Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting Our Daily Recommended Dose of Reading and Math - National Standard Style, Mayo on the Side

And by "Hold the Mayo" I mean evidently we are considering science and social studies to exist on the side. You know, take 'em or leave 'em. Or so it seems.

All right my fellow Super Colleagues- it's time to dust off those soapboxes, pour yourself a refreshing cocktail and let your opinions be known!! A set of potential national standards (for literacy and math) have been released and are up for public commentary until April 2nd. Granted the public commentary is in the form of a survey (on which you can choose to provide general or specific feedback), but still you can make your opinion known. You have to scroll down to the bottom of the main page to find it. Although who really knows what will ever happen to these opinions? Will they be considered as much as the opinions of policy makers who have never set foot in a classroom since they themselves graduated from school? Will the results of this survey be make public and the subsequent changes made transparent? My guess is no, but I'm hoping yes. I guess it's easy to be optimistic when I have a cup of coffee in me.

However, before we really get going...what do y'all think of a set of national standards in the first place?

I have yet to form an opinion. (gasps from the crowd) I know, I know - Mrs. Mimi ALWAYS has an opinion, a gut reaction which leads to verbal vomit and some name calling here on this little old blog of mine. HOWEVER, I am trying to see both sides of the coin on this one. (Plus, my internet BFF and fellow blogger over at Notes from the School Psychologist implied that perhaps, with all my recent ranting, Mini Mimi might pop out carrying a wee little picket sign. Point taken, friend, point taken.)

I've grown. I'm trying not to "Just Say No" which is something I think I can do (as can many others) too quickly. (Although I think I'm ultimately leaning towards no, I still want credit for not immediately jumping to no.)

I mean, at least someone outside of a classroom is doing something other than firing teachers and thinking about ways in which they can dodge responsibility, right?

Okay. I'm thinking in the PRO column we can place the idea of having a common language to talk about our goals for students in each grade across the country. It would make our conversations here in the blogosphere, which is often between teachers around the country, more productive, I imagine, since we could trade best practices toward similar goals. At the very least, perhaps it would help us avoid this little problem:

Me: Honey, we've been working on telling time to the quarter hour in our classroom. Do you know how to tell time to the hour?
New Student From Another State: *blank stare*
Me: Did your old teacher talk to you about the clock?
NSFAS: *blank stare*
Me: (reaching for their student file...what the hell does standard 2.12 mean? What test is this?) *moving file to pile of papers and making mental note to do some research before remembering just how long my to do list really is and realizing that no, I will probably never get to this*
Okay, can you show me which hand is the hour hand?
NSFAS: ?

Or really, are these national standards just a smoke screen and states are going to be punished for not adopting them? Is a national canon of texts soon to follow?

Must...stay...open...minded...At least for the day morning.

In the CON columnn, I'm sure a lot of teachers are nervous about the idea of re-working their curricula to align with new standards. I hear that, but I also taught in a school where we changed our social studies standards and units every year since no one could freaking agree and thusly, have learned to embrace that sort of change. Teaching three different word study curriculums over the course of three years will definitely make you, um, flexible, yeah, we'll say flexible for now...Also, I'm sure a lot of teachers are going to say that these standards are limiting, but as long as they are used as a common baseline, why not go above and beyond meeting your students' needs as you soar to great educational heights?

As long as adopting these standards doesn't mean more tests are added to our already full plates. Oh Lordy - can you imagine the testing possibilities?? Somewhere, some douche in a suit is drooling, I'm sure.

A quote directly from the core standards draft: "...[T]here are multiple ways to teach these standards, and therefore, there will be multiple approaches that could help students accomplish the goals set out in the standards." I think this idea is what I like best of all. The standards (so far...and according to this piece in the NY Times) don't come with a prescribed or mandatory curriculum. Is that a glimmer of hope that we will get to actually choose our own individual paths for teaching these standards? Is that what I see in the distance? Teachers sharing best practices yet still being allowed to maintain their own individuality? Work their unique teacher mojo?? Or am I kidding myself and we're simply a sleigh ride away endorsing a national curriculum that would render us all automatons? (Again, douche-y guy in a suit is now jumping up and down.)

I read them over (focusing mostly on the standards for lower elementary since that is my wheelhouse) and didn't find them totally offensive or way out of line. One of my biggest concerns (besides being handed a national curriculum in a few years or the possibility for endless punishment that seems to go hand in hand with government involvement in education these days) is that teachers will be encouraged to plod their way through the standards whole class style instead of meeting groups of children where they are and making sure they all make a year's worth of progress. In my mind, making a year's worth of progress can be vastly different from all reaching the same end point in June.

I'm also left with some questions. How are these standards going to be used in terms of grade retention/promotion? Are teachers going to be inundated with all sorts of new ways to keep track of these standards which really means are we going to be handed a stack of new paperwork to fill out that will keep us from our teaching?

I would love to know what you think. National Standards - Jedi Mind Control Trick or It's About Time?

14 comments:

Matt said...

I also have mixed feelings. I'm wary but hopeful, for many of the same reasons you are.

MartiC said...

I have some mixed feelings. I think that they are a good idea in terms of the mobility of our society as well as the fact that currently meeting standards means very different things in different places and therefore it is hard to say that we are striving to provide a quality education to all American students. My less than positive feelings come from the worry about more and more testing.

tesstrue said...

I'm in the same boat as the first two commenters. I'm optimistic that having national standards could be a positive step for education. Why should kids in GA be held to a lower standard than NY? Why should children in AK have different rigor than those in CA? KWIM?

But! With new standards will probably come new tests, new means of accountability, and continued teacher-bashing.

I'm flummoxed. Guess I will have to keep reading and listening to the coverage and reports as they come.

Rebecca said...

Ooh! Can we have a contest for Baby Mimi's first words too? I'm going with "Teachers Rock!" ;)

institutrice said...

My first reaction: I thought we already had national standards. I had to buy a copy for each of my curriculum classes in college. One from NCTE, NCTM, NCSS and NSTA. It is my understanding that state standards came from them.

What is this debate about again?

cascadingwaters said...

Uh, Mrs. Mimi? Did you notice who is MISSING in the below list?
"An advisory group provides advice and guidance on the initiative. Members of this group include experts from Achieve, Inc., ACT, the College Board, the National Association of State Boards of Education and the State Higher Education Executive Officers."

Did they by any chance ask anyone, you know, TEACHING?

Mimi said...

* falls over from shock *

cascadingwaters-
No, wait a minute...I'm not surprised one bit that they didn't ask teachers. And I'm not entirely sure that this "open to public opinion" business isn't a mechanism/loop hole so that down the road someone can say, "But we had this survey..."

Definitely should have included that in the post though...thanks for catching that!

Kim said...

Anytime there's a conversation about standards, my first question is, "OK, but who's writing them?" If it's some dude (or, as you put it, douche in a suit) who has never darkened the door of a classroom, at least from a teacher's perspective, then it's just going to be more of the same. Also, by having a national standard, do we lose all of our local flavor? I'm a science teacher in Florida - does that mean I don't really have time to teacher about the Everglades because it doesn't fit a generic national standard? I can see pros and cons.

Ginger Snaps said...

You know, when I stumbled across this article yesterday, I thought about forwarding it to you, but then, I figured you had probably already read it. =)

I'm not sure how I feel about it either, but it could potentially be a good thing. If they really do lessen the standards for each area and focus more on a those, I think that would be really helpful.

Laura Swain said...

Kim, my biggest problem has to do with your concern. This is a HUGE country. I cannot think of any pedagogically or philosophically sound reason for a child in Alaska to be required to know the same set of information as a child in Maine.

Moreoever, any time "people up top" get involved in stuff, things hit the fan. Think about how much school administration can muck things up. Then go up further to the state. Even more mucked, right? Now think about going all the way to flipping Washington. It seems like sheer madness to me.

Sorry I'm not as open minded as the rest of you....but this is definitely a bad idea. I feel us falling further down the crapper...

Stu said...

I agree with Laura. No, no, no, no!

Trust me...my second grade Amish students have different needs than Mimi's friends in the city. I'm not saying that nothing should be the same...but the two groups of students live in different worlds. The standards, if we must have them, should reflect that.

What should be the same? Quite a bit, obviously...but there should be someone with some knowledge of children and teaching who helps choose what those things are. In other words, Arne Duncan is not qualified.

The biggest scare, for me, with national standards is that they will lead to a national test...that everyone has to take...every year...forever and ever.

Stu said...

Here's what Stephen Krashen has to say about it...

More Standardized Testing Than Ever

luckeyfrog said...

Mixed feelings. I do think that national standards would allow for more fairness in all this accountability. I'm in a state with tougher standards than most, and at a 'failing' school undergoing restructuring. I often wonder if we'd be considered passing if we had the standards and standardized tests of another state.

A national test, assuming it replaces the state test, wouldn't leave us much worse off. Ideally, this test would be growth-based, too, so that students are graded on progress, not a certain bar. Eventually, I imagine tests will be all digital, too, which would open up the possibility for differentiated tests that allow a student to show what they know instead of just if they can read at grade level.

I am a bit concerned that our state would be lowering some standards to adopt these. It also concerns me that some states will be raising their standards significantly, and probably with no learning curve to help students catch up to the changing standards.

I hope that the standards would include some things that can be tailored to each state concerning important local geography and history.

I'm worried that standards will entice a lot more prescribed curricula, which drive me crazy, but hopefully at least some good would come out of them.

I'm with you that science and social studies are important, and it's frustrating to me when they aren't taught. But for now, that's the way it is.

hermione329 said...

i like it. i think it could go badly, but i think it's necessary, though i know it will have more testing attached which is the unnecessary evil they think is necessary.

Who's Peeking?