Measuring

Why indeed is there still so much emphasis on measuring – moving from “what we can measure” to what “we care about”? What is it that teachers care about and wish to measure that they are already not measuring? Measuring and moving towards standardization is the problem. What do standardized assessments really tell you? – that students can regurgitate what we teach them? That if we teach to the test, then hopefully students can past the test? There is no feedback for the student other than a grade. There is not much feedback for the teacher or the school either.

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Photo Credit: cfdtfep via Compfight cc

I remember school goals being: “By the end of the school year, ___% of students will be reading at or above grade level.” The same holds true for math as well. What do these school goals really tell the school – do they reflect the students? Do they reflect the teachers and how well the teach? Do they reflect the way in which students are taught? I hope that there would be more important goals for a school to measure over the course of a school year than reading and math scores/levels.

As Kumashiro (2015) tells us,

[I]t is not possible to say exactly what the students were learning. And therein lies the uncertainty of teaching.

 

Social Justice: taking action GSAs

For ED 808, we are to,

practice agency in trying to ameliorate, solve, or otherwise begin to improve an issue of your choosing involving a social justice cause. It may take the form of a petition, a letter to a politician, a personal/group action, setting up a website, volunteering some of your time somewhere where it’s needed, or other initiatives to foster positive local, regional, provincial, national, or global change.

I decided to write a letter to four people, regarding the need for Gender & Sexuality Alliances (commonly known and Gay-Straight Alliances) to be implemented in all publicly funded schools within Saskatchewan. If you’d like to check out the letter, you can view it here.

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After I mailed the letters to the following people:

  • Rob Currie – Director Education, Regina Catholic Schools
  • Premier Brad Wall – Premier of Saskatchewan
  • Don Morgan – SK Minister of Education
  • Bill Hutchinson – Local MLA

I was pointed to these articles, which offer information regarding GSAs in schools.

The first is an article, “Catholic schools ahead of push for gay-straight alliance support groups: Students needs forcing issue, bishop sayspublished October 28. This article is a step in the right direction, however the central problem remains: students are forced to “come out” or to specifically ask for a GSA to be started, and many times, these groups are not approved by school administration.

The next article was a document just published by the SK Ministry of Education – Deepening the Discussion: Gender and Sexual Diversity.” This document is also a step in the right direction, but as with the previous article, the central problem still remains. The other area of my concern is what is meant by the term inclusion. While well meaning, this term still “others” LGBTQ youth and I question as to whether the information presented in this document while help the inclusion of LGBTQ youth in our schools. This document does however works to support staff, offering them information to help understand LGBTQ youth, to work to support these students, and links to the SK Curriculum. On pages 28-31, the area (which I am concerned about) that discusses GSAs, I believe not much has been offered holding schools accountable to make sure that GSAs are approved and started. It is recommended that students are questioned as to why they would like a GSA to be started and there is no mandate that an adviser will be made available. Regardless, the document is positive, and I hope schools take the time to read through it and adopt the practices it is suggesting.

 

 

the call to teach

Have a listen to Bill Ayers The Call to Teach and To Teach

He asks some good questions about the role of teaching.

 

Let you teaching values guide your teaching life.

 

 

Commitment #1 – I will see every child that comes into my classroom, as a person of incalculable value… I’m going to treat that kid not as an object, not as a thing, I’m going to treat that person as a full human being worthy of my awe, worthy of my reverence, worthy of my respect.

 

expectations around reading levels

*If you click on the image above, you can see replies to this tweet

I came across this tweet a few days ago and needless to say, it has reminded me of similar experiences I have had when teaching and hearing students talk about reading. I have heard students say, “I can only read level R books” or “I can’t read that book, and even “we’re in grade 5 so we are supposed to read at this level, why aren’t you?” The last one is very troubling.

I believe reading levels act as a guide, and of course we want students to be strong readers, reading at or above grade level, but this doesn’t always happen, and it this is okay. There is room to grow as a reader with help from teachers and those around us. I obviously don’t want students reading at a grade 3 level if they are in grade 9, which indicates that the system has failed them along the way.

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Do I agree with standardized reading assessments?

No.

I definitely think that taking a reading assessment kit and using the determined book for the grade level you are testing does a dis-service to the students. In many cases, students are nervous, they know they need to perform well and the books that a student is provided with may be of no interest or relevance to the student and it will probably will not draw on the student’s prior funds of knowledge. These factors impact how a student performs at reading. As well, the testing result may not accurately reflect the students’ ability.

Do I think there is a place for testing student’s reading ability?

Yes.

Understanding the levels your students are reading at, their abilities and challenges are important information for teachers to have. This can help improve instruction as well as providing small group or individual instruction to better support students. I also think that students should know that when they go to the library and pick up a book, they should be able to open it, read a few sentences, and have you ask them a few questions in order to help determine if the book is appropriate for individual reading.

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I do believe that students should know the types of books they can read. I think that knowing the books or series they are able to read could/should help motivate their love of reading, not necessarily confine them to a specific level of books that they may not be interested in or have prior knowledge about. I feel that using leveled books that are per-determined do not relate to students’ interests or help foster a positive regard towards reading.

I think students should know that, “this is a series they can read through” or here is a book where “it is better to look at the pictures, or to read with a parent or sibling”.  It is also good for students to read with their peers, to ask for help and to work towards more challenging texts, provided they have the supports and tools in place to help them.

Update – I saw this tweet today, relevant to the original post and my thoughts: