All posts by editor@classicaleducationtoday.com

The Crown, the Queen, and the French Guy

A statue of the Queen on horseback

In the 9th episode of the The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II shows her interest in horses … and it’s implied she has a interest in her horse’s trainer as well.  Prince Phillip is not amused.

I have to say this won my sympathy.  After all, horses are a passion of mine — and I feel the Queen’s interest in  Lord Porchester, or “Porchey,” the trainer,  is natural.  Why my first effort at writing a novel concerned a woman who fell in love with a horse trainer.  It’s a female fantasy of some type.

But the truth is, in real life here in America, young single men are a rarity at the stable.  We have a lot of young women in breeches, some middle aged women in jeans, and some older men in baggy clothing, helping wives daughters and girlfriends.  But by and large, the men at the stable don’t ride, and they’re not single.  Not really.  I’ve only ever seen one or two actual young men riding at my own stable in my horsemanship history.  One of them was Mike K., who was, like me at the time, a 7th grader.  He  had a fast dun quarter horse and claimed he had had lots of relationships with girls, due to his own natural charm, not to mention the positive-math situation of being a horseman … he claimed to have had some kind of tryst in the feed cabinet, a long low wooden box with a lid that you could have lain down in. I steered clear of him.  His sincerity was wanting.  Then there was another guy at another stable; they say he served 8 years for murder.  No, I’m not making this up.  The point is,  if you’re looking for an eligible bachelor, the stable is about the last place to go.

Until just recently.

I have been taking my 17 year old daughter for riding lessons.  The other day we pulled up, and I saw him:  “Look, Jo, it’s the French Guy.”

“What is the French Guy?” she asked, not understanding.

“There’s this guy, his name is Girard or something, and he’s a man,  he speaks French and he’s taking riding lessons.  And he’s not ugly!”

She looked at me like I was rather nuts.  “So?”  She has only been riding for a few weeks, she doesn’t know the actual odds of a decent looking young man, let alone one with a French accent, washing up at a boarding stable.

“There he is!” I said.  “Riding on that big sorrel horse!”

Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester
Henry Herbert, Lord Porchester, was the horseman upon whom the character called “Porchey” is based in The Crown.

Jo dismissed me with a wave of the hand.  Not yet a committed horsewoman, she didn’t understand the rarity of the phenomenon.  And I suppose she had a point:  she’s too young, and I’m too old.

As for Elizabeth, although she’s the right age,  the show makes it appear that everything was on the up and up except for a few midnight phone calls.  I have to admit, I sympathize.  It’s not every day one meets a man who’s your same age and enjoys riding horses, and is presentable and single.  In fact, for more horsewomen, it’s never.

What is a Master Teacher and How Do You Become One?

Master teacher
Master teachers develop over years of practice and reflection.

Exemplary Teachers is a topic we grad students are writing about this weekend, and exemplary as a term is certainly complicated, especially since it’s used as part of State Board of Ed accountability standards for schools. The term I usually hear about individual teachers in my building  is “Master Teacher.”

These folks tend to be characterized as strong managers, firmly in grasp of curriculum and instruction, and unusually empathetic toward students. Each one of them presumably started out as a young teacher surveying his or her classroom and the relative chaos that tends to exist in that first year, and worked hard to develop the three areas of skill: management, curriculum, and empathy. Classroom management will come to most who earnestly seek it, born out of the teacher’s desire to implement the curriculum that appears necessary but which can not be effectively taught without routines and procedures.

At some point in every young teacher’s development, he or she will “hit the wall:” The student or students cannot or will not do what is expected. At that point, the teacher faces a choice: either blame the student or change the teaching approach.  Perhaps this is where the master teacher is truly born.

When we decide to change our approach, it almost always involves the way the student is spoken to. The idea of how adult speech drives childhood development is familiar to me. As a young mother, I read about how children develop cognitively. An older friend emphasized to me the importance of honoring young children’s feelings as a way of helping them cope with life difficulties of all types. It’s important to listen closely and fully and respond with interest, especially when a child perceives there is a problem. In the classroom, remembering to use this skill with the children who need it most is difficult and it is something I can work on. Because, ironically but perhaps naturally, the students who deeply need this practice are the hardest ones  to apply it to. As I was taught in my alternative certification course,  “we will be judged  not by the students who are highest-achieving, but by what we did with those who struggle most.”

The Master Teacher can teach the difficult students well.  In my mind, it’s almost that simple.

The Crown and I

Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II
Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II

We’ve been watching the Netflix series “The Crown” about the early years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and boy, is it something. First recommended by my daughter, who binge-watched it over a weekend (the first season is only ten episodes) The Crown combines a remarkable mix of inspirational pomp, circumstance, and pageantry with a moderately dysfunctional family and what might be called the dark truth of rule: that leadership is ultimately about service.

And oh, the costumes. After tonight’s episode, #8, in which Elizabeth had 100 dresses made for her tour of the Commonwealth (which I now realize has 52 countries, far more than I hard thought) I rushed back to the computer to search on Vogue.com for patterns for 50’s dresses.

50's dress Vogue 8999
Vogue 8999 is a perfect example of a retro 50’s dress of the type I seek.

After passing up all the strapless models (even if I dared wear one — where would I go in it) I found a couple of promising numbers, including Vogue 8999, which I thought might be just the thing for church or date night.

I have to say I will stop at the hats, though they are intriguing.

 

Satisfying Slime and All That

satisfying slime
satisfying slime — from pixabay

In various venues I am seeing questions regarding why kids don’t read as many books as they used to, or at least so it seems. In my quest to figure this out, I instituted the digital diet at Christmas and also a closer scrutiny of what my children actually were doing. In the case of my 17 year old daughter, it seemed she was spending a lot of time looking deeply at her cell phone. Usually she seemed to be watching music videos. But yesterday I snuck up on her and saw that the screen was currently displaying: Slime!

Now, lest you think that this slime was the type you find under the bridge, think again. Slime is something I have known about since my children were little, and one of my boys got a jar of toy green slime for Christmas, which next wound up on his little brother’s hair. Later, as a teacher, I learned that “making slime” can be a science project for upper elementary. To make this slime, you use glue, borax, and food color.

I noticed my daughter asking for borax a month ago. “Why?” I asked.

“To make slime.”

Sure enough, the next day I found a small bowl of blue slime covered on the counter top. I tried to look in and test it.

“Don’t!” she said. “You haven’t washed your hands! And besides it’s not very good.”

“What constitutes good slime?”

“It has to stretch and spread smoothly,” she replied.

I put this down in my mind under the category of Modern Teenagers Don’t Make Sense and forgot about it. Until I saw the slime video.

“What is this!” I demanded:  it was slime-manipulating hands on video.   She had combined two of her most non-productive behaviors: staring at the cell phone and wasting time on recipes designed for a brain break in a 5th grade classroom.

“Mom! Slime videos are a thing! Lots of people watch them! There are instagrammers who have over a million subscribers, all on slime videos.  Now this here … ” she switched the window to a fetching picture of a pile of bright pink slime that seemed by its even, ridged appearance to have been squirted out of a pastry tube, “is butter slime.  Super spreadable. ” Two hands came out of the edges of the video and began stretching the slime in all directions.

This was one of those moments when mom retreats to her room to collect her thoughts. Later in the evening, I got a call from her older brother who’s in the navy. “Your sister is watching videos of slime,” I told him. “I’m ready to retire to Bedlam.”

“Oh Mom.  Those are just satisfying videos.  It’s a thing now.  Some are of slime, others show how to do woodworking, or just paint pouring together and mixing up.  Personally I like the ones of how to make hard candy.  They take you from the beginning, getting out the sugar and butter, all the way through mixing, cooking, cooling, stretching it until it’s only a half inch thick, then breaking it into bite sized pieces … ”

Conclusion:  I was faced with a choice.  Either accept that slime videos are perfectly normal and could be seen, in fact as “cool,” or … admit that I am “out of it, over the hill.”

It’s a hard choice and I’m going to have to get back to you on it.

 

 

 

 

My favorite blog posts in February

girl reading bookSome of these are recent blog posts, others are resources I’ve discovered that have been out there for a while.

Education News

First of all, there is the growing question about nationwide practices regarding special education services.  In this article from EdWeek, it is argued that “RTI can be used as a “legally persuasive” way to avoid Child Find (the law that mandates  identification of learning disabilities) in other words, to avoid paying for special education.

The New Texas A-F School Grades have drawn some fire from educators and superintendents, who say that the ratings continue the nationwide high stakes testing practice of punishing schools which serve the poor:  New A-F grades make low income schools look worse .

The problem of adult-generated unrealistic goals was brought home to me when I checked my daughter’s high school’s Federal report card.   It would seem that currently, 42% of all STAAR tests were passed by Texas students at Final Level II or 70%.  That means that 58% of students failed to get 70%.  What is going on here!  What would happen to teachers if they failed 6 our of 10 kids in the class?  I know from being an urban teacher that  at many schools they allow you to pass the STAAR at 52%, but still — shouldn’t the test just be easier?

Teaching

This next story took me back to my days of teaching kindergarten, when a brave colleague, when she was informed that objectives previously taught in first grade would now be moved down to kindergarten, told our administrator: “These objectives are not developmentally appropriate to where the students are academically!” And she refused to teach them in kinder.

No, she did not get fired.  And how did this moving down of objectives happen?  It seems to have some basis in the lack of knowledge of the behavior, potentialities and development of real children.  As David Ayers of Toronto,  Ontario writes, most “ teaching college graduates are purposely left untrained in the basics of how to teach kids to read.”  He continues, that for some unexplained reason, teacher’s colleges continue, even many decades on, to purposely and invariably ignore input from related fields which study cognitive development…

Then there’s news–or old news–on the education funding front.   Touching on the issue of teacher pay, and the burning question to those who know about it of “Why private school teachers get paid less.” is this story from the Atlantic.    The article is old, but the reasons have remained the same.

In a more current offering, from Inside Higher Ed, despite savings from digital learning, university costs more than ever.  This is depressing in the extreme and has been going on apace for the last dozen or so years since we sent our oldest to college.

Teaching Practice:

Emotional needs are real needs: here’s Robert Ward writing on The Four Indespensible Aspects of Education. If the kid is not emotionally ready, the academic instruction is just not going to sink in!

@EducationRickshaw discussed 5 books to start a book club for teachers … including Clever Lands, about what successful foreign schools are doing that we don’t, and Trivium, a new work which concerns the classical education method.

This was my most retweeted post from Twitter this month:  “so there is a limit to how much clutter you should put in a primary classroom it appears … “Yes it does.  This post is via @TeacherToolkit.

A refreshing article on teacher collaboration from EduTopia discussed how  “A principal must do what it takes to remove the obstacle of ‘too much to do’ and ‘not enough time,'” according to Mary Beth Cunat, administrator at Wildwood IB Magnet School.  Cunat  vows to create blocks of time to allow grade level teams to help each other.  Hear, Hear!

Literacy Resources

I found a better chart of reading fluency at Reading Rockets. This one reflects actual student performance norms, unlike the original one I posted in “What is a struggling reader” which more reflects teacher goals or expectations.

For classical home schoolers, here’s A chronological format for teaching history  based on Charlotte Mason from Plumfield and Paideia.

And finally, If you’re in need of ideas for middle grade novels:    Best books for 5th and 6th graders.  from Intentional Homeschooling Blog.  I’ve read 8 of the 11, how about you?

 

 

 

 

Classical Sports for A Spiritual Journey

The Boxer of Quirinal, the Boxer of the Baths
The Boxer of Quirinal, bronze from the 1st century BC, Courtesy of Wiki Commons & MatthiasKabel

The ancients did not, in general, go in for team sports. When we were home schooling, we kept this in thought. Our sports were two: running road races (the proverbial 5K) and riding horseback. Both these sports allowed our kids to challenge themselves, enjoy the competition experience, track their progress and measure themselves against others. Both these sports, as it happens, were also “classical sports.”

Going back to Greece and Rome, and the original Olympics, we see track and field, running races, chariot racing, and boxing and wrestling, and that’s about it. Soccer goes back only to medieval times in Europe.  Football is only a little over 100 years old.

I recently enrolled my 17-year-old daughter in riding lessons again and when she asked why, I said, “because horseback riding is a spiritual experience. You will see.” Long an aspiring artist, she had been experiencing “artist’s block,” and hadn’t been drawing for months, or a year.  She came home from riding lessons and resumed work on her drawings, produced some unusually good work, and got accepted into the studio of a working artist.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  It’s like I said, riding is spiritual.

For myself, cantering along in a circle, turning the horse in the other direction and making a lead change, there’s a moment of transcendence, when the horse and I seem to be of one mind.  When you sit on the back of a horse, you have a different perspective.  I like to think of the ancients when I ride, soldiers going to battle, or travelers, going from town to town, or noblemen like Nestor’s sons and Telemachus in the Odyssey, driving their chariots.  I feel connected to them, footfall after footfall, my horse is the descendant of their horses, and I am the descendant of the ancients as well.

I come home and I feel better, and the effect lasts for two to three days.  Work doesn’t seem so difficult, I am not tempted to say with joking exasperation, “there’s nothing on the internet!”*  As the song says, “I can see clearly now.”

Runners talk about the “runner’s high” and I there’s something spiritual about running as well.  I know team sports are The Thing in America.  But for some of us, the classical sports of the solitary athlete continue to hold sway.

So, think about yourself and your sports activities.  Do you run, swim, walk, do yoga (I do that, too) or play softball?  Isn’t it true, that you become a better version of yourself through sports?  The ancients believed that you did.  And so do I.

 

*This really means, “I checked my twitter feed and none of my friends are there on right now.”

 

Jungian archetypes of students … do you know these kids in your class?

 

image credit soulcraft.co

Why is it that every year we seem to have the same types of situations with the same types of students?  Well, no, not all of it can be blamed on your classroom management style — though that will be your chief method to form these different characters into some semblance of a working team. In fact, the tendency of human individuals to express certain groups of traits, or archetypes, has  been remarked on for centuries.  The Jungian model, posited by Carl Jung, offers, among others, these typical classroom characters.  Most of the descriptions come from Carl Golden at www.soulcraft.co, with me having added in “school desire” “Learning strategy: and “The challenge.”

The Innocent (image above)

Motto: Free to be you and me.  Core desire:  To get to heaven.  School desire:  To be your favorite student. Greatest fear: To be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Learning Strategy: to always do things “right.”  Talent:  To appear correct.  In a classroom, these are the “good kids” who always sit and listen when they are told.  They are likely to be teacher’s pets.  They are the kids everyone wants in their class and yet … The Challenge:  To get these kids to know themselves.  They may be so involved in their own perfectionism they may simply think of themselves as “ideal student.”  Can be academically stunted by refusal to take risks.

The Explorer


Motto: Don’t fence me in. Core Desire: To have the freedom to find out who they are through exploring the world. School Desire:  To avoid being bored.  To find stuff the other kids haven’t done yet.  To prove they are different.   Biggest fear: To get trapped in conformity and inner emptiness. Learning Strategy:  Surreptitious talking, writing, reading,  creative interpretations of set assignments, waiting until centers time and then hiding under something.   Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul.   These kids can surprise you with their creativity and their new ideas and yet … Challenge:  They may find it difficult to engage with the class, have a tendency to aimless wandering, or being a misfit.

The Rebel

Motto: Rules are made to be broken.  Core desire: To get revenge or start a revolution.  School Desire:  To successfully oppose local leadership (the teacher.)  Greatest fear: To be powerless or ineffectual.  Strategy:  To disrupt, destroy, or shock.  Learning Strategy: To refuse to be taken in by the commonplace that has worked in the past; demanding accommodation and change.  Weakness: To cross over to the dark side, crime. Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom. Challenge:  Convincing them that they can transcend school by succeeding academically, not by burning the school down.

The Jester

Motto: You only live once.
Core desire: To live in the moment with full enjoyment.
School Desire:  To use the class as their own personal studio audienceLearning Strategy:  Routines which involve performing drama or creating communication media; times for sharing their work with the class.  Greatest fear: To be bored or boring others  Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny  Weakness: To be frivolous, to waste time The Challenge:  Keeping them from taking over control of the room without denying them their need to entertain someone.  

The Ruler:
image credit www.soulcraft.coThe Ruler

Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.   School Desire:  To be in charge.  Learning Strategy:   To master the material fast enough so they can show they’re in front of the other students. Greatest fear: Chaos, being overthrown.  Weakness: Being authoritarian, unable to delegate. Talent: To be responsible and a leader. The Challenge:  Finding opportunities for the Ruler to be in charge of someone or something lest he, like the Jester, form the intent to take over the class or at least deny you full control of them.

Do you recognize these types?  How many?

 

Progressive vs. Traditional Teachers and Teaching

I am indebted for this post to Brian Aspinall, who started me down this road when he  wrote An educational debate:  10 progressive vs. traditional teaching ideals, touching on a question that has burdened me for some time,  “what is classical education anyway?” and its corollary, “will I be pilloried for calling myself a classical educator?”

It is possible to claim the that progressive education model is the student-centered one, while the traditional is more teacher centered.  However, it’s not quite that simple.  Another way of looking at it, that traditional education values tradition, while progressive values plans about the future, seems a little more apt; however,  one might also say, traditional education is basing our work on what has succeeded, and continuing it, while progressive education bases itself on what has failed, and seeks to change it to something better.

If you are still with me you will see that this means that, the more successful will tend to favor the traditional models, because this was how they succeeded (the past) while the frustrated will value the progressive, because they are hoping for the future, the past not quite having worked out.  That in itself, however, does not show superiority of one method/approach or the other, it simply tells you a bit about who’s in which camp.

The Hard Liners:

It is impossible, perhaps, to write this post without giving a nod to the polar opposites on this debate.  You can see the approach that traditional education is repressive and static and boring at the website of the Wingra School, and the idea from Blotting out God that progressive education was founded by an atheist communist who wanted to promote his education theories in order to bring our society to the Marxist Workers Paradise.  I acknowledge, but am not a proponent, of hard line thinking like this, but it’s out there.

John Dewey, Father of the Progressive Education Model

Which brings us to the man himself, the father of progressive education.   He is that old villian/hero, depending on who you are, the education reformer John Dewey, who brought up the question of the difference between the two in his book Experience and Education, in which this dichotomy makes up the first chapter.

Modern younger educators have varying responses to Dewey and his progressive vision.  Jovan Miles writes that Dewey did not actually advocate the clearing away of the classical impulse, but “sidesteps the wholesale rejection of all that is typified in Traditional Education and instead advocates that proponents of Progressive Education adopt an approach that encourages them to explore how rules, organizational structure, and content knowledge may be employed in a system of education that is not overly rigid or imposing.”

According to the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood, (hereafter ECC) not all parents welcomed the progressive education movement: “Critics doubted if Progressive schools were academically rigorous. Students who enjoyed school and felt good about themselves might never learn chemistry and calculus, many parents feared.”  Martin Cothran at Memoria Press continues on the opposition parents often feel to progressive methods : “the traditionalists (are) made up mostly of parents, but includ(e) teachers and private school teachers. ”

There has been the allegation that the progressive model was being created more for the needs of huge corporations owned by magnates such as Rockefeller, a friend of Dewey.   The ECC continues that in the 1930’s, “massive and unprecedented immigration from Europe filled urban schools with students who seemed to need nonacademic training more than Shakespeare or trigonometry in order to become loyal, virtuous, and productive citizens … ”

Progressives were also the original proponents of tracking by ability level .   “Grouping children by ability seemed more democratic to the progressives than holding all children to the same standards,” (ECC).  Most modern educators know that tracking is believed to be hurtful  to disadvantaged students.  So with regard to this aspect, it is the traditional model, not the progressive, that is “student-centered.”

A long and thoughtful blog post from the Objective Standard, “The False Promise of Classical Education” by Lisa Van Damme suggests that, while progressive education is not quite the answer, returning to the past will not suffice either:  ” education also needs reform more radical than harking back to a more traditional approach that mouths respect for facts, logic, and abstract thought … ”  Yet I think Van Damme, like so many others, misses the point in her critique of classical or traditional education methods.  The goal is not to return education to the state it was at in 1900 or 1800 or 500 BC, but to refuse to relinquish certain previous educational discoveries and works which are time tested and in fact superior to what we have discovered about education in, say, the last ten years.

Jovan Miles (again) noted something of the same when he wrote “(w)e will end up borrowing a great deal, at the very least schemes of organization and the identification of content and skills, from Traditional Education to create New Schools … ” and expressed concern that the progressive schools might be co-opted by corporate interests into seeking to instill “college and career readiness” and not love of learning and social justice.

The classical impulse in education, then, puts its hope in human experience, not human science.  Although I am constantly surveying for ways to improve the classroom, including modern reading research and new media literacies, I remain convinced that a  great danger in modern education is abandoning what we know from the past,.  That is why I continue to consider myself a classical educator.

Do you consider yourself a progressive educator?  Classical?  Both?  Neither?  Please comment and let me know!

My Favorite Blog Posts in January

Ryan Gosling shut the door and teach
Thanks to First Grade Fun Times for image: follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/firstgradefuntimes1/?fref=nf follow

Literary Theories:

For the bilingual among us, or for anyone who’s interested in languages and translation, there Literary Hub’s question of what it means to write in more than one language.  It seems we carry with us the memories of our experience while speaking, and then the language takes on the moods we felt.

Then, if you’re a CS Lewis fan, you could check Classical Academic Press for an opinion of whether Lewis would approve of the Christian home school movement.

Continuing on the question of technology and whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent from my “digital diet” blog post, is the post “is boredom good for you,” from of all places World Economic Forum, in which the thesis is is that boredom drives creativity.

The Teaching Trade:

Education Rickshaw writes about the CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) perspective on Teaching and Learning.  Highlight for me?  The idea that sometimes, a quiet classroom is just what you need.  Not that my students seem to agree.

Bill Ferriter goes out on a limb and dares to ask: Is goal setting in school pointless? Well, as I replied to his post, goal setting works great for weight loss but may run into various difficulties in the world of real schools …check it out.

We are Teachers blog featured a reflection from a teacher who admitted that, since she was given students several years below grade level, it’s going to be hard to teach to the standards for the annual high stakes test.

Social Media:  

All you education twitter junkies:  can’t find just the right education chat at just the right time?  Well, visit Google Site’s Ed Chats chart and feast your eyes on the massive list … After that, if you’re on twitter for business, not pleasure,  you might want to consider this helpful article from Socedo about the 5 harsh realities of using social media for marketing.

 

Teaching Materials:

And finally, it’s … Socratic Seminar tickets from the MailBox!  Don’t know how long this one will be up, however, if you’ve been wanting to try Socratic seminar type discussions with your elementary students, or a boisterous older group, this “ticket to speak” approach may help when too many kids want the floor.  You just give them each a ticket, and they can only speak once.  I printed it out, and will give it a try, as soon as I come up with a proper “Socratic” question for first graders!

 

 

So we have the data– what’s stopping us from using it?

Big Data for Schools
The data we are given doesn’t always make instructional decisions clearer.

Those other day I was taking a running record, where you give a child a book at their independent reading level and listen to them read, taking statistics about their speed, accuracy and understanding.  This has taken up all my small group time for about two weeks now. It’s mandated for data collection at our building.

Stopping the process for the purpose of planning time,  I next became privy  to a discussion about grouping the 4th graders into intervention groups.  There were 11X18 inch sheets of paper closely printed with names of students in the 4th grade, beside their scores in the last Districtwide reading assessment.  The scores ranged from 13% correct upward.

I was asked to put in my two cents on the data analysis process.  “You could rank them by how many they got correct,” I said.  “From highest to lowest, then split them up into properly sized groups.” But there was a sense that they’d done that before and it doesn’t work that well.

“Split them by how well they did on the individual TEKS objectives?” This wouldn’t work either, because some students had  satisfied all the objectives, others none.  “Istation?” i queried?  But Istation scores weren’t that accurate, I was informed, for this group of students.  I threw up my hands.

I stopped and thought.  We had plenty of data.  Yet the process of putting the students onto groups for intervention was still a thorny one.

What was the missing piece?  Perhaps the problem was that  the data we were provided was not designed to diagnose reading dysfunction or to group kids for remediation.  A District snapshot, like the STAAR, doesn’t tell you why the child can’t find the main idea or the right definition of a word.  It just gives you lists of right and wrong answers.

Later that week, when we first grade teachers were told to analyze our own class’s District snapshot for our First Grade PLC at school, we had to spend our planning time and time after school working together as a team to figure out how to fill out the forms they gave us.  We got it done, but by the time we finished hours had gone by.  And some had the sense that the changes we would be able to make in instruction were minimal, along the line of going over alphabetization a few more times.  Not what I would call radical adjustments in instructional design.

It’s not that we don’t have any data … and no, we’re not dumb in math.  We’re all college graduates! But District benchmark tests should not really be used to drive instruction.   They’re designed to catch and punish schools with too many low achieving students (not, actually, a purpose I particularly appreciate either) not to help figure out what to do to help these struggling students learn.

And why do we use Districtwide tests instead of more-effective ones like running records?  Well, look at how long it took me to gather those running records.  And once you get them,  you can’t easily amalgamate them across teachers to formulate grade level interventions groups.  Quality data costs teacher time, and teacher time is money.  We need to be clear here:  cheap data mismatched to the task required is almost worse than no data.