Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Will A Lawsuit Change Anything?

I don't know enough about California's ELA standards which, if they're like the math standards, are Common Core standards with extra California goodies grafted onto them.  Neither do I know what the problem is, why so many California students can't read:
A group of prominent lawyers representing teachers and students from poor performing schools sued California on Tuesday, arguing that the state has done nothing about a high number of schoolchildren who do not know how to read.

The advocacy law firm, Public Counsel, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court to demand the California Department of Education address its "literacy crisis." The state has not followed suggestions from its own report on the problem five years ago, the lawsuit said.

"When it comes to literacy and the delivery of basic education, California is dragging down the nation," said Public Counsel lawyer Mark Rosenbaum, who sued along with the law firm Morrison & Foerster.

Assessments found less than half of California students from third grade to fifth grade have met statewide literacy standards since 2015. Both traditional and charter schools are failing, Rosenbaum said.

Of the 26 lowest-performing districts in the nation, 11 are in California, according to the lawsuit. Texas, the largest state after California, has only one district among the 26.
Of course, this lack of knowledge won't prevent me from offering up a few ideas!  While the problem clearly starts in elementary school, our high school teachers don't get a pass on it.  I remember learning grammar all the way through high school, but grammar isn't sexy enough today.  No, we need to keep reading and writing, not doing the grunt work of actually teaching the construction of our language. 

Don't forget that California went whole hog into "whole language" in the 1990s; how many of our teachers, school and district administrators, and state level education workers still buy into that discredited philosophy?

Is teaching to the state standards a requirement or is it merely strongly encouraged?

Do too many teachers see themselves as social workers first and teachers second?

How many teachers practice "the soft bigotry of low expectations", especially for minority and/or poor students?

So that's a lot of digs at my own profession.  How about a few ideas regarding tying our hands behind our backs?

I wrote recently about suspending, or rather not suspending, misbehaving students.  How big a role does lack of discipline in schools have in a lack of education?

How big a problem is not having "newcomer" classes for recent immigrants?  Just like you couldn't plop me down in a school in Uzbekistan and expect me to do well--no matter how much "realia" the instructor used, or no matter how much vocabulary the instructor "previewed"--it's not reasonable to put newcomers into classes (especially in high school!) and somehow, magically, expect the student's hard work and the teacher's charisma to somehow generate effective education!  Sorry, but Google Translate isn't a good option here.  Give the kids a fighting chance, teach them some English before you put them in classes (again, especially in high school).

Are we being compelled to use techniques besides direct instruction to teach reading?

It's darned embarrassing that California has several of the lowest performing districts in the nation, far more than our fair share.  Something is wrong, but correcting it would require someone to admit a political mistake, and good luck with that ever happening.  (Gerund rule?  Sounds too stilted.)

1 comment:

Ellen K said...

My observation over being in the classroom for a total of 20 years-some in the 80's, 17 years the last go around-is that the focus has changed from doing the greatest good for the greatest number to mixing in social causes to the point of saturation. We have a food/clothing/money drive about every other week. We have students who cannot function in upper level classes because of the misunderstood "free choice" for students. Instead of more rigor, we have to water down classes because the range of abilities are so extensive that trying to address all IEP's and GT goals become impossible. Stop trying to impose social justice goals onto our already overloaded curriculum and LET US TEACH. The kicker for me are the "suicide lessons" we have to "teach" or "facilitate" every year. Having gone through the untimely suicide of a friend's daughter and seeing the aftermath, I am in no mood to facilitate that as the emotions are way too raw. My coworker has lost numerous family members to mental illness and suicide. But do the administrators consider the emotional impact on the staff? No.