A Phillie Teacher

I was a starry-eyed teacher from New Jersey. Now I work for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Teaching? I’m not teaching

Posted by aphillieteacher on December 13, 2010

. . . I’m grading papers and using a primitive rubric to do it with.

The district has finally gone above and beyond anything I dreamed of.

In its quest to raise PSSA scores for our juniors, it has suspended all literature instruction and mandates that every week until PSSA testing in March, the juniors will
1. read a non-fiction text selected by the district
2. write a 5 paragraph response to a canned prompt
3. peer edit and rewrite
4. track their scored “progress” on a district-made table

Forget about literature, free thought or anything akin to high school learning. We’re on a tread mill here, people!

On the bright side, I am liberated from writing lesson plans since everything is already done for me. Apparently that MA I got in literature was a waste of time and money because I don’t have to teach a damned thing — probably they don’t want me to.

Thanks for the paycheck, chumps. Meanwhile the kids are getting screwed big time.

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8 Responses to “Teaching? I’m not teaching”

  1. wasn’t there a study just done that showed teachers who focused completely on the test-teach to the test–overall had poor scores, rather than those who taught a well balanced curriculum. I think it was in the NY times.

    Wishing you well. Hope your students do well with the preplanned curriculum.

    And folks wonder why our kids are not prepared for college. We spend too much time focus on getting them to pass the high school tests that serve only to demonstrate if the teachers are effective. *sigh*

    • I heard about that study. It was by the Gates Foundation (one of the sponsors the for the the teacher-union-hating, charter-school-loving “Waiting for Superman” movie)

      The New York Times covered it this past Sunday in their education section. It’s called “What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students” and you can find it here

      Most significant is this quote:
      One notable early finding . . . is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics.

      There’s nothing methodical about Philadelphia’s curriculum timeline. If we’re not drilling our kids with writing essays for the 3 months before the PSSA, we’re zooming our kids through literature at a breakneck pace that doesn’t allow anyone to savor the beauty of literature or words. It’s read, vocab, assess then move on.

      Really sad.

  2. J said

    Welcome to my old life — only ours was scripted instruction everyday — and not actually particularly test-related, either. It was curriculum by a group of adults who love the subject and developed it as a committee. Activities, homework, warm-ups all given and expected to be followed. My favorite was the day I was expected to teach mean, median, mode and range in ONE day (including an activity that provided difficult numbers with decimals for them to use to find those things and meant they required calculators). The next day? We’d moved on to an entirely new topic! The day after? Back to reading graphs!

    You can’t hold people responsible for results and then tell them exactly what to do. If you do that, all they should be held accountable for is how robotically they followed the plan. But instead, this way, they get to blame you no matter what!

    Okay, back to thinking calm, relaxing, holiday thoughts…At least you don’t have to plan! It’s still a loooooong way till the PSSAs, too, so that’s a long chunk of time to not plan!

    • Actually the teachers at our school have a plan: follow the district’s mandates to a “T.”

      You can’t blame the robots for a failed plan they had no voice in. If the students don’t score as high as the district demands, we teachers can’t be blamed: we did everything we were ordered to do.

      Of course there’s the strong possibility Someone from the district will blame us any way. That excuse always worked in the past.

      Stay tuned.

  3. J said

    Another plus for you — I found that struggling students always preferred worksheets, doing the same thing over and over, etc. rather than being pushed or stretched or thinking hard or doing new things. So, maybe they’ll just get in the groove, write virtually the same paper every week and be slightly better behaved?!

    Then there’s my own kid who got so sick of peer editing and reviewing that he would purposely put in a couple of spelling or punctuation errors on each page, so that his editors would have something to latch on to and circle. He’d figured that out by 6th grade. :-p

    • Bingo! you’re right that I don’t have to plan, which is absolutely liberating for me.

      I loved the story about your kid planting errors in his essays. He’s a smart boy!

      • J said

        I only figured out when I happened to see his “draft” — I asked him to spell one of the words, which he did and then he realized what I was looking at and started laughing. That’s when he ‘fessed up.

        Same kid didn’t get glasses until as the doctor judgmentally said to me, “long after we usually see kids with eyes this bad.” We figured out he was hanging back during the eye tests at school until he knew the letters from listening to the other kids! Who knew kids cheat on eye exams?

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