Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Generation of Students Under BloomKlein

Last update: Sunday, Dec. 5, 9:30AM

Miss Eyre in a post at NYC Educator called,  The First Joel Klein Generation asks, "Why doesn't there seem to be a difference?" 
It will always be true that students who come from even slightly more privileged families and/or are taught by the creatively subversive teachers will have something of an edge. But the students we're talking about today are coming from schools that were most directly targeted by the Klein/Bloomberg "reforms," and were targeted the entire time these children were in school.
Yes, kiddies, kids who entered kindergarten under the BloomKlein regime are now in the 9th grade and my prediction 7 years ago that the school systems of Kabul and Baghdad will recover sooner than the ones here. Since I have been out of the system for so long and never has to teacher under Klein dictates, I was intrigued by some of the pedagogical comments that seem to apply in so many places.
Karen Sherwood :  We should not forget the all-powerful "point of entry" lesson model which relegates the teacher to the role of facilitator. Teachers should be the "guide on the side", not the "sage on the stage". Hence,we had to give up our role as experts in which we'd use our full period to present information (using the board for notes and diagrams) and to guide full-class discussions with questions and answers. Instead, the teachers had limit themselves to ten-minute mini-lessons, and then put the students into groups where they would teach each other the material. Now we see the results.  
Sad to sayI'm not sure where it came from either, other than out of the idea that talking in groups about a topic is helpful. That morphed somehow into having children "do" something and talk about it being the same as being taught a subject.

The latest math curriculum in my fair city has a noticeable lack of a lesson. First the kids do a fast paced warm-up type activity -- but teachers are not supposed to correct incorrect answers, just note who had problems on your note sheet (while maintaining a brisk pace of calling out problems). Then the kids do a hands-on activity as part of a small group or solve a quick problem as part of a small group (of course, they're "solving" this before they've been taught the concept) and then you guide the kids to talk about their solutions. THEN you point out where the book actually tells you how to do these things (as far as I could tell, this was where an actual lesson would have been and could be inserted) and do one or two problems as examples.

Then they work in small groups to do a few assigned problems (or individually if you're really old school) while the teacher walks around but doesn't provide any help (though s/he can ask "guiding questions") and notes who seems to be getting it and who doesn't. Then you call students up in increasing order of the complexity and correctness of their answers and discuss the sim. and diff. of the answers, all the while trying to hold the attention of the kids who already had it ages ago and the kids who never got it and have by now tuned out. At the end of that, you wrap up by rereading the objectives and asking a couple of high-level questions.

Top off this curricular extravaganza with a chunk of "differentiated instruction" where you work with a small group (maybe today's kids who didn't get it according to your notes...or the kids who didn't get it yesterday...) while the rest of the kids do related activities in, you guessed it, small groups. As long as it looks like they're talking about/doing math that seems to be enough. It's up to you during this time if you attempt to answer questions of those working independently while you try to teach a small group, or if you just circulate putting out fires.

Rinse and repeat. No time in the pacing for reteaching -- though of course, you must have notes from every day of who you will reteach in some mystical time not found in the regular course of the day.

By the way, there are attacks on the Teachers College as being responsible. I have supported many of the progressive ideas coming out TC but the way it was implemented without taking into account class size and other factors. I was once mentoring a 2nd grade 2nd year Teaching Fellow in Park Slope who was doing the Workshop model for writing - and doing quite a nice job of it. She had 22 kids and all but one seemed capable of working independently. But that one child kept interfering with her individual meetings with the other students. I suggested she give him a workbook to keep him busy so she could deal with the other kids. "Oh, we're not allowed," she said - Carmen Farina was the Dist. 15/Region 8 Supt at the time. So better to allow a more unproductive setting than violate a cardinal rule of TC, thus not taking account of reality.

Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest:


  1. Norm, now foward to how this plays out today. If you are not having children 'engaged in group work' during the lesson(s) that your AP observes, you are told that your lesson is 'too teacher centered'.
    Note to newbies: Have a group work canned lesson available for your observation. This is how my collegues and I survive to earn satisfacory ratings.

  2. And don't forget to call your students "scholars."

  3. I'm not a fan of TCRWP (also known as TC Readingand Writing Project or simply "The Project) but I'm sure it works quite well with certain student populations. It does not provide struggling students with the skills they need to become proficient readers and writers (ESL students, students whose parents have not provided them with rich experiences and oral language, etc.)

    I've heard that even Lucy herself realizes that TCRWP is a disservice to struggling students and is causing many students in TC schools to perform abysmally on standardized tests. She is now encouraging more test prep, more phonics and other programs to help correct the situation.

    The sad thing is that it took her 8 years to realize what most classroom teacher figured out from the onset. I don't think the NYC DOE will figure it out for another 8 years.

  4. Funny, today I made a huge poster that reads " talk about it with a partner, have a conversation" I expect that you will all stay on topic. Accountable talk is very important. I was also told by a leading expert in TC that I didn't have to read the books , just walk around and have a conversation with my students. Give me a break!


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