Quick Hide! It’s Poison


Quick Hide! It’s Poison

Quick Hide! It’s Poison is an edited version that was published in The Gainesville Sun

Emotional Poison: Sticking your head in the sand


In a letter to Dear Abby, a writer from Wisconsin asked how to handle grief in the wake of so many tragic events that are shown repeatedly by the media. The writer explains that she hasn’t known anyone personally affected by any of the “events” but her heart is weighed down by grief. I found the question troubling, and Dear Abby’s response to this writer was equally troubling. Her suggestion was to “…not remain glued to your television or computer screen…” but to “Ration the input, and the ‘poison’ will affect you less.”

Troubled by both the question and the answer, I make the connection to the academic world in which teachers are asked, even required, to give “trigger warnings”. Students can then decide to opt out if a topic, video, or lesson of any sort is troubling.

To “Wanting to Heal in Wisconsin” and to administrations, faculty and students who demand or comply with the idea that exposure to a certain subject might cause distress or even a traumatic reaction, I say “GOOD !”

To censor oneself from awful tragedies, both in America and abroad, is to hide one’s head in the sand. To refuse to acknowledge or accept the horrors that directly affect someone else should be “…challenging to process” for this Wisconsinite.

Yes, it is possible though not probable, to limit exposure to television, computer, and/or print sources, yet in one way or another tragic headlines will creep into a person’s consciousness. Unless a person retreats to a cave and never emerges again, there is no way to completely avoid the tragedies that occur around the globe. Horrible incidents may be brought on by an accident, a natural occurrence, or by the horrendous acts humans inflict upon one another, but whether someone is directly affected or not does not mean that they are unaffected. Everybody should be affected! Turning off the TV, and ignoring the facts to protect your feelings does not make the incident go away.

Maybe we should not heal, maybe people, like this person who wrote to Dear Abby, should open their eyes to the realities that too many other people face. In any case the tragedies soon disappear, quickly overshadowed by the next tragedy. As I write, our nation has been wracked by the mass murders of club goers in Orlando, by the loss of life of police officers in Dallas, by the shootings of blacks by police, and by the murders that go on multiple times a day. When the number of dead isn’t significant by current perspectives, they are not even deemed newsworthy. Yet these horrific events are paraded through the media. Journalists and cameramen hover like voyeuristic vultures around the scene, yet the stories quickly die as the next tragedy makes the headlines. How soon we forget.

It’s bad enough that horrible events are covered 24 hours a day. Now readers or, more commonly, viewers are inundated with side-stories as media sources suck up every detail, whether these are relevant to the story or not. No longer do news sources report just the facts. And facts are often subjective depending on the source of the news.

Oddly, with all the in-your-face, round-the-clock broadcasts, today’s news is more likely to be censored by entities who decide for one reason or another what the public should know. During the Viet Nam war; for example, the publics’ exposure to the ugliness and realities of this conflict were readily apparent through graphic pictures and newscasts of the devastation. In contrast, the publics’ exposure to the realities and facts of both the Gulf and Iraq wars and current conflicts are carefully crafted to avoid any semblance to the realities of war.

With these thoughts in mind I ask: How do students and the public at large receive and perceive tragic news? From the person who wrote to Dear Abby to a student who expects a Heads-up if a controversial or painful topic is discussed in a class, the idea that material should be prettied-up so one’s sensibilities are not disturbed is a cop-out. The Wisconsinite who wants to disengage or the student who wants to ensure her psyche isn’t disturbed is disturbing in and of itself.

Schools are bastions of information and a dispensary of knowledge for those willing to engage and discern the ideas presented both in and outside the classroom. The broad scope of subjects to which students are exposed should challenge their thinking and open new avenues of thought. A student at the college level must expect that not all subjects and topics will fall into that student’s comfort level. If a student isn’t ready to accept this aspect of college-level work or thought, he does not belong in the classroom. If professors have to consider every idea that may disturb students, then institutes of higher learning would have to put warning labels on class schedules or maybe designate one class as upholding liberal values or another as upholding conservative values. There is no place in advanced education for censorship on the part of school administrations, faculty and/or students.

Whether or not a person attends a college is irrelevant in regards to the ideas presented here. No one should shield herself or himself from the ugly realities of life. To say, as the Wisconsin writer does, that she hasn’t personally been affected by any tragedies is incorrect as evidenced by his or her own admission: “I know that I am not the only person who is confused about how to manage their emotions after national tragedies.” An emotion is an effect. For this writer or for Dear Abby to think that removing the “poison” will change or help anything is just wrong. To build a cocoon around one’s self to hide from an uncomfortable emotion doesn’t make the situation or the feeling go away. Take action. Pay attention. Do something.



Have we gone far enough with student testing? Uncut

Special Testing: Have we gone far enough?

After reading the article in the March 31st Gainesville Sun detailing the new requirements for testing art, music, and PE, otherwise known as “specials”, I have had to rethink my stance on Florida’s preponderance of testing. Maybe we should question if we’ve reached a point when we’re testing too much. After putting much thought into this subject, thoughts that should be put to the test, I have come to the conclusion that there are many other areas of student performance that need to be taken into account.

It has always been a bone of contention for art teachers when young students, especially those just beginning school, pre-K students and kindergarteners specifically, do not color between the lines. This is an early indication of a serious problem that needs to be addressed from several angles. What are the consequences for that child who colors the face of Santa Claus purple? What is she learning if later, faced with a blank sheet of paper, she draws a car with three wheels and one door? Certainly her future performance in the primary STEM areas will be questionable, and that doesn’t bode well for her economic future.

There needs to be a new perspective on how failure to perceive an object and render it correctly will effect this youngster’s potential. It is not enough to just hold the art teacher accountable for this students abject (object?) failure. I say we must hold the school nurse or counselor accountable as well even though he or she might only come to the school on an irregular basis. It is the responsibility of these professionals to get this child the additional help he so obviously needs, so it is essential that a test be designed to hold these school professionals accountable. When a referral to an eye doctor or a psychologist is warranted, an exam on the correct way to fill out the requisite forms is one aspect of these positions that could be tested.

Music and PE are also essential areas to test. How else will the administrators know how effective teachers in these subjects are if students don’t perform at grade level? I agree that there is a good reason to hold a child back if he can’t carry a tune or doesn’t know that Every Good Boy Does Fine. Identifying on a clip whether “two singers are hitting the same pitch” as the article mentions, is a question that needs to be on an exam. This will hold to account teachers who have not been effective in teaching tone-deaf students how to hear the right pitch. Music teachers must be graded so children grow up feeling positive about their potential as future stars on “American Idol”.

And PE classes, so essential in teaching children how to understand the action in their video games, can only be evaluated by ensuring that the PE teacher be held accountable for students who, just out of the dribbling stage, learn how to dribble. That dribbling a basketball is performance based should not be a factor for developing a question on a standardized test. There must be a way, possibly by showing brief video clips of dribblers and having the students check the box for the one that is right. Imagine the impact on a child who later in life is unable to throw a 3 pointer? She will be an embarrassment to the nation. As part of the mandated 150 hours of exercise a week, recess must also be on the test to determine whether students know how to play right. This should be a significant part of how the PE instructor is evaluated.

But I wonder if testing in just these three areas is enough. Student performance in the cafeteria is an important benchmark in their learning potential. There has got to be some accountability for lunchroom staff, so if a student doesn’t eat all his vegetables, or purchases Jello™ instead of pudding, we must develop an exam that can show whether students are benefitting from their lunchroom experience. Third graders could be tested on the appropriate way for a server to wear a hairnet. The exam for Tenth graders might ask how many chicken nuggets the average student can eat in a 15 minute lunch period.

Additionally, it would be remiss for administrators not to have the means by which to test the bathroom skills of students. A 5th grader who leaves a puddle around the toilet should not be allowed to advance to middle school. Should toilet paper be used indiscriminately without holding the janitorial staff accountable? Formulating exam questions on bathroom usage should not be an issue for test developers who are used to throwing out a bunch of s***. Younger students could be asked to identify the shape of a toilet seat, and the exam for high school students who have a bit of math under their belt could ask them to calculate the trajectory needed for certain methods of toilet usage or the volume of water displaced by other functions.

These are but a few of the areas of schooling that should be subject to testing as a way to determine whether benchmarks are being met for each grade level of Florida’s students. Other areas to test are still in the development stage such as determining how to hold parents of students who receive free lunches accountable. Just as Governor Scott continues to pursue the requirement that those who receive welfare be drug tested, it would not be too much of a stretch to drug test each student who gets a free lunch to determine whether there are residual markers that indicate drug use in the freeloading welfare home in which these students live.

Clearly, as has been shown with the increase of testing and holding everyone accountable for everyone else, the administrative, the legislative, and the executive authorities in Florida are doing everything they can to assure that they are doing a good job.

Have we gone far enough with student testing?

The necessity for grading students to assess how well they are doing in school has spurred the State of Florida to ensure that every subject meets rigorous criteria. New requirements for testing in art, music and PE have opened the door to a myriad of other areas that should be also tested. Because of the many possibilities, the article as printed in the paper edited some of these areas I suggested, so the original is included as well.


Protesting testing requires more people to take a stand

A rare bit of positive news from Florida was when a Gainesville teacher refused to administer a standardized test to her kindergarten class. Other teachers, parents and even administrators stood behind her and advocated for change, but a few weeks of weak murmurs about testing demonstrated that few supporters had any gumption other than suggest that people write their legislators. As if that has ever done any good especially in a state where political agendas have never intended to do anything useful about education beyond blaming everyone else for their failure.


High school diploma gives no guarantee of success

Statistics and data that point to positive trends in increasing the numbers of students who will graduate from high school may have a hopeful ring. Large numbers may show improving graduation rates, but these are easily manipulated. No matter what methods are used to reach these high numbers, there must also be corresponding statistics to show that students actually learn anything during their twelve years in school.


Empty Rhetoric Uncut

Response to Articles
Words words words…empty rhetoric from a group of school administrators from seven area counties who gathered in Ocala for a mini-conference to discuss ways to improve school scores. Under the auspices of the Florida Department of Education (DOE), the Differentiated Accountability system is a statewide network designed to help districts improve in several key areas with one primary goal being to improve failing schools. Alachua County’s forty schools had 6 “F” schools this year.
Mouthfuls of titles and acronyms show that administrators can come up with some words that have no meaning behind them. Differentiated Accountability system? Really? What does that mean? These are big words, so maybe these administrators who focus on statistics can pretend they mean something. What it means to me is that it’s easy to hide behind big words and ignore the fact that for each number there is a child whose life and whose ability to learn, think, and process information is being compromised. Compromising the learning process may, in fact, be the goal and there may be more to the rhetoric than meets the eye, for if students actually learn to process information, they’d realize Florida’s current educational system is, and I won’t mince words, stupid.
Why continue with a useless string of words that has yet to lead to children being in a school system that values and encourages learning? Administrators can throw out empty words all day long, but in the end nothing gets accomplished. The July 15th, 2014 Gainesville Sun news piece about this gathering clarified what was discussed; however, during this meeting of the minds, one word was dramatically missing. Learning. Where is the student in “student performance” or “student scores”? Developing “…solid school improvement plans” seems to be the answer, and the article mentions five bulleted points that were discussed, yet only one of these points includes the word student and only in terms of monitoring the progress of a student. A failing school that doesn’t improve over the following school year must submit an option out of these points to the DOE for approval and implementation.
Currently, education is all about monitoring and accountability which are great words on the surface, but in terms of the actual education of students these words take on a different meaning. Statistical averages, test scores, and school grades measure absolutely nothing in regards to an individual child. A teacher or group of teachers who work closely with a child and who see the progress, or lack thereof, of that student along with the context of that child’s world outside of school and, hopefully, in conjunction with the child’s parent or caregiver, are much more capable of monitoring and accounting for a student’s grades.
Grading schools based on test scores that supposedly show the effectiveness of teachers is also a worthless and wasteful measure. The Speaking Out section in the July 20th, 2014 edition of the Gainesville Sun is written by Owen Roberts, Alachua County’s new superintendent of schools. His mission is to “…solve the BIG problems of education to sustain our democratic way of life and ensure economic and national security.” As part of his “vision” he asks the people of Alachua County to “be responsible for what happens to each child…, [to] unite our efforts, resources, experiences and talents to sustain and improve our culture.” He also sees the challenge to create a culture of excellence in schools and commits to focus on student learning and achievement. These all sound like good points, but his vision seems hampered by more BIG sounding ideas that ring empty in the so-called halls of learning.
He shares his story of pulling himself out of poverty and overcoming illness to achieve the success he enjoys. While I applaud his drive, I notice that he mentions his mother who valued education, but I must differ when he states “that the achievement of self-sufficiency through education is proof that personal drive, courage and persistence can overcome severe generational poverty.” The idea that just because something is part of a person’s experience is proof that it will work for everyone is a common fallacy.
Certainly there are those who find success despite horrible hardship, but others encounter numerous factors that may create barriers to learning that are almost impossible to get over. Not everyone gets the educational stimulus that Mr. Owens received. Most parents do value education, but many situations and factors can interfere with parents’ being able to participate in their child’s education.
BIG words such as many used in the aforementioned articles raise questions about how invested the county and state educational administrators really are in the learning process for students, and how invested they are in listening to the teachers and families that deal every day with rules and regulations to satisfy a skewed perception of accountability.
Another feature in the July 20th, 2014 Gainesville Sun is written by local economist, David Denslow. While the focus of his article is on grade inflation at the college level, the information he presents points to a common attitude carried into colleges by students who have come to expect higher grades. These same students have learned, throughout their school years, how to manipulate their way through tests and classes because they know that a teacher cannot afford to fail them as his or her job is constantly on the line based on student achievement.
Students are at least smart enough to know that the focus of schools is on numbers and money. Learning becomes a secondary, but necessary ordeal for some, while others try to make the best out of a system that doesn’t work. Without a school system that makes learning more important than funding, schools at every level are continuing to churn out students who, sadly for all concerned, neither value learning, nor care to learn. Denslow finds that “students who expect high grades naturally think they are learning a lot….” He cites a 2009 survey of University of Florida students which finds that less than half of students study more than 11 hours a week.
My experience teaching college level classes is that students generally haven’t learned enough to even get to college let alone succeed in college classes, particularly when studying is viewed as incidental to learning. Denslow exposes the reality of the system when he writes “…under UF’s funding model, resources are allocated to colleges largely according to the number of students taking their classes. If an introductory class gives mostly “A’s” in exchange for little effort students quickly learn that. Enrollment soars. College revenue rises.”
Just as species in the wild have learned to adapt to rapidly changing environments, so has it taken only a few generations for students to learn that learning is secondary to money. If the State of Florida and its school administrators truly value learning, money would be spent on actually educating students instead of being wasted on conferences and gross payments to testing companies. Students could even learn the meaning of some big words and know when the words are meaningless. So we’re back to where we started: Words, BIG but empty, words.

How many Florida school administrators does it take to screw in a light (bulb) of learning? All of ‘em, because it takes them all to screw up the educational potential of Florida’s youth.

Drop out rates dropping?

Featured in this article is the argument that a high school diplomas is not necessarily the precursor to success. This is in response to a recent article in the local newspaper whose authors exclaimed about how the percentage of students who graduate with a high school diploma is increasing. The graduation rate may increase, but the rate of the intelligence of graduates will no doubt decline proportionately. The published article was edited for length, so included here is the original article.
The Dropout rate dropping?
An alternate school universe where all the students finish high school eager to join the work force in a high paying job in the career of their choice will be the happy outcome for America and its students if the commentary in the May 16th, 2014 Gainesville [FL] Sun is to be believed. In “End U.S. dropout epidemic by closing the opportunity gap”, Robert Balfanz and John Bridgeland write of this happy, joyful Disneyesque land as they gaze through a crystal lens towards a glowing future that will see the end of the high school dropout epidemic.
The “silent epidemic” of a decade ago of which they write became a top national and state priority. “Better data and strong accountability for increasing graduation rates played key roles” the result of which provides part of the reason for Balfanz and Bridgeland to make the enthusiastic claim that “progress is possible and hope abounds.”
Along with this happy happy news, even these two who co-authored a book on ending the dropout rate, note that challenges remain, and it will be necessary to close the opportunity gap between those students from lower income levels and those from middle to higher incomes. Other reforms are also mentioned in the article, but by and large Balfanz and Bridgeland point to a positive trend towards increasing the graduation rates. Using examples from states from California to New York and between both urban and rural areas, they point to school reforms that “…all have made a difference. Supports for students-from parents, counselors, mentors, tutors and national service corps members-helped create a culture where ‘every student counts.’”
The statistics they use, despite the absence of some of the sources, back up their pleasant outlook about the progress that has been made. “Graduation rates have risen from 71 percent in 2001 to 81 percent in 2012.” They predict that the nation is “…on pace to meet its 90 percent high school graduation rate goal by the Class of 2020.” Could it get any better? According to a report from “former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise’s Alliance for Excellent Education “…reaching the 90 percent mark for just one high school class would create as many as 65,700 new jobs and boost the national economy by as much as $10.9 billion.” Balfanz and Bridgeland conclude this happy fairy-type tale with the idea that “progress in improving student achievement and graduation rates could boost the life prospects for millions of young people and restore our nation’s confidence that we can tackle our greatest challenges.”
I was a high school dropout in the 1960s and recall expecting the fairytale, and back then, despite the lack of a degree, I was able to land a job and even move freely from one, yes less than fun low paying job, to another with a degree of impunity unavailable to job seekers in today’s market. Not only that but I could even make ends meet. When I finally earned a couple college degrees in the 90s, my career prospects changed, and while finding a job then was easier than it is now, the ability to live on the income of a low wage job has become harder. Again, statistics don’t necessarily tell the story accurately because the job market figures, even when they rise, rarely mention what the jobs are or what the pay level is. Dropping out of high school then or now is not the answer, and I don’t recommend it. I would love to see the hopeful progress touted by Balfanz and Bridgeland come to fruition, but my concern is that the statistics do not tell the whole story or support the happy future foretold by the achievement of higher graduation rates.
Statistics often support what people want to hear as can be noted in a Gainesville Sun “Talking Back” segment from December 2012. When the Alachua County Superintendent at that time, Dan Boyd, countered concerns about the Value Added Model (VAM) of evaluating teachers, he pledged to “find a way to run the data in a way that will improve many evaluations and hurt none.” While this in no way indicates any impropriety, it does point out that statistical averages are not generally the best way to measure the success of teaching and learning.
Graduating from high school does not equate to having the knowledge or ability to succeed in the workforce let alone function in the day to day world. According to the “Nation’s Report Card” 24 percent of 8th and 11th graders scored as “proficient” in English, enough to write a coherent essay, so what does that say about the other 76 percent, and is just “enough” good enough? An AP article in an August, 2013 Gainesville Sun cites the annual report of an unnamed Iowa testing company whose president, Jon Erickson, said “The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired.” ACT testing showed that 31 percent of all high school graduates were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills.
These are the high school graduates who, as Balfanz and Bridgewater gush, will “restore our nation’s confidence that we can tackle our greatest challenges.” I cannot think of any challenge our nation might face, including the sad state of our poor educational system, that doesn’t rely on English, science, math or reading skills. It’s hard to envision a 90 percent graduation rate that will create upwards of 65,000 jobs and boost the national economy by more than $10 billion. An article from the LA Times published in an August 2013 issue of the Gainesville Sun mentions the poor job outlook for college graduates who are flooding the market for jobs that don’t require a college degree and lead to lower earnings. Where, then, will high school graduates find jobs if those jobs are taken by college grads? And I have to wonder. From my experience as a former college educator, I am unfortunately all too aware that many of these college graduates are graduating from high schools that have lowered the standards to raise the graduation rates so these same students can go to colleges that are also lowering academic standards.
In Diane Ravitch’s book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, she recognizes that testing is important but that we often forget that test scores are only an indicator. Test scores by themselves do not tell the entire story. Ravitch astutely observes that some things “…cannot be measured: character, curiosity, responsibility, persistence, generosity, integrity, kindness, initiative, ingenuity, compassion, creativity, [and] moral courage.” She goes on to say: “We don’t know how to measure love of learning, but we do know that it matters more in the long run than any question on a multiple-choice test”(280). This, to my view, is the real heart of the matter. Graduating from high school is a great milestone, but what matters is what a person does with her or his life down the road. Maybe Sam Cooke sums it up best with his memories, or lack thereof, of his school days.
Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about my science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Yes, the catchy tune carries a simple message, but at its essence, the core of education is to set the tone for learning, and continuing to learn as well as to learn how to get along in this world the best one can.

My hope lies with young people such as Jade Henderson, a Seventh grader in Gainesville, whose letter to the editor about the “Beautiful ecosystem” appeared in the May 16th, 2014 Gainesville Sun. Her clearly written and well thought out considerations about the damage humans are causing to the ecosystem demonstrates an important aspect about knowledge that transcends education, though certainly education plays a vital role, and that is to care about something strongly enough to do something about it, and to believe that one person can make a difference. She has learned at a young age what many never learn: we all need to learn to live, not just with ourselves, but with everyone and everything we share the environment with. Thus there can be that glowing future that seems possible to Balfanz and Bridgeland, but the means to get there requires an entire change in attitude towards educational achievement and this is not as easy as ending the dropout rate. Closing the opportunity gap is a start, but as a nation we have a long long way to go before realizing the possibilities envisioned by Balfanz and Bridgeland.

Edification on Edication and Sports?

Edification on Edication & Sports?
Auburn’s redshirt freshman Peyton Barber came to this college’s football program after high school where he had been diagnosed with ADHD. Noticing he was having difficulty reading in a class, Barber went to a counselor who told him they’d get him tested, and the results showed he had dyslexia. According to the Associated Press article that appeared in the April 16, 2014 Gainesville (FL) Sun, ADHD and dyslexia often go hand-in-hand, and Barber’s father also had dyslexia.
It’s great that this promising young tailback is finally aware of this diagnosis about a problem that has been familiar to him throughout his schooling. He will now be able to take the steps to adjust to this learning disability and make adaptations to better enable him to process his reading assignments and be successful in college. Nothing in the article suggests anything about how this will help him in his academics, though the article does make a brief mention of how Barber is now “…spending plenty of time studying his playbook and working with support staffer Bobby Bentley.” The remainder of the article focuses on the talent of this 5-foot-11, 225-pound player. That Barber’s playing ability is central to the article is understandable as it is in the sports section, but what drew me to it was the headline:
“Dyslexia Diagnosis not slowing down Auburn tailback”.
I am well aware that there are different entrance standards for athletes than for the general population of college students, and I’m also aware of the protestations to the contrary by the athletic departments and administrations of most colleges. Coaches insist these student athletes must carry a certain average in their classes to be able to compete in their sport, but rarely discuss what concessions are made for the players and how coaching staff frequently intervene for the student if there is a low grade, poor attendance, or some other issue. In my experience teaching, even at a college with a limited sports program, I found that some of the players felt that they were exempt from some of the class expectations, and I was approached by coaches or staff to see what I could do to tweak a grade or attendance score so the player didn’t lose eligibility.
College is meant to be challenging and students entering college assumedly have a high school diploma or equivalent that presumably has prepared them for the classes they will take to earn their college degree. Barber’s situation is symptomatic of a problem that is not limited to just students in sports programs, students who are frequently selected for playing ability rather than academic capability, but is a problem that exemplifies the fact that many students graduate from high school without the skills necessary to succeed in college or even in the work force.
How is it that Barber got from elementary school to high school without being identified as having a problem with reading? It must have been evident early on that he was struggling well before it was known that he would be a great tailback for Auburn yet like so many other students in schools across the country, he must have been pushed from one grade to the next without having the basic skills required to make it through successive grades.
There is a lot of talk about testing and accountability and with the Common Core Standards now being adopted by many states, there is a supposition that the standards for education will be equalized in most American schools. Yet even as this test is being introduced, it won’t change the fact that many students are slipping through the cracks, no, actually falling through yawning crevices. Anyone involved in education in any way and denies this is lying or stupid. The standards are being lowered. The so-called accountability and testing is all about money. The easy way out is to blame teachers so the administration and policy makers look good, can tout skewed statistics and make more money. Nobody says “wait a minute that kid can’t read and he just graduated from high school.” This kid should have been helped from the moment any indication of learning difficulties surfaced. Teachers and parents no doubt see this, but are for one reason or another, not speaking up.
So here’s Peyton Barber, who has gone from trailing behind because he had dyslexia that no one noticed until he got to college to being an up and coming tailback. Who’s noticing the thousands of other kids who have dyslexia or for whatever reason cannot read. Does it mean that unless you are a great athlete and can generate lots of money for a schools’ athletic program no one really cares? Yes.
In America education is free. It’s your fault if you can’t read, get ahead, get a good job. Keep saying that long enough and get people to believe it, and that’ll get the educational policy makers and the corporate executives who produce educational materials and tests off the hook.
It ain’t about helping kids. Those are empty words.

common core crap

Telling youngsters that learning for the sake of learning can be the end goal itself without the promise of a high paying job in the unforeseeable future is a hard thing to sell in this age of consumerism. But maybe, just maybe, if education focuses on the, usually, innate curiosity in young people and in having teachers who generate excitement about the subject area(s) they teach, there will be less of an expectation that standardized testing is as a reliable measurement as it is made up to be.

Education may be a big business to some and certainly testing company executives are reaping the benefits of testing, but for most people, especially the students, there is little pay-off. High standards are not achieved as the result of testing, but as the result of setting high expectations despite testing.

There is plenty to be said for the need to expect higher achievement across the board for American education, and it’s no secret that Americans of all ages, not just school age, compare poorly with other nations in just basic knowledge in subject areas such as math, history and geography.

The statistics generated from FCAT scores in Florida have often been used as measures to point out improvements in certain areas or in certain schools, but when the percentages of reading levels go down from 4th and 5th grades, drop again in 6th and again in 7th and 8th, it doesn’t look promising for the futures of these kids or of any of us. No, the lowering percentages are not huge and, Yes, it could be said that reading gets harder as children move forward in school, but it would make more sense to think that if kids are learning to read effectively in the lower grades, their capabilities would improve as they advance.

With the hesitation steps of the Florida Governor to adopt the Common Core Standards it might seem that Florida would advance its education criteria to meet the standards that will be required of most students in America, yet even if he ever makes up his mind to follow the plan, will the new tests really be an improvement for any child in Florida or in the rest of America? As far as I can tell, the only improvement will continue to be to the pockets of those involved in the big business of testing. Testing figures can be skewed and interpreted to show what agrees with whatever agenda is being promoted, but who is speaking for the children? Are teachers, parents, the community, the students themselves speaking up? And is anyone listening?

Some argue that testing is stressful. Sure, so is a lot of stuff.  I’m not against tests, a little stress, or pressure, but that pressure needs to come from students who are intent on driving themselves and through teachers who know their students and the capabilities each one has. Successful learning comes out of going beyond what can be asked on a multiple choice test. It requires thinking, making comparisons and connections and striving to gain knowledge to discover a myriad of things whether it be how to make the money a student desires, or how to give back to the community. It requires learning how to be a human who does not expect all the answers to every question to be a check in a box.