroyed history and science in the elementary school.

So reading literature has destroyed science and history in elementary school.

Mr. Coleman fails  to recognize that high stakes testing destroyed science and history in elementary school. He further fails to define the term informational text. Would reading ” Number the Stars’  be considered non- informational? Does he consider any literature as informational? Will be forced to have our students only read ‘approved non- fiction’ 50% of the time?

What really bugs me about David Coleman is this statement concerning writing;

“It is either the exposition of a personal opinion or it is the presentation of a personal matter. The only problem, forgive me for saying this so bluntly, the only problem with those two forms of writing is as you grow up in this world you realize people really don’t give a sheet about what you feel or what you think. What they instead care about is can you make an argument with evidence, is there something verifiable behind what you’re saying or what you think or feel that you can demonstrate to me. It is rare in a working environment that someone says, “Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday but before that I need a compelling account of your childhood.”

Mr. Coleman, perhaps if we had more people in our society that gave a sheet about what other thought and felt, just perhaps our society would be a little better. Perhaps when a company such as Bain, wants to take over another, a little thought would go into the personal impact. Perhaps, the next time we go into war, more thought would be given to the personal impacts of entering into a war. Maybe just maybe, before a legislator passes a law restricting the voting rights of others, or a law requiring unions can’t negotiate for their members, that legislator would consider the human impact.

I want my students to do much more than just be college and career ready.

Yeah, the Common Core frightens me. Any social experiment that wants everyone to learn via a common core should frighten all of us.

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