- Subject: Read this!!!
- From: Gregory Wirsing <gwirsing@YAHOO.COM>
- Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2001 17:18:46 -0800
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
- Sender: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
Teacher's ideals put to test
By Susan Besze Wallace
Denver Post Staff Writer
March 9, 2001 - He anguished over the Christmas
holidays. He waited on rumors that the school district
would do something. He wrote a letter of resignation
when it didn't.
And then on Jan. 16, Cherry Creek High English teacher
Bruce Degi said goodbye to his students.
He told them personal reasons were behind his
departure. It was really the CSAP test that lay ahead.
"I miss the kids terribly," said Degi, 48. "But I
could not have lived with myself if I was responsible
for administering CSAP."
The Colorado Student Assessment Program test was taken
this year by more students than ever before. And the
standardized test will mean more this year as the
results are reflected in Colorado's first school
CSAP's goal is to improve education by measuring what
students know about reading, writing, math and
For teachers, CSAP month was one of preparation and
pressure. For Degi, it was a time of frustration and
unemployment. He said he could not give a test he
believes will turn schools into factories and pervert
what he calls "the intensely human process of
Degi's supervisors say his departure is a loss to
Cherry Creek, but that they believe concerns about the
testing program - some of which they share - can be
Degi wasn't ready to retire. He was in his fourth year
with the Cherry Creek district after 22 years in the
Air Force, first as a flight navigator and then as a
tenured associate professor of English at the Air
Force Academy. He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar who
taught at two teacher training colleges in Hungary,
and he retired as a lieutenant colonel.
Degi has been a senior reader for the SAT II writing
exam, an International Baccalaureate examiner, and a
grader of Advanced Placement and SAT II practice
essays that students file online to the Educational
Testing Service. He is embarking on his 11th year as a
senior reader for Advanced Placement literature exams.
His wife, Kathy, is a teacher at Denver Public
Schools' Smith Renaissance School. But Bruce Degi's
CSAP struggle is at the high school level, where his
sophomores spent up to 10 1/2 hours taking the test in
"Abusive," he calls it.
Degi decries being asked to prepare students for CSAP
by ensuring they can keep their written answers inside
CSAP's answer squares. Students are to write "inside
the box," while teachers want them to think "outside
"We're moving toward a business model - training, not
teaching. That subverts everything I got into
education for," Degi said. "CSAP is not reform. It's
identification and punishment."
Don Perl, a junior high social studies and Spanish
teacher in Greeley, was suspended six days last month
for his refusal to administer CSAP.
"My fear," Degi said, "is that even if it does go
away, two things will be gone, too. Respect for the
teacher and trust. What CSAP says in screaming terms
is 'We don't trust you.' "
The state's largest high school took on its first CSAP
challenge with optimism, as well as lingering
questions, Cherry Creek Principal Kathy Smith said.
"I hope those in policymaking positions will look at
issues and suggestions without thinking educators are
anti-testing. They aren't," Smith said.
She said she was sorry to lose Degi. "I was absolutely
tickled to have him on the faculty. It's a huge loss
to students, our faculty, and really to our future."
Cherry Creek Superintendent Monte Moses said Degi's
concerns have substance.
"High school teachers, because of the intensity they
have in their subjects, are often averse to intrusions
into the time they want to spend on that subject
matter," Moses said. "I want to stay encouraging - not
Pollyanna-ish. We're not going to turn our heads away
from things that need to be corrected."
Degi, who has applied for private-sector jobs and at
Metropolitan State College of Denver, didn't seek
publicity for his decision.
"Although I disagree vehemently with the district
about this, I didn't want to do anything to undermine
it," he said. In that, Moses said, comes a lesson.
"I have a tear and bit of regret to lose someone who
had the potential to touch youngsters in such a
profound way," he said. "But if that's the way it is,
it's a courageous decision.
"I respect it. And if it sheds light on the role of
the teacher in today's world . . . it's a good thing,
even at the loss of a person."
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