Friday, February 3, 2012

One Oklahoma Teacher, "Do I teach to the test, or teach for knowledge?"

This post stems from the meeting I had with my 7 year-old's teacher on Teacher Conference night. Well, that's not true, it stems from years of research I've done on public education, but it came to a head in NEON LIGHTS for me last night and I had to share.

I have had three children darken the doors of the same public elementary school from kindergarten. From the beginning of the year, when I began to work with Sam (7) on his homework, I was troubled. The math seemed WAY too fast. I mean, he started with addition, but after three or so short weeks, he started subtraction. I couldn't believe it - he in NO WAY had his addition facts down before subtraction began. Consequently, the MINUTE subtraction began, he was lost. It took hours sometimes to sit with him and explain until he could even get the CONCEPT, let alone actually do the problems himself!

But wait! Several weeks later he actually brought home a math paper where he was to ADD THREE NUMBERS IN A ROW!!!! I simply couldn't believe it. I had to show him how to do it and he got it pretty well actually, but I have a Master's Degree in Biology and my husband is an ELECTRICAL ENGINEER!

After weeks of frustration over this situation, we met the teacher and she began to show us Sam's grades.

"Well, Mrs. Jones (not her real name for obvious reasons), I don't really care that Sam's grades are low. I'm going to be taking he and his sister Betty out at the end of the year to home school anyway - and frankly, I am simply disgusted at the nonsensical speed in which your class is going through math. I don't think Sam's grades are necessarily a reflection of his knowledge base, because he keeps moving on to something else before he's really grasped the subject at hand, so he never knows anything well enough to get really good grades."
Mrs. Jones responds,

"Oh, I know Mrs. White. I hate that. I NEVER get to teach for mastery, I can really only teach to the test and NOW I might have to do that to an even greater degree to keep my job!"

Clearly frustrated, she continued,
"I have been a teacher in OKCPS nearly 20 years. We teachers are all kind of conditioned to just teaching whatever new fad the district puts out, knowing it won't last and we'll have to spend our summers getting trained on something else as soon as a NEW fad comes along. It's the testing that causes so many problems. They keep telling us we have to teach more and more every year it seems. How in the WORLD can I get my kids to develop MASTERY in a subject when we can't spend but more than three weeks on it before I have to move on to something else. But then, I have to teach what's on the test, or the kids scores go down and we all look bad."
THANK GOODNESS EDUCATION IS ALL ABOUT THE KIDS! Public education today is about nothing more than what administrators - some who have never even set foot in a classroom and have no idea what a teacher can or can not do in a set amount of time - SAY it is. "They" implement new programs at the speed of light and expect things out of children and teachers that could only be possible in some parallel universe made up of Einstein-like scholars!

Yes, we want our kids to be the best they can be, but THIS is not the way! Why do you think test scores haven't risen in decades and kids get so frustrated and hate school so much they drop out!? Every administrator wants the newest, cutting edge approach to learning. The only problem is, studies show that the donkey works better than the racehorse! Why does better equate with NEW? Why don't we seem to understand that tried and true methods become "tried and true" because they have been shown to be!

I get so sick and tired of being told that home school students perform better because they have one one one direction at home and their education is catered to them. Come on! Many of us put our kids on lessons and let them go at their own speed - when they get a concept they move on!
Mrs. Jones said, "I don't worry so much about the higher kids because they tend to get stuff anyway, and I don't worry about the lower end kids because many of them will need remediation of some kind anyway. I worry about the kids in the middle! I can't even seem to serve them because even they can't keep up."
She also went on to tell us that next year, the school would be using Everyday Math - the WORST example of fuzzy math curricula in education today!

Well, I wonder...maybe that's the way "THEY" actually want all this testing, and new Standards, and crummy curricula, and constant meddling. The more the kids are confused and the lower the test scores get, the MORE "they" get to justify spending money and staff on programs that 'might' work to 'fix' it! After all, who cares about the kids when they're just a means to an end.