Re: To Brian, about freeing your mind (was: Huge amounts of testing in Detroit schools - be warned)
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- Subject: Re: To Brian, about freeing your mind (was: Huge amounts of testing in Detroit schools - be warned)
- From: Sally Thomas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 02 Dec 2010 21:29:56 -0800
- In-reply-to: <2C4F45336B6646808D9B36FE8AF2822C@ElsaHaasPC>
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- Thread-topic: [arn-l] To Brian, about freeing your mind (was: Huge amounts of testing in Detroit schools - be warned)
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On 12/2/10 8:55 PM, "ElsaHaas" <ElsaHaas@si.rr.com> wrote:
> You're an unpaid volunteer, right? YES
> How many hours do you volunteer, and could you put in more hours if you
> wanted to, or are you too busy with other things? (You say you're retired,
> but maybe you have other obligations that limit the time you can spend on
> this?) I WORK IN HER ROOM 3 HOURS A DAY 3 DAYS A WEEK. WORK IN MY OTHER
DAUGHTER'S ROOM (DIFFERENT SCHOOL AND DISTRICT) 2 DAYS A WEEK FOR ABOUT 2 HOURS.
COULD I PUT IN MORE HOURS, I SUPPOSE SO BUT THIS IS MY FIRST TIME NOT
WORKING 60 AND 70 HOUR WORK WEEKS FOR MANY MANY YEARS, MAYBE MY WHOLE LIFE
AND I'M ALMOST 70!.
SO I DO ENJOY SLEEPING IN AND NOT WORKING FULL TIME. AND I NEED TO WRITE.
I'D LIKE TO WRITE AOBUT WHAT I LEARNED IN RETURNING TO A CLASSROOM THE LAST
3 YEARS (FROM HIGHER ED) WORKING IN A MIWOK/MAIDU SCHOOL IN NORTHERN
CALIFORNIA. I WOULD LIKE TO WRITE A BOOK WITH MY COLLEAGUE MARY BARR ABOUT
THE HISTORY OF THE LEARNING RECORD. AND MY CO RESEARCHER AND I WORKED ON A
6 YEAR LONGITUDINAL STUDY ON MOTIVATION FUNDED BY THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR
READING RESEARCH. THE STUDENTS WERE ALSO CO RESEARCHER AS THEY MOVED FROM
MY LAST ELEMENTARY CLASSROOM THRU THEIR HIGH SCHOOL YEARS. WELL THOSE KIDS
ARE CALLING FOR REUNION AT THEIR OLD ELEMENTARY COURTYARD ON DECEMBER 29.
THEY HAVE STORIES TO TELL ABOUT THE IMPACT OF THAT RESEARCH ON THEIR LIVES.
SO I THINK WE CAN IMAGINE A BOOK PULLING TOGETHER ALL THE INDIVIDUAL
RESEARCH PIECES WE WROTE DURING THOSE YEARS COMPLETED BY THEIR PERSPECTIVES
AS NOW ADULTS. (THEY WERE 5TH AND 6TH GRADERS IN 1990)
I THINK I'M NOT REALLY RETIRING ANYTIME SOON!!
> Are you mostly trying to help C., in the long term, get better at reading
> and learn to enjoy it? I WANT TO HELP C IN THE LONG TERM OF COURSE, GET BETTER
AT READING, ENJOYING IT, AND FEELING SUCCESSFUL AT SCHOOL (FOR ALL ITS
COMPLICATIONSWHICH I DON'T LOVE.) ACTUALLY IF HE CAN READ, LIFE WILL BE MUCH
BETTER FOR HIM AT SCHOOL EVEN IF IT'S NOT MY FAVORITE STRUCTURE AND CURRICULUM.
I WILL NEED MORE TIME TO EXPLORE MORE FULLY WHAT'S GOING ON. I KNOW MY
DAUGHTER WILL LET ME HAVE THE TIME I NEED. I CAN ALMOST ALWAYS FIGURE OUT
HOW TO HELP A CHILD LEARN TO READ IF I GET THE TIME. AT ISSUE IS THERE
AREOTHER CHILDREN LIKE C. TO KNOW AND SUPPORT.
(I SHOULD ADD, THINKING ABOUT SOME OF YOUR PREVIOUS SHARINGS, THAT SOMETIMES
IT JUST TAKES THE YEARS OF ALL SYSTEMS MATURING AND TAKING AWAY SOME OF THE
PRESSURE.....SO IT'S NOT ALWAYS A TEACHER DOING SOMETHING TO OR WITH A
CHILD. IT IS CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH THAT CHILD IS COMFORTABLE
WITH ALL THE LEARNING THAT IS GOING ON....BUILDING WORLD KNOWLEDGE AND
PARALLEL PROBLEM SOLVING STRATEGIES IN OTHER ARENAS AND SO ON.... DID I
PREVIOUSLY TELL YOU THE STORY ABOUT A SPECIAL ED TEACHER I MET WHO HAD NEVER
LEARNED TO READ THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL. IN THE ARMY, HE WORKED IN THE DAYROOM
WHERE SOLDIERS ALSO GET THEIR MAIL. ONE DAY HE JUST REALIZED HE COULD READ
THE ENVELOPES!!! WENT ON TO GET HIS DEGREES AND SPECIAL ED CREDENTIALS.)
> Or are you mostly trying to help him get through the day-to-day school
> Or are you mostly trying to help your daughter deal with the day-to-day
> pressures (since she has the other 25 kids and lots of specific things she's
> required to do with them each day, and since she's supposed to get 70% of
> the kids to score "proficient" on the next benchmark test)? I MOSTLY CARE
ABOUT MY WORK WITH THE CHILDREN AND FIGURE THAT IF I'M GOING TO WORK WITH SOME
CHILDREN I MIGHT AS WELL HELP MY DAUGHTERS AT THE SAME TIME! THEY ARE GOOD
TEACHERS DOINGTHEIR BEST. MANY THINGS ARE SUCCESSFUL....BUT THE SYSTEM (WHICH I
BELIEVE HAS BEEN CREATED BY THE TESTS IN LARGE PART, TESTS WHICH ARE NOT HELPING
ACHIEVEMENT SADLY) MAKES IT WAY WAY HARDER TO HELP STRUGGLING STUDENTS. AND
EVEN THOSE STUDENTS WHO ARE PROFICIENT NO LONGER GET THE RICH CURRICULUM TO
WHICH THEY ARE ENTITLED.
> And where do you live? I LIVE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
THANKS FOR ASKING ELSA!
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
> Behalf Of Sally Thomas
> Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 2010 10:05 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [arn-l] To Brian, about freeing your mind (was: Huge amounts of
> testing in Detroit schools - be warned)
> If we could somehow frame this a different way. The public (and others
> trying to change things who aren't working from a classroom and family
> perspective) believe that the "tests' actually help us determine where kids
> are exactly (as if that could EVER be done....think the artificiality of
> grade levels, and all the effects of bad days or kids with test anxiety, and
> tests which can't possibly test the whole domain let alone the most critical
> parts of those domains and on and on...) Additionally, how can any number
> successfully convey what reading (as an example) means by averaging (not
> possible) decoding skills, comprehension, engagement and motivation etc.?
> There is no way to boil down learning to a number that is helpful to those
> truly concerned about a child growing into a healthy and productive human
> I bring to this discussion a child I worked with today. Keep in mind that I
> am simply helping out in my daughter's classroom. I am no one "official" in
> spite of 47 years in education. (Just retired in June.) Nor am I in any
> agreement with the way the school is structuring curriculum and classrooms.
> Actually it all makes me want to throw up. And my daughter is forced to
> approach all this in ways she doesn't agree with or lose her job - after 20
> years,many quite productive and meaningful to her and the students, and a
> masters and a literacy coach credential etc.
> C. is a funny little 2nd grader whose thinking is often scattered across the
> universe, not just the classroom. I actually really enjoy his stream of
> consciousness thinking and discussion. I do not just tolerate C. He is a
> great little kid. His benchmark tests (which come every 6 weeks and include
> fluency (only WPM or how fast he reads), vocab, comprehension - put him at
> risk.) So my daughter has to do yet more required assessment. I administer
> the required letter knowledge, phonics assessments provided by Houghton
> Mifflin - the district adopted basal reader (which also provides the basis
> for the benchmark tests.) C. knows his alphabet and sounds. He can read
> most of the phonetically regular words (and nonsense words!) both single
> syllable and two syllable. He is also spelling developmentally appropriate
> words matching his reading. So decoding is not an issue. I already know
> that but we need a more "official" test.
> So yes, comprehension is an issue or maybe also WPM if we think that matters
> (I don't but that's another story). BUT my daughter must teach mostly
> whole class, 3/4 of whom are English language learners. She has no help in
> a classroom of 26. She teaches comprehension strategies well but whole
> class, not one on one. She "supposedly" differentiates but who knows what
> that means when there is no time for groups or individual conferences which
> she is not supposed to have anyway. And what that means for C. who is a
> wiggly, day dreaming, hard to focus little guy is a real question. And what
> in the world would any number assigned to him mean? How can it be helpful
> to the teacher. OR A PARENT. OR A SCHOOL. What it means to this school is
> even more pressure on teaching to the script. We need to have 70% of our
> students proficient on their next benchmark tests. Forget whatever other
> info we have about C.
> As a teacher, I already know C. from listening to him read and helpling with
> his writing (even in the midst of how little individual time I get with him
> given the structure of my school.) [Note, I write this from my daughter's
> perspective. She knows most of this in general. I can simply add a little
> extra because I'm volunteering some extra one on one time. None of the other
> teachers get this help!] The benchmark tells me nothing I don't already know
> in terms of his needing more support. It ALSO tells me little about his
> strengths. (the additional hands on assessment affirms what I already know
> - he can decode) Neither of the "tests" tells me anything much about his
> comprehension - either what is interfering with it, or what his strengths
> are in terms of strategies or background knowledge or etc. Just how many he
> missed on someone else's questions. I know what he got right or wrong, but
> not why.
> I would love to really reflect on all that I know about C. - as a child with
> a distinct personality, strengths and needs. That is what I need to figure
> out, to integrate, on order to know how to help him. Also I need this
> knowledge to know how to communicate more effectively with his family and to
> share the ways they can believe in him and still support him. There is NO
> way I can boil all the numbers down to a imple numerical score.
> I need more one on one time with him to really get to know how he goes about
> understanding a piece of text. Is he missing background knowledge (the
> schema) so essential to making sense of a text? How do I have time to hear
> all the prior knowledge each child in my class brings to a particular story?
> Or is C. missing out on the strategies for engaging and wrestling with a
> text. Is his issue making connections? Is he asking questions as he reads?
> Is he sorting important information from details? These strategies are
> quite complex and take time to model thru think alouds and to watch C.
> gradually take ownership of them. They are not something I can simply teach
> in a 7 step lesson plan and expect the whole class to learn immediately.
> I would love to quit wasting time on decontextualized tests based on right
> answers and WPM - all items that can give me numbers. And instead use
> actual meaningful classroom experiences to dig deep and understand C. as a
> reader in more depth. But I don't have time. Because the current system is
> all focused on numbers and data - which in addition to stealing time, also
> have dictated curriculum and classroom structures that ACTUALLY PREVENT me
> from learning how to support C. better.
> As Susan indicated, I believe profoundly in the Learning record which is a
> holistic, theoretical and research based approach to helping teachers build
> accountable classroom assessment practices and subsequent reflections.
> There are many authentic, meaningful assessment practices out there in the
> field. The LR simply helps teachers orchestrate and use them in a
> critical and useful way. It helps teachers ask important questions,
> reflect, probe more deeply where important. Unfortunately, teachers have
> not always been well supported in coming to understand and use effective
> classroom assessment practices. I suggest reading research and articles by
> Black and Wilhelm (British) re classroom assessment.
> Sorry I am a bit carried away. How in the hell do we help the public and
> families and yes, those teachers whose brains have co-opted by the powers
> that be to understand this seemingly unstoppable movement to blame and then
> children to become adults who think critically and work together to problem
> solve in making our world a better place to live in.
> Yikes, I've blathered....sorry about that. I know I am preaching to the
> choir. Help me frame this in fewer words. No one wants to read extended
> explanations anymore!
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