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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Elementary school reading teachers feel set up to fail, not optimistic about future.

It started at the beginning of the year when curriculums in reading classes with little notice were shifted down a grade. What kids would have learned in third they were now going to now learn in second, in first, second and so on. The district claimed it would bring more rigor. People doing the actual teaching pointed out, harder and developmentally inappropriate does no equal rigor.

Furthermore the curriculums given to the teachers could be charitably described as jumbled messes. There were links to different articles over different grades to be carried out at different times. There didn’t seem to be a lot of rhyme or reason but what was consistent was teachers were often required to make copies.  The state of copying in the district could be an entirely different post but let’s just suffice to say this was problematic for a whole host of reasons.

A lot of veteran teachers with years of experience knowing what does and doesn’t work were able to game the system so to speak and instead of following the poorly thought out mandates gave their students the instruction that they needed to the best of their ability. Newer teachers or teachers being micromanaged at the transformative schools however weren’t so lucky.

The district also promised additional training, help and resources but none of the teachers I have spoken to said any ever came and now the district has decided to scrap what they have going on now to go completely on-line next year. Maybe that will be better because it's hard to imagine things being worse.

I spoke with somebody close to the situation and the district contends that it is teachers who came to them pushing for the change and that it will save a lot of money though the teachers I have spoken to have their doubts.

I haven't heard of anyone being in a focus group. And I don't know a single Primary teacher that was happy with the curriculum this year. They are saying it is a savings over a two year period? A textbook adoption is 5-6 years. So no savings if you think about the amount of copies and materials printed over 5-6 years versus purchasing textbooks once. Also, the district doesn't make the copies for us. They send links. We print out copies on our own and then sometimes put in for copies at the school. BUT...we buy our own ink for the printers because the district does not provide it. Also, they aren't fixing or replacing printers that die out. We are told to share, and that eventually they want to go to a centralized printer in the main offices.

Young children K-2 still need to have books in their hands that are written in their level. We can't do everything on a projector screen or on copy paper. Some of the links/resources they send are long with no pictures. K and 1 are learning how to read. They need larger print and pictures to provide support. We don't need lessons written by former teachers who are now district level coaches, who have no researched based curriculum writing experience!! The textbook writers are specialists and professors who know how to help students learn to read!! The online reading and materials may be good for intermediate grades, middle, and high school. Primary students need researched based materials and lesson that build on one another. They can't tell me that Scott Foresman, HM, or Harcourt don't have common core aligned lessons that build in skills.” 

I guess the bottom line is, if the district and the people doing the actual teaching are not on the same page then we can’t be successful. Though the real problem might be that the district doesn't seem very interested in getting on the same page.


  1. Also you can add that he is only giving the cost of copies. They are still purchasing various books, which aren't in that total. Novel studies, etc for 3-5. Also some other books for K-2 supposedly. But no textbooks that progressively increase in difficulty as students learn to read.
    Also a district friend told me there is a textbook series that meets Common Core, but the district said it is too expensive and didn't want to purchase.

  2. Teachers I know at all levels, elementary, middle and high feel that teachers and students are being set up to fail. It sounds paranoid but its like Vitti is trying to starve and destroy public education. Could be because thats one way to promote charter ed.

  3. We were absolutely set up to fail. We were not given the materials to do our jobs. The curriculum guides were a joke. They were scattered, haphazard, and a "hot mess" to put it lightly. The novels were not selected based on their literary value. They were selected based on their price.
    I have wondered if we are slowly being torn apart on purpose. You have to wonder about that considering the decisions being made.....

  4. Well, we only have class sets anyway. Try teaching 1984 with only class sets. You'll never finish. Most older classics though are cheap. God forbid we get those.

  5. 1984 was a beast to finish. I had a class set and the kids skipped class half the time, without any consequence of course, which made "finishing" it impossible.

  6. And when the Times Union asks dcps if there is a textbook shortage, they deny it and say of course not, because they are defining enough textbooks as having a class set. Reading a novel like 1984 requires every student have his or her own book. A class set is not sufficient, and then we look like the idiots because we either can't finish or are quickly bringing it to an end to say we did. Typical dcps policies.