Short Tempers and Hard Tests

candlelight-vigil-blog The craziness of the end of the year and writing exams leads to a much shorter temper for me. Each April I promise myself I will keep my patience no matter what, and every year I fail. Occasionally my frustration erupts. “Are you kidding me? You didn’t bring paper or a pencil to English class? Seriously?” But this year is a bit different. On a November morning last fall, a car accident took the lives of three of my students. Continue reading →

High-Stakes Standardized Testing: A View from the Elementary School Office

20150416 JRussell Testing Kids also talk to me about the tests. Luckily, at the elementary level I haven’t gotten any deep questions about why they have to take the tests, although I know they touch on this in their classrooms. They tell me things like, “I’m scared. What if I fail the [OAA reading] test and can’t go to 4th grade?” Or “I’m sick of taking tests.” They don’t know that these are high-stakes tests. They don’t realize that if many of them do poorly on one or more of the tests, in our district at least, their teachers may be offered probationary contracts instead of standard contracts. They don’t understand that low performance on these tests may lead to a reduction in funding for the entire school. Continue reading →

A Little Something for the School Secretary

School-secretary2 School secretaries rarely encounter students at their best. Students come to the office when they’re tardy, sick, injured, misbehaving, and in trouble. They ask the secretary for help when they leave their homework in Mom’s car or lose their house key. They dash through the office door when their medication has worn off and it’s time for their next dose. They are often embarrassed, uncomfortable, distressed, angry, or upset when they’re in the office. Continue reading →

What to do about too much testing — Fight, Flee, or Fake It?

20150412-Rine-What-to-do For almost twenty years, I have prepared students in my classes for the Proficiency Test, the OGT, the ACT, and now the PARCC and my own SLOs. Never before this year have I felt that the testing took over my classroom. The testing is ridiculous. Every teacher knows it, and now with the many issues with the PARCC and AIR tests, parents, too, are realizing that required testing has gotten out of control. As a teacher, it seems to me we have a few options about how to approach these tests. Continue reading →

Standing up by speaking out

03022015-blog We need more time for teaching, not testing, we’re telling legislators and leaders. And they’re listening. As educators, we know our students might forget the names of the presidents who hailed from Ohio or how to solve an equation. But the lesson we hope they never forget is the love of learning. What matters most — the joy of discovery, a sense of curiosity, creativity and imagination — will never appear on a bubble test. But it comes to life when a student reads a book, performs music, creates an experiment, or writes a story. Continue reading →

If you build it, they will come

raise-the-mark2 I have no plans to build a baseball field anywhere in Northwest Ohio. However I, along with fellow education advocates in the area, did construct something last week that was like our field of dreams. We set up a screening of the documentary “Rise Above the Mark,” set in Indiana, which chronicles the problems we’re dealing with in public education; over-testing, underfunding and unaccountable charter schools. Continue reading →

The Talk

The-talk I had “the talk” with my 10 year-old daughter, Nina, yesterday. I felt like I had to tell Nina the truth, though. She’s been asking a lot of questions. She even stayed in from recess one day last week to do some internet research. Now she wants to write letters about it. In case you’re wondering what kind of internet filter my daughter’s school has, don’t worry. We’re not discussing where babies come from. We’re talking about standardized tests. Continue reading →

Data Driven Education is destroying the minds of our kids.

education-is-lighting-of-a-fire Education is not how much we “put in the bucket” or how much material we cover, but rather, how much we inspire the students to fill the bucket on their own. A dentist does very little to prevent cavities, but their advice is what inspires us to brush and floss in order to avoid them. My high school Spanish teacher taught me very little of the Spanish I currently speak today with my wife and family, but she planted the seed of excitement to want to learn Spanish. Continue reading →
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