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Friday, September 14, 2007

WASL From a Teacher's POV

This op-ed piece appeared in yesterday's PI. It was written by Fred Strine, a teacher from North Bend. His viewpoint?

"Under political pressure tax-supported public schools have simply degenerated into WASL factories."

He also says,
"I honestly believe most parents will be appalled that their children cover 25 percent less than in pre-WASL years. Some high schools even have half-day Fridays so teachers can brainstorm WASL prep."

His piece is a bit of a rant - he clearly hates the WASL, the strictness it requires, the time it requires (I am with him on the time to give it - just too much time to take a test. Also, his comment about poetry being on last year's WASL so it gets a bump the next year kind of rang true. I was really surprised at how poetry-heavy my son's LA class was this year. It seemed odd but maybe that's the reason.)

You should also read the replies; they mostly say that teachers are lazy, incompetent and that there is no teacher accountability. They have a point on the accountability. The WASL was created to check teachers' abilities, not students. It is unclear to me what happens when a teacher's class doesn't have good scores year after year.

BUT, many of these people lay everything at the feet of teachers and that's just patently ridiculous. One person even said that it's teachers' jobs to teach, not parents. Whoa! Parents are their children's first teachers and I find, by talking to my son about his classes, that I can add to what he is learning. Anyone who expects it all to happen in the classroom is likely to be disappointed.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Melissa said: "Many of these people lay everything at the feet of teachers and that's just patently ridiculous. One person even said that it's teachers' jobs to teach, not parents."

Maybe that does sound patently ridiculous to those who grew up in highly-educated families, but I know that growing up working class, I often heard people reiterate the quote above.

Annette Lareau describes this at length in her book about race, class and education Unequal Childhoods, which I highly recommend. Working class parents see their role as putting food on the table, keeping the kids clothed and relatively healthy. Formal education, book-learning, whatever you call it - that's the responsibility of teachers, who have degrees and special training. That's their job.

I think this is reinforced when parents step into schools and are reminded by teachers and other staff that they - the parents - are not the experts when it comes to their kid's education.

Anonymous said...

The WASL has no impact on teachers' ability to keep their jobs or get good placements, at least at the high school level. In fact, our new AP push in high school fairly guarantees that the worst teachers in any high school are teaching WASL-level kids. The better teachers get sucked into upper-level AP classes.

Honors/AP parents scream and demand the good teachers; parents of "regular" kids are just happy if their kids graduate and pass the necessary part of the WASL, even when their kids graduate unable to do basic math, write in complete sentences, or read a newspaper.

Tests make tracking. WASL failures get tracked into dumbed-down WASL prep classes. The kids who could pass WASL in their sleep end up in AP or AP-track classes and never see "normal" kids again.

Teachers are punished for poor performance, to the extent than anyone is ever punished for teaching badly, by being made to teach the kids who need to pass the WASL.

At least that's how it usually works in high school.

Cheers.

Jet City mom said...

I think this is reinforced when parents step into schools and are reminded by teachers and other staff that they - the parents - are not the experts when it comes to their kid's education.br/>>

Bingo
How many have kids who have said
" my teacher says you won't understand the way we do....."?

If parents ever question why high school students are able to make a poster instead of write a paper in English,
if students wonder why if it was so important they turn in their paper on time- when they see that the box to turn it in on the teachers desk is still full and other students are still adding their papers days later,
If families wonder why they are still coloring pages in 4th grade- they are told that the teacher is adapting to the needs of the class.

I thought that was why we were trying to standardize curriculum, so that students can at least attain minimum competency and teachers can count on what they have learned the year before.

Students who have learning challenges, need competent and engaging teachers just as much as anyone else.

Since my daughter has been at Garfield-she has taken classes with kids from the APP track @ Washington, and she has taken remedial classes.
Her friends are kids who are national merit scholar semifinalists and kids who take both "regular" track classes and AP.
I think it is fairly unusual for someone to be gifted in music as well as History, in math as well as Literature.
It is also fairly unusual for someone to have no strong areas when their interests and abilities are identified and supported.

Grades had devolved to be fairly meaningless. Students were advanced by seat-time, regardless of how they performed in school. There needed to be a way to evaluate the rigor of what was being taught.
What would the teachers- who scorn the WASL suggest to do that?

Anonymous said...

"Under political pressure tax-supported public schools have simply degenerated into WASL factories."

WASL factories? Ive see the pass rates- who handles the quality control, China?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Denise, I absolutely get what you are saying. I have ran straight into a wall whenever I have tried to discuss classwork/curriculum with teachers. And, you are probably right about the differences in parents' education levels make in how they deal with their students. But it helps to model good work habits to kids and that takes no education. Making sure your child is up, fed, on-time and that you ask about homework is something everyone (hopefully) can do.

Anonymous said...

"One person even said that it's teachers' jobs to teach, not parents."

Isn't it? If you want or expect teacher accountability, then you must certainly agree with this sentiment. If you believe that teaching is really, and mostly just the parent's job... then there is no hope for the so-called failing schools. What's their option? Change the parents? And in that case, why have public schools at all?

Anonymous said...

I think it is our job as parents to teach virtues and values, respect and peace. It is our job to model positive behavior and nurture. And it is our job to expose our children to as much as we possibly can (culture, community service,travel, etc) which in itself is teaching our children so much!

I think it is a teacher/school's job to teach academics. That's why we have public schools, isn't it?

It is our job as parents to make sure the school can meet the needs of our children, oversee the process, and intervene when necessary (tutoring, assisting with homework, etc.). But,ultimately it is the teacher and students responsibility.

My parents never did homework with me!!! That was my job. Of course, I could ask them for assistance if I was truly stuck, and they would either help me or refer me back to my teacher for clarification. They never checked to see if all of my homework was done, if I turned it in, etc. That was my responsibility. And responsibility is exactly what I learned by my parents not micro managing my responsibilities for me.

I am always careful to avoid micro managing. I must admit it is hard sometimes, but I think about the best interest of my children, and how they must learn to function on their own. That means taking some lumps now, when it is much more appropriate than later. Missing a few points on a homework assignment and getting a poor grade is a much more appropriate learning opportunity than missing a deadline and being fired of demoted at your job. If we back up, and stop saving our kids from ever experiencing difficult and frustrating situations, they will learn the hard way later in life. I say let them learn now!

Teachers keep on teaching!!!

Anonymous said...

Re: helping with homework, I agree with "old fashioned" - I also rarely assist with homework because I think the purpose is to see what the kids are learning on their own (of course, I do help "facilitate" when they are stuck). I also believe it is their responsibility to get assignments in on time - I will remind but not badger or double-check. If it's late or incomplete ... oh well. Sometimes the teacher has misplaced some homework or even incorrectly graded it, but I coach my kids to handle the discussion with the teacher on their own if they care about rectifying the problem and managing their grades.