Thursday, May 31, 2007

WASL Op-Ed in the Times

In the op-ed piece, High Test Fuel for WASL, teacher Wendy Grove makes the case (I think) for keeping the math and science sections of the WASL instead of using alternatives (which I believe the Governor vetoed doing anywway).

I say "I think" because her piece is somewhat contradictory. She starts by saying,

"The WASL is a valid test for my third- and fourth-graders; it asks them to show proficiency according to the wisely, deliberately crafted Washington state standards, and we should stick with the test that aligns with the standards to which we're instructing."

(I'm not sure I know what wisely crafted means. She might have meant well-crafted?)

So you think she believes in the WASL based on what is taught in schools. But further on, it seems like she's making the case that when Everyday Math was rolled out it didn't come with training and some teachers used it fully and others didn't. Meanwhile kids who changed schools got math presented differently. She even says by the time kids get to high school teachers are complained and kids do poorly. Wouldn't this mean it makes sense to not use the math WASL as a graduation requirement?

The following paragraph really struck me because of the on-going concerns by parents over late-start days in middle/high school.

"The problem is compounded by a lack of time for teachers to design lessons and discuss the best instructional strategies for their students. We don't just turn the page in the teacher's manual anymore. And we don't want to: Collaborating about student learning is powerful. But districts don't have money to give teachers this essential time."

My husband is a professor at UW and always wonders outloud why every teacher has to create his/her own lesson plans. Aren't there a lot out there - tested and used by teachers - that already exist? I don't want anyone turning the page in a teacher's manual either but when I (or other parents) ask what it is that teachers want to do during collaboration time that better serves the goal of academic achievement, we get no answers. We're still waiting at Roosevelt. What does "collaborating about student learning" mean in real terms and how many hours are reasonable for teachers to accomplish this?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa,
Some of your comments interest me, particularly about the need, or lack thereof, for teachers to create their own lesson plans. I also have a university professor husband (history), who spends a great deal of time creating and updating his lesson plans, and I actually disagree greatly with the notion that "there are plenty of good plans already out there." Not that I think every plan needs re-written every time a class is taught, but that in order to teach well, especially in a specialized subject area, teachers need to have deeply grappled with the concepts, considered the particular group of students with whom they are working, and considered updates in context, methodology, what's happening in the world, how the lesson was received last time, etc. As far as collaboration time in the schools, I generally think the teachers don't get enough of it - my understanding is that time is used to allign curriculum, allow for overlap of topics between classes so that a topic can be viewed from different perspectives, as well as time to consider the individual students the teaching team shares and how to keep students from falling through the cracks. I understand that several years ago Hale had much more collaboration time built into the day for the academy teachers, and that the lack of this time currently is one issue in what some perceive as Hale becoming less desirable.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm sorry, it's not clear. Hale is less desirable to parents or teachers?

Hale was part of the same DOE grant that Franklin, Roosevelt and West Seattle were so I not sure they decreased their collaboration time. The grant is ending this year.

You say "your understanding" of collaboration time. That's what I would like to hear about from my son's school in specific. I'm sorry but if you take time out of the classroom in significant amounts, I have the right to ask why and what it does to further academic progress. When we parents don't get clear answers or even any answer, it is troublesome.

Charlie Mas said...

I read the guest column and I gotta say that Ms Grove was convincing when she wrote that teachers need training in how to deliver the new curriculum. I got that part.

What I didn't understand was what that has to do with alternative assessments for the WASL.

Michael Rice said...

Hello

Well, when it comes to lesson plans, I do a little of everything. I do follow the curriculum, though I am not a slave to it. I did follow it much closer last year, since that was my first year teaching. I kept all of my lesson plans in a notebook and as I came up to the same topic this year, I modified the plan if I didn't think it was very good. I added my own experience (20 years of banking, finance and accounting), ideas I got from other teachers here at RB and and other schools, and off the web. I think my lessons are way better this year than last year because of this. I don't mean to say that what I did last year was substandard, it's just that I followed our curriculum, which I do like, more closely last year.

As I become more seasoned, I won't have to do as much wholesale editing of lessons, it will be more tweaking and shaping as times change and I find new ideas to use in class.

Anonymous said...

What kind of lessons?

IF you are talking about guided discovery lessons with groupwork

(choke, gag)

which is a different style of teaching math than many of us know how to do,

THEN it would be great to have lessons which were detailed out so you wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel EVERYDAY.

The touchy feely groupwork approach works great in the training videos - all the kids are perky and engaged. From my experience in 2 years, unless the lesson is really really well organized, instead of math class you have teenager social hour.

I wonder how many of the 32,000 who failed math wasl in 2006 had spent 4 or more years doing teenage social hour, instead of ... ha ha ... collaborative learning !

Going to some training for 2 hours or 2 days where you listen to ...

ha ha ha

... university people tell what to do ... people who have NOT walked in your shoes,

AND you get no time to work with people to implement anything that will help your kids tomorrow ...

what a waste of time.

anon on fri.

Anonymous said...

I like adopting and using a standard prepared curriculum. My reasoning is that not all teachers have the ability or desire to create their own. Not all teachers put the time and effort into preparing their own curriculum, and not all teachers understand their curriculum well enough to create and then teach it to a group of students.

Anonymous said...

>>The touchy feely groupwork approach works great in the training videos - all the kids are perky and engaged. From my experience in 2 years, unless the lesson is really really well organized, instead of math class you have teenager social hour.<<

Toooooo true!

Melissa Westbrook said...

So the two Anonymous (who I'm guessing may be teachers), what can you do to NOT make it teenage social hour? Because I am with you. I've sat in on a couple of classes at my son's high school and was appalled at how much fooling around there was. And the kids take it as par for the course.

Do most teachers set up rules at the beginning of the year? ("Here's what I expect in terms of your behavior in my class and in interactions with other students in my class. here's what will happen if I have to speak to you once, twice. Here is what I absolutely do not allow in class - hats, hoods, ipod, etc. And here is what will get you sent out of my class.)

Do principals talk to teachers about behavior standards for their schools? (And don't get started on the dress code. I know you could say our parents complained about our dress. All I can say is the complaints then were about the styling, not the lack of coverage. I wore short shorts and halters, sure, but never at school. I would have been sent home.)

You can't have educational standards without behavior standards. (I spoke to my son's counselor about this and she told me that after freshman year, less of this behavior is tolerated and that the higher end classes are full of motivated kids who don't want to fool around. This is good for my kid but if you are a kid not in Honors or AP, does that mean you get noisier classes for all your high school years?)

Anonymous said...

I have worked with teachers that were very very gifted and could manage to turn the cruddiest curriculum into interesting, rigorous classwork. I have also worked with teachers that couldn't make heads or tails out of a curriculum and struggled through year after year. This is why I say more of a standard curriculum would work best. For the sake of consistency. Then the great teachers could tweek it and make it fabulous, and the not so fabulous teachers will at least have a baseline to follow.

Anonymous said...

'behavior standards' ?? please.

of course teachers start the year with them, and of course they are part of the official school policy.

'what can you do to not make it teenage social hour'

you sound like an administrator - blame the teacher.

sure there are lots of techniques that help for classroom management, but, leave it to beaver is over.

if teachers are strict, and kick kids out of class for the 2nd or 3rd interruption (ummmm ... 8 to 12 kids who interrupt 2 to 6 times each = ... what? )

guess how long they'd have a job for?

anon on sun

Anonymous said...

So the alternative is to just let anything go, accept the disruption, and have chaotic, unruly classrooms? Is that what you suggest? Why have any behavior expectations at all? Where do YOU draw the line? Can kids in your class light up a joint, set a fire, punch another student?? No wonder so many families who have the means leave SPS. This mentality is ridiculous. You must be a teacher, because anyone who had a child, or any vested interest in the classrooms of SPS (other than a paycheck) And yes, I know how many wonderful, dedicated teachers there are out there, but there are just as many others who stink, you remember them, we all had some of them when we were kids.

It's time to start raising our expectations. It is not until poor behavior and disrespect becomes unacceptable across the board (and not just in a strict teachers classroom) that we will have classrooms that are conducive to learning and not socializing.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hello, I'm not an administrator; I'm a parent. And guess what? I'm complaining as a parent because I worry that we parents are not doing OUR job by telling our kids, repeatedly, that school is for learning, not social hour.

Anonymous said...

That's the other half of the prolem. Parents are so lenient, and are not teaching their children to respect adults and authority figures. Parents are definately responsible for this, but so are teachers. However, back in my day, the teacher set the tone in the classroom. There were some classrooms that were like social hour where no work got done (and we all got A's), and other classrooms where even whispering wasn't accepted, and kids were graded based on their actual work. As far as I can see school is still much the same, though there are less and less teachers that expect respect and an orderly classroom. The problem is not just in the parents or in the teachers. Both have to work toward a common goal. But the teacher is ultimately in charge of what happens in the classroom. Parents are responsible for what happens outside of the classroom. We can't pass the buck here, everybody working with children has the responsibility to lead them and teach them.

Anonymous said...

Also, Melisssa, as you may remember when you were a kid (I know I do). It doesn't matter how much a parent tells a child to behave in class, it is up to the teacher to set behavior expectations. If a teacher accepts this poor behavior, children WILL behave badly. They will push the limits and try to get away with whatever they can. It's the nature of being a kid! Teachers step up!!!