Report from Louisiana: Teacher Bots

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Report from Louisiana: Teacher Bots

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – As a sec­ondary ELA teacher of twenty-​two years I have had a grow­ing con­cern over the changes I’ve seen in edu­ca­tion over the past few years, pri­mar­ily with the advent of Com­mon Core and its many forms.

I was against the prin­ci­ples of Com­mon Core when it started and now that it is in nearly every class­room I am even more against it. Do not be deceived: your dis­trict very likely has some form of this insid­i­ous cur­ricu­lum in place.

Two arti­cles of note to look at right now: the first is Bruce Dixon’s piece on stan­dard­ized test­ing. In my Louisiana dis­trict, we are on block sched­ule which means we com­plete a semes­ter from August to Jan­u­ary. When I return to classes this week I will have all new classes. In the semes­ter just com­pleted, we had four stan­dard­ized tests in 10th grade Eng­lish: one diag­nos­tic test (two days), three interim exams (also two days each), and an End of Course test (three days). We were also asked to give a prac­tice test before the EOC (two days) and a final exam after the EOC (one day) because the EOC scores would not be back before the semes­ter ended. Count it up: that is four­teen days of high stakes testing.

That does not even include the time in class talk­ing about test­ing or teach­ing kids how to take the test (required if you want your stu­dents to succeed.)

Given all that, I’m really inter­ested in the sub­ject of stan­dard­ized test­ing right now. Bruce Dixon addresses this sub­ject per­fectly. He refers to this test mania as “tyranny” and “an insid­i­ous virus.”

Con­sider this:

It might come as a shock to some politi­cians, but learn­ing is not a com­pet­i­tive sport, so how about we stop treat­ing it that way. Why do we per­sist with rank­ing every­thing, nam­ing and sham­ing schools by pub­lish­ing test results like they’re sport­ing scores in league tables?

Nei­ther is learn­ing a zero-​sum game– as in I learn, you don’t, or you learn, I don’t. Con­trary to the core sta­tis­ti­cal assump­tion that stan­dard­ized tests are built on, we can both learn, and both ben­e­fit. So why do we con­tinue to treat learn­ing as if there is only a fixed amount of knowl­edge that any one per­son can access at any one time?

Next, we need to be more pub­lic and open about the harm that these tests are inflict­ing on our young peo­ple. There have been lit­er­ally dozens of papers, arti­cles and books writ­ten on the dam­age and deceit of stan­dard­ized test­ing, so take your pick.

I’ve seen what this non-​stop test­ing does to kids. The ones who care deeply about their GPA suf­fer one kind of crush­ing stress and the apa­thetic ones, the ones we have to work harder to reach, are affirmed in their feel­ings of fail­ure and inadequacy.

Another arti­cle that I found reveal­ing was from Valerie Strauss at The Wash­ing­ton Post:

The overem­pha­sis on test­ing has led many teach­ers to elim­i­nate projects and activ­i­ties that pro­vide stu­dents with an oppor­tu­nity to be cre­ative and imag­i­na­tive, and scripted cur­ricu­lum has become the norm in many class­rooms. There is noth­ing cre­ative or imag­i­na­tive about fill­ing in a bub­ble sheet for a mul­ti­ple choice test. Stu­dents are so tired of prep­ping for and tak­ing stan­dard­ized test that some have protested by dress­ing up like zom­bies to protest — and thou­sands of fam­i­lies are opt­ing their chil­dren out of tak­ing high-​stakes exams.

As a teacher who has tried to be inno­v­a­tive, cre­ative, and work hard to engage my stu­dents, I can affirm that this is true.

The Com­mon Core cur­ricu­lum has given rise to the scripted cur­ricu­lum which is sup­posed to serve as the magic bul­let that has all teach­ers teach the same con­tent in the same way in every class­room because some teacher some­where said it worked in her class­room, or some­thing. This will vary a lit­tle from dis­trict to dis­trict, but in some schools teach­ers are expected to stick to the script, show the pre-​prepared slides, and pass out the pre-​prepared work­sheets and graphic organizers.

As a par­ent, is this the class­room you want for your child? As a teacher, I strug­gle with this. It is very, very hard for me to do this, but we do it because we want to keep our jobs and we want to help the kids who look to us to lead them to success.

Because there is so lit­tle out­cry from par­ents we can only assume that this is what they want. Teacher-​bots.

So many of us decried the prin­ci­ples of Com­mon Core when they began to roll out years ago. If you teach long enough you see these fads come and go through the years – one after the other. They come and they go.

It’s time for this one to go. It’s time to let teach­ers be the pro­fes­sion­als they are, use the judg­ment they have as the pro­fes­sional in the room with the child, and to return cre­ativ­ity and inno­va­tion to the class­room before this type of instruc­tion becomes entrenched and we lose an entire gen­er­a­tion of kids.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreve­port.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As a secondary ELA teacher of twenty-two years I have had a growing concern over the changes I’ve seen in education over the past few years, primarily with the advent of Common Core and its many forms.

I was against the principles of Common Core when it started and now that it is in nearly every classroom I am even more against it.  Do not be deceived: your district very likely has some form of this insidious curriculum in place.

Two articles of note to look at right now: the first is Bruce Dixon’s piece on standardized testing.  In my Louisiana district, we are on block schedule which means we complete a semester from August to January.  When I return to classes this week I will have all new classes.  In the semester just completed, we had four standardized tests in 10th grade English: one diagnostic test (two days), three interim exams (also two days each), and an End of Course test (three days).  We were also asked to give a practice test before the EOC (two days) and a final exam after the EOC (one day) because the EOC scores would not be back before the semester ended.  Count it up: that is fourteen days of high stakes testing.

That does not even include the time in class talking about testing or teaching kids how to take the test (required if you want your students to succeed.)

Given all that, I’m really interested in the subject of standardized testing right now.  Bruce Dixon addresses this subject perfectly. He refers to this test mania as “tyranny” and “an insidious virus.”

Consider this:

It might come as a shock to some politicians, but learning is not a competitive sport, so how about we stop treating it that way.  Why do we persist with ranking everything, naming and shaming schools by publishing test results like they’re sporting scores in league tables?

Neither is learning a zero-sum game- as in I learn, you don’t, or you learn, I don’t. Contrary to the core statistical assumption that standardized tests are built on, we can both learn, and both benefit. So why do we continue to treat learning as if there is only a fixed amount of knowledge that any one person can access at any one time?

Next, we need to be more public and open about the harm that these tests are inflicting on our young people. There have been literally dozens of papers, articles and books written on the damage and deceit of standardized testing, so take your pick.

I’ve seen what this non-stop testing does to kids.  The ones who care deeply about their GPA suffer one kind of crushing stress and the apathetic ones, the ones we have to work harder to reach, are affirmed in their feelings of failure and inadequacy.

Another article that I found revealing was from Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post:

The overemphasis on testing has led many teachers to eliminate projects and activities that provide students with an opportunity to be creative and imaginative, and scripted curriculum has become the norm in many classrooms. There is nothing creative or imaginative about filling in a bubble sheet for a multiple choice test. Students are so tired of prepping for and taking standardized test that some have protested by dressing up like zombies to protest — and thousands of families are opting their children out of taking high-stakes exams.

As a teacher who has tried to be innovative, creative, and work hard to engage my students, I can affirm that this is true.

The Common Core curriculum has given rise to the scripted curriculum which is supposed to serve as the magic bullet that has all teachers teach the same content in the same way in every classroom because some teacher somewhere said it worked in her classroom, or something.  This will vary a little from district to district, but in some schools teachers are expected to stick to the script, show the pre-prepared slides, and pass out the pre-prepared worksheets and graphic organizers.

As a parent, is this the classroom you want for your child?  As a teacher, I struggle with this.  It is very, very hard for me to do this, but we do it because we want to keep our jobs and we want to help the kids who look to us to lead them to success.

Because there is so little outcry from parents we can only assume that this is what they want.  Teacher-bots.

So many of us decried the principles of Common Core when they began to roll out years ago.  If you teach long enough you see these fads come and go through the years – one after the other.  They come and they go.

It’s time for this one to go.  It’s time to let teachers be the professionals they are, use the judgment they have as the professional in the room with the child, and to return creativity and innovation to the classroom before this type of instruction becomes entrenched and we lose an entire generation of kids.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.