Sunday, August 27, 2006

Moving In Opposite Directions

It's time to set up the classroom again, and I'm having all the predictable difficulties focusing and being productive. These last three days I'm like a 13-year-old girl during lunch: endlessly circling to no purpose.

While I wander, the POY and vice-POY are holding grade level parent meetings and A. shows up because her brother is starting sixth grade this year. I taught A. my second year, which actually feels like my first year, because my actual first year is shrouded in a haze of non-recall, (I can remember the double fight day, spending way too much time teaching homophones and Ancient China, having 43 kids in 6th period, getting a subpoena to testify against a student, and that's pretty much it). A. is starting her sophomore year in the International Baccalaureate Programme, a redesignated English Language Learner who's not just surviving, she's excelling. She's talking about her summer essay, a 1,500 word affair that she's struggling with because she's already at 1,200 words and has so much more to say. It's about the interplay of historical reality and the presentation of autobiography in Reading Lolita in Tehran, The Kite Runner, and In The Time of The Butterflies, and I want to explode with pride and joy because she's really doing it. This girl's already earned more As in a year of IB than I did in four. She's also the starting first baseman on the softball team, and uses words like procrastination, hindrance, and parallel analysis structure. She's really doing it.

Then I pull up my CRUNCHER class profiles and it's carnage. Kids who score Far Below Basic (1) on the CST are coded red, and my classes look like one of those drivers ed videos from the '80s.

61 kids:
1 Basic
25 Below Basic
35 Far Below Basic

Not that this is all that surprising. Throughout most of this district, there is no coherent plan for ELD instruction, effective use of intervention minutes, appropriate training and retention of quality leaders, or a willingness to face the dirty secret that (ssshhh!) Open Court may not be the answer.

This is the really sick part:
Eighty-three percent of these students saw their performance drop last year. They went lower, learned less, fell further behind.


You gotta take your time with this one. Swirl it in widening circles, holding the stem of the glass between index finger and thumb. Inhale, and swirl again. Sip. Roll it on your tongue, and swish it around with only slightly less force than you give to the mouthwash at home. Let the quality of the grapes seep into your back-throat and settle there: under-prepared, under-taught, a denial of civil rights proportions, victims of the kind of educators who teach to the perception of family quality and not the needs of the kid, fatalities of those implicit bargains between teacher and student where the terms of the deal are a calculated ignoring in return for non-disruption, a failing some will call unrectifiable. Swish once more, taking full stock of the flavor.

Now spit it out.


Blogger KDeRosa said...

I agree. Open Court does not have a good track record with the lower half of the curve. You need something better to reach these kids.

Then there's the issue of remediating the kids who've fallen behind. I'd bet they have you using a program designed for teaching kids who've never been taught to read, as opposed to kids who have been mistaught to read. The latter is much more difficult to remediate.

10:36 AM  
Blogger leyla said...

I love the A story.. didn't you just want to give her an enormous hug? heck, i don't even know her and i'm her biggest fan now.

(and it isn't just because i was born in Tehran. . .haha)

2:02 AM  
Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Good for A! Impressive!

And those numbers? Golly. (I'm trying to cut back on cursing...)

7:13 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Your observations match the good ethographic studies I've read.

Are these kids coming in from feeder schools? Have the feeders seen your WestEd presentation? Do they use CRUNCHER? Are the tempermentally unable to challenge the MYTH?

Have public schools found the secret recipe for undermining self-sufficiency in the Latino community? I struggle to reconcile with reality!

8:28 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...


Did you ever read Lolita there?


Yes. No. Maybe. Yes.

As for the last one, I really don't know. Self-sufficiency is great, but no 8 year-old is going to teach himself to read. Others are needed and not enough are stepping up.

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

I often feel like you get one or two great successes and lots of disappointments when you are teaching. It is hard to reach and motivate so many students, hard to know what each one needs, and hard to fight so many battles that others have given up on or never even paid any attention to in the first place.

You have to focus on the ones who make it, like A, and don't forget how inspiring they are. And then do what you can to help the rest, knowing that you are making a difference in some way even if it's often hard to see.

7:31 AM  

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