End of the Year Thought: Students are more than Data


When others speak about how important testing and data is for evaluations of student and teacher performance, understand that they have no idea what they are talking about. There are too many factors in life that affect student performance and so many  times of intervention for teachers to possibly calculate how inspirational they are. Just think about what this child covers in his song: Bullying, death of father, single mom, attire, homelessness, loneliness, social standing, fear, distractions, and most importantly, desire to learn!

Teaching and Learning is not about a test, we must take care of our students and their learning environment!

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As You Place Them on the Bus……


From the thoughts of a Parent:  As I place my child on the bus to head to school, there are many thoughts that run through my mind.

  1. My child is growing up so fast, it seems like yesterday that he/she learned to walk.
  2. Even though he/she talks a lot, I hope the teacher sees what a wonderful, talented kid he/she is.
  3. I hope the teacher understands how close of friends he/she is with Timmy and allows them to sit next to each other.
  4. He/She really loves story time with me. He/She will sit and listen to me all night.
  5. I don’t understand why homework has to be so hard. I don’t understand how to do it, how is my child supposed to?
  6. I hope today is a great day, can’t wait to see him/her at the end of the day!

From the thoughts of a Teacher: As I place the students on the bus to head home, there are many thoughts that run through my mind.

  1. My students are growing up so fast, it seems like yesterday that they nervously first stepped into the classroom.
  2. Even though he/she is struggling, I hope his parents see how hard he/she is working.
  3. It is nice to see them developing new friendships, it makes them appreciate the ones they already have.
  4. They did a great job reading out loud today, I hope they are reading at home to someone.
  5. New concept today means they will struggle with today’s homework, I hope parents understand homework does not have to be 100% correct.
  6. I hope today was a great day, can’t wait to see them tomorrow morning!

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Hidden Agenda vs Public School Education?


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The Common Core State Standards are leading the way to improve the American Education System.  Based upon their performance on PARCC and Smarter Balance Testing, students will be expected to show “Mastery” and their teachers will be evaluated based upon those results.  Supporting individuals clearly state that this is a great check and balance system with high expectations and standards that will be consistent for each and every child.  What is wrong with having high standards?  Especially with our educational system in a free fall, becoming engulfed by the rest of the world? Well…….

What if all the media surrounding Common Core State Standards and Standardized Testing is propaganda aimed at completely destroying any and all positive support for Public School Education?  Could there be a force sinister enough to collaborate behind the scenes in an effort to destroy the foundation of America that has educated many successful generations?  The first question that would need to be answered is whether or not our children are truly falling behind when compared to the rest of the world. When you look at the PISA and TIMSS results, it seems that our students have consistently ranked about the same year after year, slightly above average.  This is nothing to yell out in the streets about, but where does the panic of our declining educational system come from?  The 2010 Brown Center Report on American Education outlines the status of our educational system while debunking some myths surrounding it like the belief “that the United States once led the world on international tests of achievement. It never has.” We could argue why comparisons of educational systems via standardized testing is wrong and slighted, but it would do nothing to help identify what the problem is. As the rest of the world has invested into their own educational systems, they have dramatically improved. Does this mean that the US system has declined, or simply that many countries around the world are educating their students at a higher level that is now in comparison with the US?

So why the outcry about our “failing” school system? Well, it seems to me that anytime politics becomes involved, money is somewhere behind the scenes, so lets see where the money goes through my average joe eyes. Here in New Jersey, there are districts that are struggling to educate their children, especially in the inner cities like Newark and Camden. This is nothing new, and when you compare inner city students across the country, most are labeled as struggling. With that being said, one can easily see why these districts are targeted as if the blame is squarely on the inner city schools. Our Governor is pushing the development of Charter Schools, and personally, I have no issue with the development of any type of school that may help children, but it should never be at the expense of those in the Public Education field. The push is directed at these identified struggling districts because no one will question the attacks except for those stakeholders directly affected, and who is going to listen to the complaints coming from these inner city stakeholders? Even when the testing data shows that the Public Schools are outperforming the Charters, the propaganda drowns out the positive news. It is alarming to hear that in Newark, even though the Public continues to outperform the Charter, funding continues to be cut to the Public Schools. Do what you need to make the public schools perform negatively. This is a simple game of money and politics. All you have to do is look at who is being hired to run these Charter Schools, and simply connect the dots back to the politicians. It is an absolute shame because it is the children who suffer in this game. 

Our students losses are at Big Businesses gains! It has become big enough to even get coverage as an Investment Opportunity! In other words, the Charter Schools will do whatever it takes to make money, for that is the business it is in. Think about that……..Now think about what is best for your child? Sadly, it has never been proven that Charter Schools are better performing. When you look into it, what is truly different?  Are the classrooms different? Are the teaching styles revolutionary? Simply, the answer is No. In comparison, they are in the same class as a private school. One in which they get to select which students get to attend, and have the option to dismiss students who are not performing up to their level, both options of which a Public School does not have. The difference is that big business is playing with the guaranteed funds of our taxes. By preying on the hopes and dreams of the inner city school parents who are fed up with the failures of the inner city schools, these charter schools will continue to expand. If these charter schools simply educated our students better, then why is the focus in the inner city? If they simply educate better, and are the answer to making the US #1, then I along with everyone else would want my children to go there also.

The problem with America’s Educational System is that money and politics got involved! From NCLB to CCSS, our focus is to solve the propaganda that our educational system is somehow failing our students. The truth be told, we are failing our students………simply because the focus is on everything else, but THE STUDENTS!! I was lucky to have worked under the great leadership of Principal Joe Vicari and Asst. Principal Alan Ball at one point in my career who advised in one of our first meetings: “Ed, don’t make teaching too complicated. Truly care for each student, set high expectations, and the rest will take care of itself!” Many of my prior posts explain how I feel, and how my students believed in my classroom, so I want to be clear.  Spreading propaganda about a failing educational system is the work of those who would benefit the most to do so. Those who have gained the most are…….Politicians and Charter Schools. When it comes to Public Education and its funding, big business should have no business in it.  Why would anyone think that a better educational system is one in which the focus is on the bottom line? We need to place the focus back on the STUDENT(S) and provide the solutions necessary to meet each and every one of their NEEDS to succeed. Let’s get back to setting high expectations, identifying their needs, and caring for each individual child, so the rest can take care of itself!!

1 Simple Message for Success in the Classroom!


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So there have been requests as to how a teacher can develop a classroom with high expectations and hold students accountable.  Below is one of my handouts that would be delivered on the first day of school, and each student would be asked to read out loud and sign with the promise to do the best they can to achieve. There would always be one available for students to reread at a moments notice.  I would also cover this pledge with parents on Back to School Nights as I explained my expectations for the students in my class.  I believe it sets a high standard from the start and it is something that my students and parents appreciated. I do believe that if your students give you their best effort, success will follow!

SUCCESS

         To be successful in life, I must be disciplined.  I must be willing to give my best effort without being asked.  I must develop an ability to drive and push myself, especially when things are tough.  I must not be afraid to make mistakes.  Everyone will make them.  Winners are those people who learn from their mistakes and continue to strive toward their goals.  I must do what it takes to be a winner.  I must be willing to look past what others do because I understand that only I can control what I do.  With this knowledge, winners will never blame others for their mistakes.  Winners will assume responsibility for their actions, suffer the consequences, and resume the track of success.

I am the one who is responsible for the positive and negative praise that I receive for my work.  It is my decisions that will determine my reputation, and my fate.  Successful people are not born they are made.  I must strive to become successful no matter what path I choose, because I understand that if I don’t strive to be successful, someone else will.  I cannot blame others for my lack of success; I can only blame myself for my lack of effort.

“Am I proud…” Is a perfect way to start knowing if I am on the right track.  If I am not proud of my effort or work, then how can I expect others to respect my work or me?  Anything that has my name on it will reflect the type of person I am, and the type of person I will be remembered as.  I must understand that success is never easy.  Success is hard work and I must be willing to give a great effort in order to receive the rewards of success.

 AM I PROUD OF MY EFFORT TODAY?

Is Multiple Choice Testing Fair? A. Yes, B. No


As I walked around the room watching my students take the “BIG Test” at the end of the year, I could see the frustration and confusion in their faces. I just didn’t understand why. They were one of my best classes and were well prepared. My belief was that if I prepared them in knowledge, the test would take care of itself; I never taught to the test.

I did however take a look at the test and what I saw made my blood boil to a huge issue with so much riding on these tests.

Lets see how you do: Problem on 4th grade test.

Directions: Estimate (Simple enough, right?)

37 x 8= ___             A. 400    B. 240   C. 320   D. 32

If one can’t see that there is a problem then they are blind to the fact to show understanding means to be able to explain their process and answer. As an adult, our thinking process has already been skewed by our experiences. Most will say that the answer is obviously C, and they would be correct by the test’s standards.  However, why even have A or B as a possibility? The directions simply state to “Estimate”- it does not ask for the “best estimate”.

For 4th graders, it is simply wrong for test makers to place the “correct answer” along with the “next best answer”. Not only does this confuse the child, but also produces feelings of anxiety over which answer to choose. I have had plenty of students who could explain choosing answer A because 40 x 10= 400 would be an acceptable answer!  Even though most would consider answer B wrong, a student does show ability and understanding of estimating by explaining that 30 x 8= 240 and the real answer would be higher.

Multiple Choice tests were developed to help save time and effort in grading. However, they do a disservice by not allowing the student to explain their thinking process and for the teacher to hear it, and help to correct it if necessary! Yet, this is one of the prime methods of testing and we are determining both student and teacher evaluations of understanding on them? I am not arguing that C is not the “Best Answer”, however, our concern should be whether or not the student can explain the process, while getting the right answer. Does a Multiple Choice test accomplish what is necessary to identify strengths and weaknesses?  A. Yes,  B. No, C. Never has, Never will.