Race to the Top part 2

Discussion in 'General Education' started by swansong1, May 21, 2010.

  1. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    May 21, 2010

    I didn't want to hijack the other thread but an interesting point was suggested:
    How can we improve education? We have discussed this before, but now it's the end of the year and some of us may have different viewpoints after spending this year in the classroom.
    Here are my frustrated feelings after dealing with a difficult school year:
    Get rid of all the mindless pre testing, practice testing, practice for the practice testing, standardized practice test to see how the students may do on the real thing, end of week tests, end of month tests, weekly practice for this that and the other thing testing...and take all those hours upon hours of free time that will now be available and give them back to the teacher to actually impart information to the students.
    Have standards and curriculum that should be taught, but don't require teachers to devote X number of minutes for this subject and X number of minutes for that subject. Allow the teacher to teach the topic to mastery for her students even if it takes an extra 15 minutes in addition to the reading block. Allow the teacher to teach educational material that may not necessarily be on the standardized test, but may help the students become well rounded, functioning members of society..
    Ok, I'll step down now:soapbox:
     
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  3. Mrs.DLC

    Mrs.DLC Comrade

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    May 21, 2010

    Good post!!
     
  4. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    May 21, 2010

    :thanks: I could say more, but I'm sure others will have interesting things to say!
     
  5. mrduck12

    mrduck12 Companion

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    May 21, 2010

    Thought it was a very good, heartfelt post.
     
  6. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    May 21, 2010

    For my classes, I strongly disagree with you. However, I don't believe that my situation reflects others or that my answer is right for others.

    The vast majority of my students are High School Freshmen. They come from an environment where they have far fewer freedoms, much greater structure, and lots more chances to make up for failures (including failures to work.)

    What's more, they've got 4 years to meet the credit requirements and that's it. Once they're 18, they're out the door.....diploma or no diploma.

    We have to do a lot of things to pound into the disbelieving mind of 14 year olds that you do have to be serious about the math from day one. You can't screw around until the week before the big test or the week before the semester is over then expect to recover in a few days.

    The worst students for me are the really bright students who are content to get a C or a D. They have learned through middle school that they can screw around through the year then use their brilliance to play catch up at the end. They are smart enough to do that in the middle school setting, but that doesn't work in high school and they don't believe me when I tell them that.

    Pre-tests and practice tests keep them realizing what they're up against. We put them in intervention based on these test scores so they loose homeroom and lunch time if they don't perform on these tests.

    We also make the tests more difficult than the real thing so we set them up to really nail the real deal.

    We also give rewards for top performance on these tests and for students who went into intervention then scored a B or better on the next one. This includes pizza parties and not having to take finals.

    In short, we make a BIG deal out of these things and make a BIG deal out of being serious about the classes. Our Algebra 1 performance is outstanding and I attribute most of it to really emphasizing to our students how serious this is.
     
  7. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    May 21, 2010

    Good for you, Muttling!

    A lot of times kids just don't know the seriousness of the work involved.

    IME most kids can pass if they do the work. The problem is that they're often not organized, haven't built in the habit to go do the work on a steady basis, and then they get into trouble.
     
  8. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    May 21, 2010

    I can understand your feelings because you teach high school. However, I teach elementary, where children are just beginning their voyage through school. We are teaching them that school is not about learning new and wonderful things. Instead, it is about learning a little bit about some things and then testing and going on to a little bit of other things. We are not teaching our children about the wondrous adventures that they can look forward to as they continue their voyage. We are burning them out focusing their entire day on reading and math and nothing else. My particular class has to look forward to two solid days of testing at least every three weeks. And more than that during certain times of the year.
    Maybe I'm a tad bit bitter because I know what it is like to truly teach a child, not just drill them in the latest test questions. Maybe my experience is just unique to me...the field of education has changed a great deal in the 30 odd years I have been teaching. Or maybe I'm just tired after a long, difficult year!
     
  9. JackTrader

    JackTrader Comrade

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    May 21, 2010

    Educational emphasis differs by grade levels

    I see where you and Muttling are coming at, and perhaps it is because there are differences in emphasis between the primary vs. secondary levels.

    In the early grades, I would think there is a heavier emphasis on social & emotional development, whereas, in high school, we're getting into the higher level academics and really trying to emphasize personal responsibility more and more, in preparation for adulthood.

    That might be the difference in your views.
     
  10. Jem

    Jem Aficionado

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    May 21, 2010

    Since being at my new school, I haven't heard the word 'test' uttered once. It's a truly liberating feeling!
     
  11. futureteach21

    futureteach21 Habitué

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    The focus needs to be less on filling in bubbles and memorizing facts just to spit them back out on a test, and more on critical thinking. Students need to be more involved and active in their learning instead of just passively taking tests that won't help them later in life. Learning/being in school needs to fun, instead of mass producing test takers.
     
  12. Mrs.DLC

    Mrs.DLC Comrade

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    May 22, 2010

    Swansong,
    I am also of that generation!! I often tell my daughters, both teachers, that I wish that they could have taught when learning and teaching could be more fun. They remember things being different from when they were in elementary school-late 80's-early 90's. They are able to incorporate some of the things they enjoyed so much, but not many due to scripts, testing, time constraints, etc.
    Maybe the pendulum will swing for them someday....I will probably have to deal with this until I retire. Thankfully, I can still integrate some things...:)
     
  13. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    May 22, 2010

    In response to several previous posts, I point to my opening statement. My answer doesn't fit all, it fits my situation. High school is very different than elementary school and they need to show up to school with a serious work ethic (e.g. an attitude of lets get the job done.)

    The concept of covering 14 different chapters of math in 18 weeks is not realistic for a primary school, but it is the norm for high school. If they don't come to me with a good work ethic, I have to do something to pound into them that you can't screw around for 16 weeks then hope to show proficeincy by working the last 2 weeks of the semester.


    As for those who take great delight in where education used to be....I point to the math skills of the "Greatest Generation."

    The math skills of the "Greatest Generation" were so bad that our military had to include fundamental math classes as part of basic training for World War II recruits. The "Greatest Generation" couldn't find enough people with the math skills to be a quartermaster, do basic book keeping, be on mortar crews, be navigators, etc.

    Today's kids are FAR better at math and science than any previous generation. Their competition is exponentially better than the competition previous generations faced.

    On a final note, the Department of Ed views the 1980's as one of the lowest points in American education. You might want to think about that when you speak fondly of that decade.
     
  14. mrduck12

    mrduck12 Companion

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    May 22, 2010

    Muttling, let me ask you this: I grew up and attended high school in the 70s, and will frame my question to you with that perspective in mind. Why should all students have to have at least 3-4 years of math in high school?

    I would not be able to graduate today if I had to take geometry, Alegebra II, and Trig. I would not be able to have my two college degrees today if I had to pass the general ed math requirements that are there today.

    I almost failed the second semester of Algebra and quit math forever, and as a Fine Arts major in the 70s and 80s managed to get by on Science classes alone.

    On the same token, I have students in my senior level classes that, after 4 years, still can barely string 2 sentences together and call it a paragraph. How can we expect higher level performance from all students when we should know that not all students will have the faculties to handle the material?

    This is what gets me with the policies of standards based education, along with NCLB, is the expectations that all students can and will make those benchmarks.
     
  15. Muttling

    Muttling Devotee

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    May 22, 2010

    You ask an oustanding question.

    I do think that kids SHOULD be required to do a math class each of their 4 years as it is a skill that degrades when you don't use it.

    This said, Algebra II and beyond are college prep math classes IMO. I don't think that this math requirement really serves all of our students. I would rather see a real life Junior and Senior level math requirement instead. A math about figuring out loans, income taxes, balancing check books, fertalizing a lawn, painting a wall, carpeting a room, etc, etc.

    Alright....what does an American high school diploma really mean?????

    Not passing Algebra II and Trig is one thing, but not passing geometry???? What does it say about the American diploma if we give it to someone who can't buckle down and bust their butt to struggle through geometry?

    It might be really hard and a lot of work, but it's very rare to find someone who can't pass geometry if they're willing to really work for it.

    You weren't taking today's science classes. If you can't do Algebra I, you can't do a basic science class.

    Math is a tool that is used by the scientists.


    I am totaly with you on written communications and frequently tell my students that their english classes are more important than my math classes, but I haven't observed what you describe.

    I don't know what you're students do, but I recently gave my kids an assignment to write a thank you letter for a grant request that was awarded to me.

    My expectations were low based on what I have heard from others, but I was really impressed with their writing skills. It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty danged good.




    On a closing note, you have exemplified my point. Our expectations of today's students are the highest they have ever been. What was acceptable when we were kids is a failing grade today. Don't disrespect what our kids are accomplishing today and tell me how we're dumbing down education. Oliver North said it best.....

    http://www.nragive.com/ringoffreedom/nr_j0199_landing.html
     
  16. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    May 22, 2010

    I would agree, they have zero in the critical thinking bucket.
     
  17. mrduck12

    mrduck12 Companion

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    May 22, 2010

    Muttling: Thank you. That is a great answer. I agree with it totally.

    Emily Bronte: I work my butt off every day to change that one student at a time. Some get, some already have it, and sadly some don't. I am a complete advocate and devotee of hammering those critical thinking skills home every chance I get. Funny thing is, the better the critical thinker, they better they do on standardized tests. Hmmm.
     

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