Solutions that don’t break the bank, reinvent the wheel or marginalize our teachers are within our grasp. We could have rigorous classes, safe and disciplined schools and treat teachers like valued colleagues rather than easily replaceable cogs, and we could do so tomorrow if we wanted. Disclaimer, this is an opinion and commentary site and should not be confused as a news site, and you should know that quite often people may disagree with the opinions posted herein.
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Sunday, July 19, 2015
Engage NY, Duval's new reading curriculum gets panned on the Diane Ravitch blog
From the Diane Ravitch blog
This post is a description of EngageNY, the scripted curriculum written for use in New York state and now migrating to other states. Ken Wagner, former deputy commissioner of the New York State Education Department, now Rhode Island state superintendent, promises to import them to Rhode Island. New York’s new state commissioner says she used the New York curriculum with great success in Florida. Read this post and decide for yourself. Be sure to read the comments.
Here is a sample:
The same people who gave us standardized testing have now given us standardized teaching, which goes directly to the information a student can get, how the student gets it, and what the student is supposed to get out of each and every class minute. It is 19th-century educational lockstep, pushed by the White House and institutionalized by the New York governor’s office.
If standardized testing dumbed down school and teacher evaluation, standardized teaching takes it a step further: It dumbs down the kids.
The project is called “Engage New York.” It does anything but.
If, say, you are a teacher of 11th-grade English in Buffalo, you get, every 10 weeks, a thick three-ring binder with instructions on what you are to do in every class. The copy I have of one of these runs 587 pages. The volume is excruciatingly boring to read. (I cheated: I skimmed most of the pages.) I cannot imagine what it is like to be a creative and imaginative teacher hamstrung by it. Worse: I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a student in classes that now have to be taught by teachers forced to deliver this drivel or be fired.
The book is divided into teaching “modules,” which list what questions the teachers should ask, what answers they should get, and how they should respond to them. They list what words students should learn each day.
There are regular pages headed “Unit-at-a-Glance Calendar,” telling the teacher the specific lines and paragraphs to be covered in each class. There are pages listing “Activity” items for each class; each named activity includes the percentage of class time to be devoted to it. One, for example has “Activity 1: Introduction of Lesson Agenda. 5%”; Activity 2: Homework Accountability. 10%”; “Activity 3: Masterful Reading. 5%”; “Activity 4: Hamlet Act 1.2, Lines 900-110 Reading and Discussion, 60%.”
Day after day of this, class after class, minute by minute.
The questions the teachers are ordered to ask are often so banal they read like a Monty Python parody. Here is an example. The teacher is told to ask the question, “What information do you gather from the full title of the play: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark?” (All teacher questions are in bold type.)
Permissible student answers are:
—The play is about a person named Hamlet.
—This is a tragic or sad play.
—Hamlet is a prince.
—This play likely takes place in Denmark.
This is drivel. The book is full of things like that. It is also full of misinformation.