California Educator

December 2012

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LETTERS AND COMMENTS Your opinions and letters are welcome. So, too, are your photos of teaching, learning and association activities. There is a 250word limit on letters and all letters will be edited. Photo identifications and permissions are required. All materials submitted must include your name, address, daytime telephone number and email address. E-mail to OPINION PAGE 7 FEATURE PAGE 8 CLASSROOM SUPPLIES FOSTER CHILDREN Is it OK to pay out of pocket? Fostering their success in school A member���s ide becomes law PLUS TOO MUCH TEST PREP PAPERLESS CLASSROOM HANDS-ON HISTORY 16 29 34 a PAGE 26 know we value our very constructive working relationship with our teachers, administration and school board. It can be done and it works. I look forward to hearing more from you about what���s working in our state! Thank you. Terry Cullinane, President Oakland Technical High School Parent Teacher Student Association TEST PREP IS TAKING OVER STUDENT LEARNING I read with great interest and some relief that the elephant in the room, the most important issue in public education today, was presented in the article ���Teachers weigh in: Test prep is taking over student learning��� in November. Politicians, parents and the American public have been duped into equating higher test scores with better teaching and learning. The real question no one is asking is: Are higher scores on high-stakes tests and the changes this has brought to education in America really desirable? It is frightening to see the obsession with which school districts are chasing after higher test scores. Teachers have been stripped of all creativity, flexibility Teachers weigh in: Test prep is taking over Russell Trainer and freedom to teach as student learning Madera Unified Teachers they see appropriate. Morale Association among teachers is low and stress is high, which means students are also IT���S NOT OK TO PAY stressed and enjoying school I completely agree with Harless. Are teachers who are mony Hayes that it���s not OK overworked, stressed and for teachers to spend money out of pocket on burned-out really best for students? classroom supplies [November]. She is absoWe are handed a script and are prolutely right that public schools should indeed grammed like robots: everyone teaching the receive funding for basic school supplies. same thing, in the same way, at the same I also believe wholeheartedly that in most time. The worst part is that our curriculum professions employees aren���t required to buy is now a mile deep but only an inch wide. If basic supplies out of their own pocket. I actua skill or concept is not in the standards or ally worked in the corporate world in the ���90s on the test, we don���t teach it, so children go and we had huge supply rooms where we had to the next grade with gaps in learning, and limitless access to those types of items. My unprepared for the real world. husband and I collectively have already spent To get a clearer view of this issue, see the film Race to Nowhere and read what education over $900. We had to jump through huge hoops expert Diane Ravitch has to say on the subject. to get the paperwork through to get reimbursed, and it has been three weeks already. Rick Garrett Additionally, many times the district would Saddleback Valley Educators Association choose not to approve an item such as clear contact paper because on the receipt it was called ���shelf liner��� ��� they believed the librarian wasn���t using it to inexpensively laminate her TRAINING STUDENTS NOT TO FAIL books, but was rather using it at home to line Your article in the November issue regardTEACHERS TALK TEST PREP You���ve worried about it. We asked about it. You answered. The topic: Test prep. November 2012 Volume 17 Issue 3 Election Vic 2 tor y! PAGE 2 Of the nearly 200 CTA members who shared their opinion online, 70 percent said they spend at least one-���fth of their time preparing students for testing, and 19 percent reported spending more than 60 percent of their time on test prep. Most members said they dislike spending so much time ���test-prepping��� students, but have no choice. They voiced concerns about teaching ���to��� the test vs. teaching test-taking strategies. They worried about the pressure high stakes tests put on students. They are uneasy about the impact on teaching and the profession. They shared sometimes outlandish examples of motivating kids to take ���the��� test. Read members��� comments at Leave your comments there. Or here, by writing us at 16 THANK YOU FOR THANKING US I heard CTA���s ���Thank you��� radio spot that aired on KFOG this morning. Way to go! Thank you for thanking us, the voters and taxpayers, and informing us, the voters and taxpayers, about education in our state from such a positive, constructive, and empowered point of view. I have to say that I was actually proud to hear what you had to say. I am a lifelong Oakland resident and am heartened by our new, very civil school board and city council races. Hearing your equally civic-minded message was just one more ray of hope that our wonderful state can be a strong voice in civilized civil discourse for the betterment of all. Our investment in education in the last 35 years has been appalling, and yet teachers and students and families soldier on. As president of the 890-member PTSA at Oakland Technical High School, I want you to 8 California Educator December 2012 ��� January 2013 ing test prep didn���t seem complete to me. It leaves out the reason for testing as well as several other aspects to testing that don���t get a lot of coverage. We test to measure the progress of our students toward goals attached to the classes our students are taking. We expect adherence to standards in our lives, but somehow when it comes to our students we can do some truly bizarre things to get them to pass. Like not learning from our mistakes, we are training our students not to fail. ���Failures��� can be like homework. Can they do the work? Are they able? Our students do poorly in class or on state testing (or both), yet get moved on to the next level anyway. This is unacceptable on many levels, but especially for students who struggle with the English language and are in over their heads in various subjects. Maybe we need to go toward a 240-day school year, at least for those who have the issues listed above. This would add in over four years of education and eliminate at least another year of ���lost��� learning (aka summer). Yes, this would cost more money and probably change life for many of us. But isn���t it necessary? California Educator November 2012 By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin | Photos by Scott Buschman TESTS JUDGE STUDENTS AND TEACHERS Susan Huls teaches at Arroya Vista Elementary School in South Pasadena, an affluent community that attracts parents seeking high test scores. There are monthly tours, and prospective parents are on a waiting list to visit the school. Even with an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 932, a small drop of a percentage point or two sends teachers into a panic resulting in more test prep, she says. ���Maintaining the scores is our stress and pressure,��� says Huls, Teachers Association of South Pasadena. ���So we teach, model and practice our test-taking strategies beginning on the first day of school. I spend about 800 minutes a month on test prep, and as we get closer to test time, I spend about half of the time on test prep.��� She shows youngsters how to ���cross out��� what she calls the ���least obvious��� answers on multiple-choice test-prep handouts, and explains that it���s possible to determine which answer is right by eliminating the others. Then students play ���Around the World��� with flash cards. Test prep doesn���t prepare students for the outside world, Huls worries. ���Businesses want people who can think creatively, not kids who know how to bubble in a test,��� she says. ���Instead of one standardized test, it would be better if students were tested on multiple measures and could demonstrate problem-solving skills and

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