Thursday, September 14, 2006

Clarifying, A Little

It bears mentioning that the student data I presented below is not an accurate cross-section of our 6-8 school. Because we schedule according to student readiness and the diversity of language acquisition needs versus purely academic needs, I teach to groups of the lowest performing 7th graders who are not classified as newcomers (recent immigrants with less than a year residency). I don't remember how I got tapped for this assignment, whether it was a coach, put me in moment or more of a how's the arm today son? but here I am, and while the general ability level and learning capacity has remained constant over the last three years, the demonstrable skill level continues to decline.

And maybe this is because of Open Court. Now I've never taught it, but I teach the kids who've spent the last six years in Open Court classrooms, so maybe some of this is valid. I think Open Court and the adherence to standards it ushered in is responsibility for the relative rise of proficiency scores in our District. Relative being a key term here, because scores are on the rise across the state, so maybe we're all just running in place. I think Open Court is successful with kids who are ready to receive that instruction, and because kids are starting in Open Court, there are more who are ready. At the same time, Open Court does little to help those not ready for its level of instruction, never mind the shiny packets of "intervention" materials. So I think the median level of ability in heterogeneous elementary classrooms is on the rise, which means the level of instruction is on the rise, which means material becomes even less accessible to the struggling student, the SpEd kid, the ELL, the recent immigrant, or those super-fun kids who can check every one of those boxes all at once. There is a mandate to differentiate against the curricular offerings, and that requires knowledge, insight, courage, and resiliency to accomplish. So we see this odd combination of increased proficiency rates, while the most critically under-taught become more so.

Open Court, like neo-conservative economic policies, is serving to eradicate the middle class.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. Isn't this where response to instruction/intervention (RtI) is supposed to come in?

A handy introduction is here, at Wrightslaw.

And what happens to a kid in k-1 in your feeder schools, when Open Court doesn't work? Does the kid get Reading Recovery or some other remedial program?

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz again. I forgot to put in two links from Wrightslaw on Reading Recovery's suitability for kids with LDS

Should Schools Use Reading Recovery for Children with Reading Disorders/

and

Reading Recovery and IEP Problems

1:26 PM  
Blogger Onyx said...

Preach it! I've always thought of teaching as an art, but programs are purchased as if we were making bricks. We as educators are treated as we only had mininmal skills and are only fit to read and follow the directions.

I had a GREAT day with my kids today. Just taught a poem and today classroom magic happened!

Hang in there!

7:07 PM  
Blogger KDeRosa said...

I think Open Court is successful with kids who are ready to receive that instruction, and because kids are starting in Open Court, there are more who are ready. At the same time, Open Court does little to help those not ready for its level of instruction, never mind the shiny packets of "intervention" materials. So I think the median level of ability in heterogeneous elementary classrooms is on the rise, which means the level of instruction is on the rise, which means material becomes even less accessible to the struggling student, the SpEd kid, the ELL, the recent immigrant, or those super-fun kids who can check every one of those boxes all at once.

I think this is a generally accurate assessment.

The primary problem is the homogeneous classrooms. A bad idea whose time has passed. The kids who suffer the most in these classrooms are the kids at the bottom. The kids who need to go at a slower pace, who need more practice to learn and master the material, and who need more time than the typical reading period provides. Once these kids start falling behind in first grade, without an appropriate intervention, they will continue to fall further and further behind until they wind up in your class knowing close to nothing.

It is partially Open Court's fault for not being effective with low performers (but this is a known known), it is partially the school's fault for insisting on using the inappropriate curriculum and failing to intervene when the kids start to fall behind, and it could also be the teacher's fault for not being a good teacher of low performers.

Liz is right. What happened to the RtI in your school? If anything has failed it is surely that program.

5:51 AM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

I'm sorry to be the ignorant one here, but what exactly is "Open Court"?

It sounds like what I've heard called "inclusion" classrooms, where special ed. students, ELLs, and everyone else are mixed together, with the thought that they will learn from each other.

8:02 AM  
Blogger KDeRosa said...

Open Court

5:39 PM  
Blogger Mathew said...

Here's my favorite site for Open Court... Open Court Resources.com

When the program doesn't work, I blame school districts and not the program itself. No program is going to be right for every child in every classroom. Unless teachers are given the freedom to do what's best for their students (rather than being forced to be on the same page at the same time) then every program is going to fail some students.

8:06 PM  

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