Sunday, May 18, 2008

Notes on a visit to a school in New York City

See how schools have improved under BloomKlein? Susan Ohanian reprints a letter from teacher Bill Schechter.

I grew up in New York City and graduated from its (non-exam) public schools. For 35-years, I worked as a history teacher at a progressive, upper middle-class high school in a Boston suburb. These two poles anchor my educational history.

Last Tuesday, I traveled down to the city to watch one of my former students teach at Chelsea High School (formerly Chelsea Vocational High School) in SOHO. The visit was a shock that managed to deepen my already very deep sense of the folly of punitive high stakes testing.

The school is in a state of advanced physical dilapidation. I felt like I was walking through the pages of Kozol’s Death At An Early Age –the 50-year old school building that my school district demolished was a palace by comparison)– or had gotten dropped into the Third World. Chelsea High received an “F” from the NYC Board of Ed, and the teachers there have been given the message that these kids have to drilled to pass those tests so the powers-that-be will finally be

Read more of Bill's letter at Susan's place.
Bill adds a P. S. to this very distressing account:
To those who deal with these realities very day, I send my admiration.

On a less depressing note, Susan reports some of the great satire from
The Eggplant
(Index is here):

4th grader Completes Last of High Stakes Exams, First in Nation To Take Tests in All 50 States.

Washington D. C.--
Greeted by a standing ovation from members of Congress, meeting in joint session with the Business Roundtable and National Education Association president Reg Weaver, nine-year-old Bingo Benny arrived to celebrate his feat of taking state assessments required by NCLB in all 50 states.

"From the October NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program) in Jericho, Vermont, to the May WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) in Seattle, Washington, Benny proved that he is indeed standardized," exclaimed Sen. Edward Kennedy, chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

"Benny refuses to be left behind," chimed in George Miller, Chair of House Education and Labor Committee, and, like Kennedy, determined to reauthorize the contentious NCLB law.

Benny agreed that it was exciting for Mayor Bloomberg to be on hand to wish him well when he took the CTB/McGraw-Hill tests in January. "I didn't have time to use the key to the city he gave me," Benny said. "I was in a rush to catch a plane for the ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) in Las Vegas and the PAWS (Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students).

Bill Gates was on hand in Washington to congratulate Benny on his rigor, and in Long Beach, California, Eli Broad presented him with a special award of merit for competition in the global economy.

Read the rest here.


Anonymous said...

"a special award of merit for competition in the global economy?"
I'm actually nauseous that they would use this little boy like this.

ed notes online said...

Sorry - I should have labeled the Eggplant stuff as educational satire along the lines of The Onion.

That it seems so believable is testament to what has been done to education.

Anonymous said...

I'm a knucklehead.

ed notes online said...

I also fell for one of The Eggplant's so realistic satires - she left a comment letting me know. We are all knuckleheads for waiting so long to counter attack.

Anonymous said...

You are completely correct. What took us so long?

ed notes online said...

The UFT is a major reason. Instead of leadign the battle as teacher unions aroudn the world are doing, they are allied with the corporate forces and use our dues to run interference for them while obfuscating and deflecting the issues which leads to a confused membership.

Thus, it is left to voices in the wilderness to try to rally people and with so little access to most teachers, who even if we had access, don't give a crap - as our buddy NYC likes to say, "this guy DGAC is the biggest winner in union elections.

So right now it is about finding the few out there to become beacons. Ufotunately, many teachers are so beaten down there is little strength to do much but once the switch gets turned on, they are ready to go.
In the new generation, surprisingly, they will come from TFA and Teaching fellows who do stay in teaching. Many go into it with good hearts and if they hang in they will come do some organizing on some level and maybe even come to see that the union can be a force for positive change - maybe the only force - if in the right hands.