On Sunday, the Washington Post had a blog entry about veteran Cambridge teacher Susan Sluyter and why she quit her job teaching pre-kindergarten and kindergarten in the Cambridge Schools. I found it a fascinating read, especially since it goes into so much detail and confirms things I’ve heard as a parent from teachers and kids in our school system (at all levels, not just kindergarten).
Some choice snippets (but I really recommend reading the whole thing):
I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.
I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!”
We found ourselves in professional development work being challenged to teach kindergartners to form persuasive arguments, and to find evidence in story texts to justify or back up a response they had to a story. What about teaching children to write and read through the joy of experiencing a story together, or writing about their lives and what is most important to them? When adults muck about too much in the process of learning to read and write, adding additional challenge and pressure too soon, many children begin to feel incompetent and frustrated. They don’t understand. They feel stupid. Joy disappears.
I remember one Sunday evening when I received an email from the principal of my school letting me know that I was missing one particular document from my assessment site. The missing document was a photo of a math assessment recording sheet that I had somehow failed to post. If I could post it by 9 a.m. the following morning, I would recieve “exemplary teacher” status. If I did not, I would get a label of “needs improvement.” I remember at that moment thinking, “Seriously? It has come down to this sort of nonsense?”
Again, read the whole thing.
Due to this article, Susan was on the Today show yesterday. Interestingly, Matt Lauer did a short segment with Michelle Rhee afterward. The Today show wasn’t really the place to hold her feet to the fire, but it looked like Lauer wanted to do exactly that. It was interesting that she brought up the low scores of the US verses other countries but didn’t entertain the idea that changes in education since NCLB might be a contributing factor.
It seems to me that if the forces that would destroy and eliminate public education failed via a direct attack, they are having a better result by calling it “reform” and even making some money off of it as part of the effort.