Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taking the Earrings Out

Let me make two things clear:

1. I am about to rant because I'm really angry.

2. The title of my post is what a teacher friend used to say when kids talked back to her. She was much loved (seriously).

If you haven't already heard, the school board fired the entire staff of Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. You can find the story at the Providence Journal. As a teacher, I most certainly have an opinion of this drastic action taken by this school board.

I believe this is an outrage. It is absolutely absurd to fire an entire staff (93 people!) because of failure rates.

Teachers are not the problem; the system is. The town where Central Falls High School is located is stricken with poverty. These students could care less about doing well on standardized tests, because they are more concerned with where they will sleep that night, where their next meal will come from, if they will ever find a job. I don't blame them- if I were in their position I wouldn't care either. However, our current system requires students to care about standardized tests. Tests that have little to nothing to deal with real life, from these students view points. The test material isn't current; they try to put in "racially diverse" names so the students will identify better with the questions. I mean seriously? Give me a break. Perhaps it's time we started looking at these kids REAL LIVES and stopped trying to fit them into our upper-middle class mold.

I did all of my field placements and 7 weeks of my student teaching in Title I schools. I then taught in a Title I school for 2 years. As a teacher, you always feel pressed for time, you never feel like you have all the materials and information you need, you are drowning in paperwork, and you deal with more discipline and social issues in a day then most grown adults deal with in a year. We have no idea how much these kiddos deal with when they go home. As a teacher, I worked at minimum 60 hours a week (if you don't believe me, ask my husband). I spent hours looking for new ideas and creative ways to make the test more fun and relatable. But despite all of my hard work, I still had kids fail. And to be honest, there was NOTHING I could do to get these kids to pass a standardized test.

Let me explain how this test works, at least in Texas. I taught reading, and my test started at around 8:15 am, and I had students, yes plural, who did not finish until 5:00 pm. The only break they got was 30 minutes for lunch. In case you don't know anything about kids, their attention span is about 20 minutes at age 10. If that. But the state seems to think they can work all day on a single test and do fine, if I've done my job. Anyone else see the flaws in this logic? Because apparently the government doesn't.

And don't even get me started on how our system works against special education students. I had a student who read on about an early 2nd grade level on a good day (I taught 4th grade), and she was required to take the regular, on grade level reading TAKS test. She did not pass.

The answer is not to fire teachers. The answer is professional development, and creating a system that actually considers real kids, not fake kids who have no cares in the world except to pass the state test.

The question now is, how do we change our system? How do we make education a priority in America again?

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