There is a phrase that comes from Stephen Covey - "Seek first to understand-- then to be understood."
For me, the problem is I can't find anyone to answer the questions I have.
You see, although I have worked as an instructional assistant at an elementary for the last 10 years, my previous vocation was that of YMCA Child Care and Day Camp Director. I live and breathe: Spirit, Mind, and Body, so what I am exposed to every day goes against every fiber of my soul and I want to understand how and why it is the way it is.
I live in Indiana. The evil state where the evil Mike Pence was mean to the saintly Glenda Ritz. I realize that tone is sarcastic, but this is what friends, colleagues, and strangers I admire seem to have been saying for the last 4 years. I would like to know what it was that Ms. Ritz could have done had she "been allowed to"? Honestly the only thing anyone has ever talked about is how Pence tried to marginalize her power. I never read what she wanted to do but wasn't allowed to do.
I've heard forever how awful No Child Left Behind was. I've done research and all I seem to come up with is that teachers didn't like the accountability standards. But NCLB didn't rate teachers on students test scores. It took many years of a school "failing" before the government stepped in. And the main goal was to ensure schools in areas that served accademicaly and socio-economic disadvantaged people weren't shoved aside and over looked. Charter schools were an option for individuals over a failing school. When it was reauthorized in 2008 and Obama created Race to the Top, THEN teachers were held accountable for students scores. There was a rubric that awarded points to states adopting common core. Significant points. Points were also awarded to states that increased charter schools.
Of course money was attatched, so of course states jumped on the band wagon.
Now we have Every Student Succeeds. While it says it gives states more freedom it still seems to have strict guidelines.
However, people on social media still link everything to No Child Left Behind and George Bush. And now the incoming Federal DOE Betsy De Voss is being villainized for giving money to charter schools. Race to the top required it. I'm not saying she is the right pick or that there aren't people out there who have taught who would be better, but her support of charter schools seems to be of equal concern. I have seen people "with experience" become administrators and that experience seems to have done little to improve the overall state of education.
I also read how people blame the states for testing. In Indiana, am I right in saying that IStep is the big high stakes test and each district is responsible for beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of the year progress monitoring? And am I further correct when I say that districts may choose which "progress monitoring" assessment they wish to use, but the assessments are based on pacing guides devised by districts based on state standards? Why then, in our school are we constantly "assessing"? The teachers honestly have to do assessments every week and log and report data or they get in trouble.
Everyone talks about rigor when it comes to educational standards. We have all read the definition of rigor and how it is an awful word to apply to education because "rigor" tends to mean more difficult. So much so that Kindergartners are now required to listen to 3 different stories and talk about how they are similar. They are required to write responses to stories. They are working on the "dr" blend in December. Is this because they have mastered short vowels, discussed silent e, and know all their word families? No. It's simply what is next on the pacing guide.
If grades K-2 are considered the "learning to read years" because from 3rd grade on they are "reading to learn", then why are they being assessed on story retell and knowing plot, setting, characters, and beginning, middle, and end? If we want kids to love reading, how does endless quizzing foster that love? If we want to foster inquiry how do folders raised on desks so no one peeks foster that?
Why do teachers, when they know what they are teaching is not developmentally appropriate, continue to accept the mandates? We need the job, I get it. But we complain that parents don't attend Parent/ Teacher conferences. We complain that parents aren't involved. Aren't we just as bad?
I don't go to school board meetings because they don't care if I am there or not. I have no say in policy or procedure. Half the time, because there are no mics in front of the board members, the audience can't hear what is being discussed. Is that how parents feel about being involved in school? Is that feeling justified?
The powers that be pull out studies that show the latest and greatest in how rigor boosts test scores. We can all pull out studies that show mental health issues among young children are increasing, how basic motor skills are decreasing, and violence against others -- even at the youngest ages--is on the rise. Can we really say it can be fixed by having "Starbuck" style seating in our classes, or wiggle chairs, or pedal desks? Is a 5 minute "brain break" with a Go Noodle really adequate for a 5 or 6 or 7 or frankly 8, 9, 10 year old to relieve stress, move their bodies, and rest their brains? To whom does this make sense?
Why is it OK to mainstream special needs kids without providing adequate supports? Teachers have special needs kids in class whether or not they have credentials to teach special needs kids. Physical disorders are not given the attention they need and behavior disorders are allowed to affect not only the individual child's education but that of every other individual as well, simply because they can cognitively function in a gen ed classroom? Why do we not assign a label of dyslexia for the reason that we would then have to provide the specific skills and resources required to help rather than the regular resources given the student who is not dyslexic? And why are teachers allowed to believe that giving a child a resource, like being allowed to write in cursive ( in hopes the studies that show cursive can be better for dyslexics) is a "privelage" the child has not earned based on the child's poor behavior choices?
I have other examples and questions to help me understand why the state of education is the way it is and why it's OK, but I will save them for another day because this has been long enough already. But I really do want to know the answers. I want to understand the other side so I can address the strength of my convictions. I want a dialogue. My friends in education agree with me on most things but feel helpless to change any thing. The administration is all about staff being team players-- which means agree or go somewhere else.
So tell me... How do you feel about education? Why do you feel Common Core is amazing? Why are charter schools the demise of public education? Why do we fail to address the whole child -- Spirit, Mind, and Body? What exactly do you think is a way to organize to make the changes you see being necessary to be sure every child really is successful?
I want a conversation.
I really want to understand.