We Can’t Make the Grade

Standard

I’m not surprised to see many central Texas schools receive failing grades on the new report cards the State of Texas sent out Friday. When will we learn? This is not the way to educate a smarter generation.

Here’s the result for my local school district:

Campus District School type 2016 Rating D1 D2 D3 D4
ROCKDALE ELEMENTARY ROCKDALE ISD Elementary Paired campus
ROCKDALE HIGH SCHOOL ROCKDALE ISD High School Met standard* D F D A
ROCKDALE INTERMEDIATE ROCKDALE ISD Elementary Met standard* C B D A
ROCKDALE ISD ROCKDALE ISD District Met standard* C C D A
ROCKDALE JUNIOR HIGH ROCKDALE ISD Middle School Met standard* C D C C

The new report rates schools and districts in four domains:

  • D1: Student Achievement
  • D2: Student Progress
  • D3: Closing Performance Gaps
  • D4: Post-secondary Readiness

It’s no wonder that state teacher groups are calling for the legislature to repeal this new letter grade system, that will markedly affect most Texas schools. The question I have is why do we keep sticking a square peg in a round hole?

In 1989 Robert Fulghum told us all the knowledge we sought could be found in kindergarten. He said it was simple really. Everything we needed to know about how to live and what to do and who to be was there in kindergarten. He said wisdom was “not at the top of graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.”

That’s where we’ve gone wrong. If all of life’s lessons are on the playground, I know exactly where the world fell apart. We took the fun out of kindergarten.

The last time I had a parent/teacher conference about one of my kindergarten students it was about TPRI scores and words per minute and math inventories. We didn’t talk about Play dough recipes or the class goldfish, we talked test scores.

I would be all for it if I thought this method was going to give my child a first rate education, but let’s face it. Texas schools aren’t pumping out top notch learning. America is searching for ways to be competitive and yet, when we find them, we ignore what we’ve learned and stick with the status quo.

In 2010, the documentary Waiting for Superman highlighted the success schools in Finland had obtained. In an effort to create economic recovery, they had the foresight to realize they had to better educate the children who would wind up in charge. The result was smaller classrooms, highly qualified teachers, and no standardized tests.

Teachers employ whatever methods necessary to reach their students. They do in-depth projects that fully engage their pupils.Classrooms are designed around interesting subjects that have kids begging to learn more, and it’s proven year after year to be a successful method. Teacher relish the challenge of reaching a student that seems hard to educate with standard methods. They have these “whatever-it-takes” attitudes.

Here, we have interventions, but we don’t have “whatever-it-takes”. We have “do this and then pass it to someone else”. We also have some charter schools and private schools trying to using marketplace economics to improve education but what we’re forgetting is the sandpile.

Learning should be fun. Let’s face it. When the kids today graduate, they will Google anything they need to know if they don’t already know it. They have technology at their fingertips. They carry the internet in their pockets.

There’s no need for the Encyclopedia Britannica to take up the living room wall anymore. Kids don’t need to be taught to recite facts. They can find those quick enough. What they aren’t learning is a love of knowledge.

We’re so busy teaching them the fundamentals of these exams that we don’t do the long exciting projects we used to do. I think it would be better to spend 6 weeks learning about whales and the ocean and the amazing creatures that interact with the whales and to come out of the project having created something. Students can learn songs and craft pieces of art and literature and write reports that exhibit new knowledge. That would foster a love of learning so much better than spending 6 weeks covering 6 topics and preparing for their mention on the test.

We’re supposed to explore. We’re supposed to learn. We’re supposed to wonder and get our hands dirty and draw and paint and color and read and digest books as if we’re embarking on a wonderful journey.

If our children left school with a love of learning they’d go home and try to learn something extra.  They’d go to sleep hungry for knowledge and wake up thirsty for more. The Texas STAAR Test is so ridiculous that Poet Sara Holbrook couldn’t answer questions posed about her own poems. But she’s got her love of literature, so I’m thinking she’ll be ok.

It’s our kids who are losing out. And it’s not going to change. Not until Texas parents band together and force the legislature to realize that every child is left behind when the STAAR test or ANY OTHER STANDARDIZED TEST is what we are relying on to gauge our success in the classroom.

If you agree with me, then let’s make our voices heard in the legislature! If enough of us stand up and say “No More”, then they’ll have no choice but to hear us.

Who’s ready to take this test off our student’s desks?? Step away from the number 2 pencil and the bubble sheet, there’s a sandpile waiting!!

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