Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Letter To My Community

To whom is may concern (& it concerns all of us),
   These are just a few of the things I would like you to understand about what current legislation is doing to public education.  First of all I want to be clear, I’m not posting about education because I want to make more money, I’m not posting about education because I don’t want to be accountable for what I teach, I’m posting about education because I care about kids and their education and well being. If you don’t have children or your students attend private school, charter schools, are homeschooled, or are all grown up…this is important for all of us. The quality of public education impacts us all as a community and society.
   I was like most of you, I realized there were problems in education and maybe there was a little too much testing…”but expecting a 3rd grader to read isn’t that big of a deal is it?”…and then 2 years ago I went back to teaching. I took a job teaching 3rd grade at Sky Ranch a wonderful school in Moore. My school is a title 1 school (many of our students come from families with a low income). I’m thankful that God placed me at Sky Ranch and in 3rd grade because I’ve learned a lot about what is wrong with testing and have made it a point to learn more about educational policies.
   For those of you that may not know, 3rd graders who do not pass the state test repeat 3rd grade unless they meet one of the “good cause exemptions”. My son Luke took the 3rd grade test this year and I assured him he would pass. I talked with him at length (while he rolled his eye) about the fact that he is more than one test score and I’m proud of everything he has accomplished so far…I love him no matter what! Luke is like most of your kids he comes from a family where we read, go to the zoo, or museums…and he’s fortunate to not have a learning disability. While I don’t think testing is the best thing for him and others like him…I handle it…but he’s not every kid. I had students in my class write letters to me telling how they felt about taking the test…some of those letters broke my heart. I had students cry while taking the test because they knew they wouldn’t be able to pass it. One student who was retained last year because of failing the test, took it again this year and failed again…just what everyone needs to boost their self-esteem…you weren’t unsatisfactory once but twice. Uuuug!! I could say more about this aspect of testing, but I’m going to stop myself. (Don’t get me wrong I believe students should learn to read, and sometimes retention is needed…but there are better ways to handle these situations)
   Teachers spend a lot of time preparing students for the test. Yes the state test is aligned with our state standards and it is important for all teachers to teach the state standards; however preparing for a test and teaching a rich curriculum that includes the state standards is not the same. Many of our students start Kindergarten behind and do not have the advantage of parents who are actively involved and invested in their education. It is the job of K-3 teachers to close the educational gap so that these kiddos can be successful on the 3rd grade test…this doesn’t allow much wiggle room for engaging projects, science experiments…activities that encourage higher level thinking skills and creative problem solving. The testing problem doesn’t stop in third grade; it’s a continual battle to prepare these kids.
   Not only do we spend hours preparing for the test we spend hours giving it, 2nd grade on up take some sort of test, but 3rd grade just happens to be the year that can have the most detrimental effect on students. When the test is given the entire school goes on lock down, all grade levels must stay quiet in their classrooms, halls are closed off, schedules are changed, the cafeteria must remain silent, in some schools students are not allowed to leave their classroom for lunch they just have a sack lunch in their classrooms. Maybe you’re thinking so what; it’s just a couple of days. That’s where you would be wrong…this process can take more than 3 weeks, by the time all grades are tested, students who require special testing environments are tested, and make up tests are given. That’s valuable teaching time! To make matters worse once testing is over students feel like school is over…why should they have to learn anything else they took the test? 
   Moore has always been committed to high standards in education and was one of the last districts to remove the class size cap. Gone are the days of 20-22 kids per class, funds are just not available to the smaller class size. My class hovered between 24 and 25 students (that’s a lot of third graders), lower grade teachers had similar numbers, and upper grades had even more. I cannot give the same individualize attention to 25 students as I can to 20, and the more students you add to a classroom the more discipline problems you encounter. If education is actually a priority we need to fund it adequately.
   I could go on about all of this, but I won’t. I encourage you to read articles (Oklahome Education Watch is a good place to start), I encourage you to find out what’s going on in education…and if there are issues that don’t set well with you please contact your state house and senate reps. 
(P.S. The third grade reading test isn’t actually a reading test. Yes, reading is part of the test but we also cover things like Dictionary, Encyclopedia, Almanac, and Atlas skills. When’s the last time you used one of those?)

(This letter was previously posted on my Facebook page.  We have to share our stories...without them we will not see change!)

No comments:

Post a Comment