Standards, Collaboration, Best Practices
My favorite author, Frederick Buechner--a Presbyterian minister, once wrote about the language of Christianity as a dying language, often overused and watered down. Lately, I feel the same way about education language. The words are creating a barrier. The Science Goddess posted about what teachers need. In her post, she brings up teaching to standards, something I loathe.
I came into teaching just as standards based grading became the great buzzword. Theorists around the country convinced teachers that the old grading system was not really showing what kids could do. The old system punished, the new system reflected. So districts and schools began writing standards, rubrics for rubrics, and began judging students according to their ability.
But wait, I thought, can't my interpretation of a standard be different from my colleague's interpretation. I mean, hey, if one Supreme Court justice can interpret the constitution as supporting troubling topic X, and another interprets the constitution as disallowing troubling topic X, then isn't the same true for troubling standard X? Those who opposed the incoming use of standards were called dinosaurs and relics. Best practices indicated that standards were the way to go. The cutting edge teachers all used standards. Do you really see a difference, though, in whether students are learning? Show me the true data, not the WASL scores or whatever state mandated test you use. Standardized tests don't demonstrate student learning. Not when we are teaching them what types of questions they will be asked, and how to answer those questions.
The research shows, according to a video my principal showed the staff today, that collaboration between teachers is best for students. But seriously, are we that naive to believe that if teachers get together, create tremendous lessons, map out the curriculum, and develop cutting edge assessments that look just like the state's standardized test, that every student will then magically choose to participate, complete assignments, and stay focused on that test? Here's my research, after my whopping two years of teaching: No teacher can make a student learn or perform to their capabilities on a test if that student does not want to. This isn't an excuse, but I haven't heard any research to refute that, or acknowledge it.
Best practices is my favorite of the buzzwords. I can be honest, some teachers are better at teaching than others. Some teachers fit nicely into a certain niche, where their best practices work quite well. But if you pull that best practice out of the AP and put it into the average classroom, filled with students who don't care, and parents who don't support, that practice becomes as useful as a dust-jacket from a lost book.
Don't get me wrong, I believe we should be teaching all of the skills that many of the Standardized tests cover. I believe that working together with colleagues is in the best interest of students and teachers alike. I believe that we all should find out what works best in our subject and in our grade level and in our classrooms. But for the sake of individuality, you know, that concept that makes us America in all of its glory, could we please stop with the tired religious use of educational jargon?