As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Obama's Race to the Top competition, many of us are contemplating whether or not it was a success. After much reflection, I decided to write an opinion piece, assessing it on its merits. Toward the end of the piece, I will issue a letter grade (A-F) denoting the result of my evaluation.
In my last post, I talked about the reasons I feel that teachers should get behind the push to support year-round schooling and how more consistent time in the classroom will lead to higher student performance, boosting teacher accountability ratings and accommodating a much more streamlined education process. Today I want to look at the common reasons that people are against switching from a summers-off school calendar to a year-round schooling model.
When public schools first started popping up in the U.S., they were considered secondary to other hands-on pursuits. Learning to read, write and perform basic arithmetic in classrooms was not equal to or greater than the actual work of building the nation and keeping up family farms.
Last spring, while millions of American students were bubbling in answers to multiple-choice questions on the ubiquitous tests that determine school and teacher ratings, student promotions, graduation, and college admissions, some students were meeting a higher standard. At the Urban Academy, a second chance high school in New York City that is part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, Gemma Venuti completed the set of research papers that were part of her graduation portfolio — and defended them before a committee of teachers, students, and experts from outside the school.
Think back on your education - all those years sitting in classrooms and diligently taking tests. If I asked you to name the best teacher you had, or to explain why that teacher was so great, could you do it?
From an idealogical perspective, the differences that divide Americans are also what make the nation unique and great. When it comes to education, however, there seems to be a competing theory that differences should be dismissed in favor of finding a standardized way to teach all K-12 students. Time and again when it comes to national policy on education, stringent sets of benchmarks are consistently put in place that are accompanied with funding incentives. The latest example of this one-size-fits-all approach to education policy is Common Core standards and the testing that goes with them.
It's been said that Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but in the case of Common Core implementation, I'd say the word "parent" could easily be inserted. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, message boards - you do not have to look very far to find a post, thread or entire account dedicated to a common hatred for Common Core. Facebook pages titled "Common Sense against Common Core" and "Against Common Core" have fans who are passionate about dismantling the initiatives that are ruining the educational journey of their kids and dumbing them down for testing.
There isn't anything in recent educational history that has caused more of a stir than the implementation of national Common Core standards in most states. Everyone from politicians to parents has an opinion on these learning benchmarks and their corresponding testing systems.This has all led to a firestorm of questions surrounding the future of K-12 education in the U.S. and whether one streamlined goal program can really be effective with all students.
School systems do not need sweeping change in educational practice to effectively address the growing numbers of ELLs in U.S. public schools—we just need better streamlining of the technology that exists. With better tracking, documentation, and communication, ELL educators will be able to better reach their students and our ELLs will experience a stronger education.
Any tools that can free up teachers' time to dedicate to actual teaching are ones that schools should seek out. There is no reason that the profession of teaching shouldn't improve its efficiency as the technology becomes available, and Alma is a frontrunner in making this happen in K-12 schools across the country.