Last 2011 Slice Part 1: 31/31

Day #31 has not officially begun but that won’t stop me.

I’m up!

I don’t want to be up but I’ve tried to put my mind to sleep and, well, no luck.  I have my Marriott tv on and even Rachel Maddow is no help.  And now this last slice has taken over my mind and my computer is whispering to me, calling me to open her up and  for a mere $12.oo I can writing freely,  while my HVWP  roomie, Christine, sleeping sweety in the bed to my left.

I know, I should be trying harder.  It’s 5am and we aren’t scheduled to leave for the day until 7:30.  Christine has another 45 minutes before her alarm is set to force her up for her morning exercise routine. Me, hmmm… maybe there’s still a chance for a power nap before our crazy day begins: the race to move around the Capital  from one meeting to the next with energy to share our HVWP  work and  plead for continued support at a time when the fight is over just how much to cut.

It’s the right time of the year for our annual NWP Spring Conference. The cherry blossoms are blooming and  a government shut down is coming to a showdown and we are asking to be included in the budget. We were cut and we want back in.  Reasonable?

Is it just me feeling that this is all crazy?

How about the recent town hall meeting Obama had where we sounded very much like us on the issue of high stakes tests. How about that?

Here’s a bit of his response:

Obama Blasts His Own Education Policies


If only the Department of Education could hear this guy Obama, boy, they would have to rethink their approach!

In a town hall meeting hosted by Univision, President Obama was asked by a student named Luis Ayala if there could be a way to reduce the number of tests that students must take.

His answer was superficially reassuring, but underneath, rather alarming.

He replied:

“… we have piled on a lot of standardized tests on our kids. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a baseline of where kids are at.

“Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic. I mean, they didn’t even really know that they were going to take it ahead of time. They didn’t study for it, they just went ahead and took it. And it was a tool to diagnose where they were strong, where they were weak, and what the teachers needed to emphasize.

“Too often what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools. And so what we’ve said is let’s find a test that everybody agrees makes sense; let’s apply it in a less pressured-packed atmosphere; let’s figure out whether we have to do it every year or whether we can do it maybe every several years; and let’s make sure that that’s not the only way we’re judging whether a school is doing well.

“Because there are other criteria: What’s the attendance rate? How are young people performing in terms of basic competency on projects? There are other ways of us measuring whether students are doing well or not.”

Then he said something really radical.

“So what I want to do is—one thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching to the test. Because then you’re not learning about the world; you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math. All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and the little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test. And that’s not going to make education interesting to you. And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in. They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”

I think I am going to see if President Obama would like to speak at the Save Our Schools rally we have planned this summer protesting his administration’s policies!

But here is what is alarming: Either President Obama is trying to mislead people, or he is unfamiliar with the policies being advanced by his very own secretary of education, who was seated just a few feet away from him at this event.

As someone who campaigned and raised money for Obama, I find both of these alternatives unacceptable.

Is President Obama aware:

  • that Race to the Top requires states to tie teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores? If ever there was a recipe for teaching to the test, this is it!
  • that his Secretary of Education is proposing to evaluate teacher preparation programs by tracking the test scores of the teachers they produce?
  • that his administration’s plan for the new version of No Child Left Behind continues to place tremendous pressure on schools attended by the poorest students, ensuring that there will still be extremely high stakes attached to these tests? This creates the most invidious inequity of all — where students most in need of the sort of wholistic, project-based curriculum the President rightly says is the cure to boredom remain stuck in schools forced to focus on test scores.
  • that his Department of Education is proposing greatly expanding both the number of subjects tested, and the frequency of tests, to enable us to measure the “value” each teacher adds to their students?

And I’ll be back at the end of the day for a part 2 if you’re curious and a farewell to the March 2011 Slicing Challenge.

Categories: Uncategorized | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Last 2011 Slice Part 1: 31/31

  1. Michele

    Good luck today, Bonnie. I look forward to getting updates throughout the day from Jack!

  2. Thanks for being there, and lobbying, and helping to make our voices heard, Bonnie.

  3. Go get them Bonnie. You are fired up as we all should be. Teachers are to passive. We need to get up and get loud about what is happening to our kids. I hope somehow you all can successful down there.

  4. Bonnie,
    You inspire me with your passion. I’m so glad to know you through writing. Thanks, friend, for your words.

  5. Go get ’em, Bonnie, although by the time you read this your day will be over. I love your political views and share many many of them (even though I am a closet Republican–I joined up at a time when that meant something. As soon as I get time, I’m going to the Reg. of Voters to change to Independent!)

    I have two students writing research papers about NCLB (interesting enough) and may I quote and copy some of this for them to use as a springboard for their papers? They are arguing your position.

    I’ve enjoyed your blog posts–see you next year?

    Elizabeth E.

  6. I don’t think the Obama administration got us into this mess, but I’m also not sure he knows what’s happening enough to get us out. How do teachers communicate the best practice ideals if no one is listening? A friend, and principal of a school with an at risk population was recently honored for the gains made in the past few years at her school. But because of budget cuts for next year, the very programs she believes made her school have success have been cut. She told me she argued for them, with what she believed were strong words, but those in the higher administration, those with the power to cut, have done the same cuts across the lines, no matter who showed progress and why. Few who really know what works are asked. It’s a shame.

  7. It is crazy…all we can do, though, is to keep the faith and keep fighting for what we believe in. Which is what you do…and for which I, for one, am so grateful.

  8. Thank you Bonnie for being there and thank you for informing/reminding us of what is really going on. I told Ruth, Mitch and Tony should be reading Two Writing Teachers and all the posts and comments in the real/effective world of teaching.

  9. Yes, I really count on reading your posts Bonnie as you help me stay informed about more than what is going on in my tiny pocket of the country. thank you.

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