Mike Cope's blog

Friday, September 30, 2005

My message on "Women, Gifts, and Ministry" is now available on the Highland website. Click here to listen to it. (Warning: it's 68 minutes.) - - - - God bless you teachers. All of you. Those who still have the vision of participating in the mission of Christ through your teaching, nurturing, and disciplining of young lives. I especially want to bless those of you who are in hard places (and isn't this most of you?) where there isn't much parental support, where school boards seem more interested in test scores than in learning, and where your students don't have all the advantages. Probably some of you wish you could do what I do: be a minister for Jesus. Are you kidding me? You are the front-line ministers! You are in the nooks and crannies of the mission of Jesus Christ. Your teaching, your love, your nurturing, your encouragement -- that's the best hope many of your students are going to have. Unfortunately, many of them don't have moms and dads who are teaching, loving, nurturing, and encouraging. And it's almost as if "the system" has forgotten them. "The system" has too much to prove about educational reform, test scores, etc. But while all that happens, it's still you in a classroom with twenty or so kids. (If you teach middle school or above, it's a revolving door of kids.) - - - - One burden that many teachers have today (probably everywhere, but at least in Texas) is knowing that they're being judged by the way their students perform on tests. It would be much better to ask, "Have we moved this students forward?" but that's not measurable. And, of course, we want to quantify! So we have tests. Here's a piece Larry James just ran on his blog. It's written by Joshua Benton and appeared in the Dallas Morning News. (Keep in mind as you read that in the vast majority of instances, the problem isn't the teacher but the pressure of teaching to a test.) TAKS push not so equal Monday, September 19, 2005 The Dallas Morning News Sometimes it takes an outsider. Something you've seen a thousand times may seem as normal as heat in a Texas summer - until someone new stops in and points out just how wrong it is. That's how I felt when I read an academic paper by Jennifer Booher-Jennings, a grad student at Columbia. She spent months observing how a Texas elementary school prepared for the TAKS test. (She promised not to reveal its identity in exchange for the access.) Her paper didn't tell me much I hadn't seen repeatedly across the state. But I'd never really stopped to think through the damage well-meaning educators can cause in pursuit of a high passing rate and a good school rating. Here's how it worked at the school she watched. In the fall, teachers gave students a sample TAKS test. Based on the results, students were divided into three groups: passers at the top, remedial kids at the bottom and bubble kids in between. The bubble kids are the ones whose scores put them just below the state's passing standards. (That varies from grade to grade, but kids generally have to get 65 percent to 70 percent of questions right to pass the TAKS.) The bubble kids are the ones who, with a coordinated effort, can be pushed over the passing bar. And pushing kids over that bar is everything in Texas. So how did the educators at this particular school react? By pouring all the resources they could into the bubble kids. The bubble kids get special sessions with the school's reading specialist. The bubble kids get after-school and Saturday tutoring. The bubble kids get small-group attention in class. The bubble kids get extra reading time with librarians and the P.E. teacher. All that's great if you're a bubble kid. That extra time and attention works - those kids usually end up passing TAKS. But what if you're one of the "remedial" kids - everyone below the bubble? You get the shaft. Teachers aren't stupid. They realize they're going to be judged on how many of their kids pass - not how much improvement they can squeeze out of their weakest kids. So they go after the low-hanging fruit: the bubble kids. Here are some direct quotes from the teachers Ms. Booher-Jennings interviewed: "I guess there's supposed to be remediation for anything below [a TAKS score of] 55. But you have to figure out who to focus on in class, and I definitely focus more attention on the bubble kids." "If you look at her score [pointing at one student's score], she's got a 25 percent. What's the point in trying to get her to grade level? It would take two years to get her to pass the test, so there's really no hope for her." "If you have a kid who is getting a 22, even if they improve to a 40, they won't be close. But if you have a kid with a 60, well, they're in shooting range. ... Some kids are always going to be left behind, especially in this district, when we have the emphasis on the bubble kids." As one teacher said of the remedial kids: "It's really a lost cause. They must have fallen through the cracks somehow." These are third-graders we're talking about. These kids are getting written off as hopeless cases before they turn 9. Ms. Booher-Jennings only visited one school. But I've talked to dozens of teachers who do some version of the same practice. Principals call it being "data-driven." I call it an excuse to ignore the weak. But it isn't just the weakest students who lose in this system. Bright kids, the ones schools know are going to pass, don't get much attention either. Neither do the special education kids whose scores don't count against the school, or the kids who transfer into a school after October and aren't counted for ratings either. Here's the criminal thing about focusing so much attention on the bubble kids: All it does is make the adults look better. It makes teachers look better when their classrooms' passing rates are posted in the teacher's lounge. It makes principals look better when they get called to a meeting in the central office. It makes superintendents look better when test scores get published in the newspaper. And it makes legislators look good when the statewide passing rate marches up every year. But does it help children when teachers are willing to pour hours into turning a 64 into a 71 - but consider moving a kid from a 31 to a 59 not worth the effort? It's the precise opposite of "no child left behind." I hope every TAKS-giving teacher reading this asks herself a simple question: Is there anything I do for bubble kids that I don't do for weaker kids? And if the answer is yes: How can I justify that? The final irony in Ms. Booher-Jennings' paper comes from one constant among almost all of the teachers she interviewed. They always complained about their colleagues in earlier grades. Those other teachers didn't do enough to prepare these kids when they had them, the teachers argued. Now these hopeless cases are going to lower my passing rate. Gee, I wonder how those kids on the bottom got there? Perhaps if they'd gotten the same attention the bubble kids had, their futures wouldn't seem quite so hopeless.


  • Mike,
    I'm glad to see this being put out for people to see. While I think most educators also want this story told, I think it is important for us to remember that very few teachers like this approach. The article seems to lump teachers in as quasi-sinister participants becuase they want the scores to reflect positively on them...the truth is that if the scores don't reflect positively on them, they know that they'll be taking their teaching certificate to McDonald's with the kids that dropped out after failing the TAKS test!

    I think the only two groups of people who are fans of these standardized tests are legislators who are afraid of not being able to show that they're doing something to combat poor education and uninformed people who have been hoodwinked to think that this is that something.

    Kudos to you Mike for supporting our teachers and our students.

    By Blogger Bret Wells, at 9/30/2005 05:38:00 AM  

  • Bret makes a good point. It would appear this fine, upstanding journalist considers the teacher the ring-leader of this woeful plot to keep slow children slow.

    The real root problem, as we all know, goes back to the home, not the classroom. The problem is not this teacher, nor is it standardized testing. I would encourage you to read the life of Dr. Ben Carson (http://www.drbencarson.com/snapshot-body.html) One of our most brillian surgeons was saved from poverty and drug-running, not by a teacher or a test, but by his mother. How do we give all mothers this same hope? That's the key question.

    By Blogger KentF, at 9/30/2005 05:54:00 AM  

  • Kent stole my thunder. I worked in two school districts (Dallas area), in a suport staff role. I can recount endlessly the lack of parental involvement resulting in kids who are low performing and bubble kids and the rest, for that matter.

    Parents today have given their God given rights over to the state to be educator and parent to their children. Most of the teachers I know are there teaching because they feel called.

    I also will point out, in Texas, there are essential elements that have to be mastered for each grade. The cirriculum is tied to the essential elements. The administrators need to allow the teachers to teach the cirriculum and not teach to the TAKS test. I see most of our tax dollars going to high paid administrators who have no clue what goes on in the classroom.

    Trim the fat and pay the teachers what they deserve, because after all, teachers do indeed touch the future.

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 9/30/2005 06:23:00 AM  

  • Hoots (and others):

    That's EXACTLY what I wanted to say today. Great post.

    Parental involvement is a horrible problem. How do you get children to learn when they don't have it modeled or encouraged at home? But that's how it is for so many of our children. Therefore, we need to do everything we can to pour our resources into the teachers: the women and men who stand on the front line of Christ's mission to these children.


    By Blogger Mike, at 9/30/2005 06:44:00 AM  

  • Mike, I am humbled at your compliment.

    Contribute it to great teachers who cared and parents who whooped my fanny when I needed it. LOL

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 9/30/2005 07:30:00 AM  

  • Wow,
    I am a teacher at a middle school in the Irving area. It is a Title I school, meaning it is at the low end of the totem pole as far as "money" goes. Most of our dollars are from the state. We don't get the money that we need if we don't have the right scores on the TAKS test. Our teachers are teaching the TAKS test. There is absolutely no creativitiy allowed in the classroom. Each teacher has to teach the same thing each day to meet the "TEKS checks." It is horrible. I actually teach choir, but this affects me more than anyone. I have kids who sign up for my class who are pulled out dailey for things such as "Taks Tutoring" and "Read Right."
    Our school actually was written up in the paper for our "SDAA" scores. Those are the scores of our special education kids. We actually got that appealed and got the money we needed because the state went about it wrong.

    All these things I do not understand. I just try to take advantage of the freedom I have in my classroom I don't have to focus on the TAKS test and I should feel greatful. But, daily I see teachers that are miserable because they don't get to be 'true teachers.'

    Our school has little to no parent involvement. You would think I would have tons of parents willing to help with field trips, concerts, etc.. Nope..so I use the other teachers. It's really awful! But, I attempt to love on these kids as much as I know how. They are hard to teach. Their behavior his modeled by "something" at home. Something that makes them not care, because noone cares at home. I struggle daily to find a happy medium and hope these kids understand that my "discipline will bring about love." Some have noticed...I sometimes notice....

    Thank you.
    Molly Carrigan (ACU graduate, Cooper HS graduate.)

    By Blogger Finally an Abrigg....., at 9/30/2005 07:42:00 AM  

  • So much truth here, and some of it so very sad.

    The situation here in California is the same. Our TAKS is the CAT6 and our "bubble kids" are "fourth quintile kids" but everything else is identical. I have never worked with finer teachers than I do at my current high school and yet the expectations put on us are so ridiculous that our morale seems to drop every year. Last week we were told that by the year 2015, 100% of our students were expected to score Proficient or better on the test. Yeah. Sure.

    The truth is that we make individual choices in our classrooms. MOST of us choose to serve ALL of our students the best we can (and that number is not 20, Mike, it's 40). MOST of us choose to love on them and respect them and be there for them with both hugs AND hypotheses, bandaids AND binomials.

    I've thought about doing what you do, Mike...many times. But my ministry is here. Thanks for your words of encouragement.

    By Blogger Thurman8er, at 9/30/2005 08:23:00 AM  

  • I find it interesting that no one seems concerned that the brighter students are not being taught, either. Do they not deserve to be given the chance to do their best?

    Perhaps the problem lies in a school system where local control has gone the way of local funding. Teachers should be allowed to teach to the students in their class, to their needs and to their strengths. No administrator or beaurocrat can possible know the students in a class like the teacher and parents can.

    Further, this may argue for doing away with the monopoly of "public" education. Why not let each parent choose what is best for their child. Provide public funding for all students, and let educators compete to provide the best educational opportunity possible.

    By Blogger epic, at 9/30/2005 08:30:00 AM  

  • The reason we have a TAKS test in Texas is because teachers were not doing their job. The TAKS is one standard of accountability in a place where you seem to want no accounability.
    The reason college students go into teaching is because after 12 years of watching it modeled for them they know that they could do at least as well. Try watching Jeopardy with an elementary education major sometime. They don't know jack, save the one or two examples you could give me.

    By Blogger c hand, at 9/30/2005 09:16:00 AM  

  • Just a few statistics from this week's Business Week relative to your post earlier this week re: time management.

    - Over 31% of college-educated male workers are regularly logging 50 or more hours per week at work, up from 22% in 1980.

    - About 40% of American adults get less than 7 hours of sleep on weekdays, up from 34% in 2001.

    - Almost 60% fo meals are rushed, and 34% of lunches are choked down on the run.

    - To avoid wasting time, we're talking on our cell phones while rushing to work, answering e-mails curing conference calls, waking up at 4a.m. to call Europe, and generally multitasking our brains out.


    And this doesn't even deal with the rest of the populace that is brain dead from running around in a general state of chaos, because that is just what is expected of us as we raise our over stimulated next generation.

    I think I will close my office door, turn off the Blackberry/Phone/etc. and take a nap. Clearly, I need it.

    By Blogger Paul W, at 9/30/2005 09:47:00 AM  

  • I am a little offended C Hand. I, and many others, did not go into teaching because we thought it would be easy. A lot of us, if not all of us, wanted to make a difference in a life. I do not want to toot my own horn, but I am a smart person. Jeopardy is not going to help any individual make it through everyday situations. I am a middle school teacher of science, but I also teach kids how to handle other things. I've spoken with kids that had a parent or sibling in jail. I've spoken with kids that have to deal with gangs threatening them. I have spoken with kids that have little food and no clothes. I am smart enough to help them AND pass the TAKS test. I HATE the TAKS test. I'm a responsible professional. Do not say that those of us that were in elementary education are looking for an easy ride because we don't think we can do something more difficult. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs out there!

    By Blogger Brooke, at 9/30/2005 10:01:00 AM  

  • To c hand:
    Actually, I do know Jack. He's a precious little boy in my classroom, for whom I daily pray about because he has no one at home who truly cares for him. For the 180 days I'll have him, I'll do my best to teach him all the "reading, writing and arithmetic" that I can. Most important to me, I hope that he leaves my class knowing that he is deeply loved by his teacher and that he should always treat others the way he wants to be treated. If I accomplish those two things, I will feel successful. Maybe that should be a jeopardy question...or is it answer?

    Yes, there are teachers who don't do their jobs well. Yes, there are teachers who become TAKS obsessed. For the most part, though, teachers are there to help every child be the best they can be.

    And now to lighten the mood, I pasted the "Football Version of No Child Left Behind" that has worked it's way around the web.

    1. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.

    2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL.

    3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. Coaches will use all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents don't like football.

    4. All coaches will be proficient in all aspects of football, or they will be released.

    5. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th and 11th games.

    6. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals.
    If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.

    By Blogger Kendra, at 9/30/2005 10:12:00 AM  

  • I just cut and pasted the comment I left on Larry's blog when he posted this same article.

    Just food for thought... I was informed this week that the FEDERAL funds the district that my kids attend receives amounts to 1% of the total input for the district. Hard to believe, huh? The STATE funds my kid's district receives is only 36%, the rest is LOCAL tax dollars. The district we're in is very middle class, but is considered a "poor district" because we don't have any business tax base to speak of. What this tells me is that WE are the ones mostly funding our kids' education, therefore, WE need to step up to the plate and work for change that will benefit ALL STUDENTS. It has been a tough ride for us so far having kids at the "top" who are also frequently left out by the famous "teaching to the middle". (Stepping off my soapbox now.)

    By Blogger Amy Boone, at 9/30/2005 11:05:00 AM  

  • I read your blog daily, but this is the first time I have felt compelled, yes compelled, to write a comment. Your post is right on target! As a recently retired elementary school principal (one of those administrators!), I can tell you from my heart that not all administrators are out of touch with what goes on in the classroom. One of the reasons I retired was because I was fed up with the system.
    If a school's students do not perform at least at the "Recognized" level, campus administrators are placed on a growth plan. That growth plan trickles down to what the teachers are expected to do and on down to the students. It is outrageous!
    I am a firm believer in accountability, c hand; however, accountability can be taken way to far and override what is truly best for children.
    I have worked with some of the finest, most dedicated teachers. It is, in my humble opinion, not the fault of teachers, administrators, etc. It is not even the parents who deserve the brunt of the so called "blame." It is the fact that we have allowed ourselves to be legislated into this situation. Until parents, teachers, administrators, all of us, rise up in protest of this situation, it will not get any better. Teachers and school personnel are so involved in having to "play the game" to keep their livelihood, that it is incumbent upon the rest of us to start inundating our legislators with our concerns about this current system. We need to advocate acccountability, but in a more reasonable, meaningful way. I urge everyone to continuaously contact your legislators about this.
    And may God bless all of the dedicated educators who are trying to do their best to educate and be Jesus to their students!

    By Blogger Nellie, at 9/30/2005 11:13:00 AM  

  • Jeopardy is about knowing facts. The last time I checked there is a lot more to knowlege than facts. Intelligence is not about facts but about being able to rationalize, deduce, in short: think. The problem with the TAKS is that it does not keep teachers accountable for what they should be doing. They should be teaching these kids to think for themselves. Teachers who are forced to help their students pass a test are not teaching them to do anything but just that. I teach theatre arts but I have been required to sit in on these TAKS sessions. Last fall when we were discussing essay writing we learned that there is basically a formula for writing a passing essay. If that formula is followed it doesn't matter how well the student can spell, demonstrate correct grammar, or even show creativity or original thought, if the formula isn't followed he or she will not pass. In Dead Poet's Society Robin Williams character has the students rip the intruduction to their literature book out. It is an essay by "J. Evans Prichard" that illustrates the correct formula for deciding the quality of a poem. John Keeting (Williams) calls it excrement, and that is what I think of the TAKS.

    By Blogger Kyle, at 9/30/2005 11:25:00 AM  

  • I don't believe the teachers are the problem in a majority of the cases. Although, there are some really bad teachers, who need to be called to task. The main problem, as I see it, with money is that the administrators don't know how to be accountable for the $$$ they dish out. Their administrative abilities directly affect our kids. I believe there should be some sort of "standardized testint" for public school administrators to show they have the competency to handle children's public school $$$$$. And I will add that getting the federal government involved in the teaching of our students is a bomb waiting to go off. Check out our founding documents. Federal government shouldn't have a roll in education. But public outcry is a strong arm of persuation. We've raised a generaton of people who believe the federal government should supply all our needs. Those that believe this will always be disappointed in the results and our children will alway be the ones to feel it the most.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 9/30/2005 11:31:00 AM  

  • I sure would like to see the funding system changed, and teachers not be asked to take a vow of poverty when entering this career.

    To have districts max out at $1.50 per hundred dollars of property value is criminal, in my opinion.

    I have to laugh when I hear people complain about their property tax rates. In New Jersey, the home we have there is taxed at $2.74 per hundred dollars of property (just for the school). Are the schools better there? I don't know. Are the teachers paid better? Um, yeah. A teacher with a master's degree earns over $80k after 15 years of service in the district that I've seen the pay scale in South Jersey.

    To pay teachers WAY less than average income, and to ask students to raise funds to get pretty basic things funded is just plain wrong.

    Raise my taxes!


    By Blogger jds, at 9/30/2005 11:32:00 AM  

  • This may sound fairly elitist, and probably very un-American, but the school system I was in in South Africa seemed to do a decent job.

    Students were tested and then separated, into different classes. The kids who did well were put into Standard 6-A, the not so well, in 6-B, and the lower performing ones in 6-C. Yeah, this might have perpetuated the distinction between people who performed well in school, rather than making everyone equal. BUT, it did put me in class with people able to perform at a similar level, with teachers who could expect certain standards of work (not being dragged down by "poorer" students), and we got the type of teaching we needed. Similarly, those in 6-C got the type of teaching they needed, and it didn't restrict those "brighter" students, who may have not been challenged by the work.

    But, this also took place in a society where it was understood that not all men were created equal, and that some are suited to being doctors and lawyers, and some people need to be carpenters and mechanics and so on. Wow, that DOES sound elitist, but isn't there some truth in that?

    Is it part of the American myth that any person, if they work hard enough, can be anything they want to be?

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 9/30/2005 11:37:00 AM  

  • Jonathan,

    It is perfectly legal for you to give more money to the school district. Why don't you just write a check for the amount you wish your taxes would be increased?

    By Blogger epic, at 9/30/2005 11:40:00 AM  

  • Epic - Of course your response to Jonathan is meaningless. Jonathan's extra bucks would change nothing. He wants to participate in something that would matter -- like having taxes raised across the board. It's called "paying your dues" -- paying for the privilege of living in such an amazing country, just as people before have done. Sacrificing so children can be taught. (Also, concerning your comment that no one cares about the brighter kids: read the post again more slowly, and then follow the comments carefully. Children who perform well deserve great attention, but they're also likely to be getting more reading and encouragement at home.)

    C-hand, I assume you're not really serious. The last thing I want in a classroom is a Jeopardy winner. I doubt that my wife would do well in a game of Jeopardy. But she's an amazing 2nd grade teacher who pours out her life in the name of Jesus for her students and their families. She's brilliant -- just isn't a "fact rememberer" like Jeopardy winners. However, in her Master's program (with majors in reading and special education), she has learned a LOT about higher-level thinking -- which applies to children no matter what their IQ. It's not good TAKS-test preparation all the time (though it overlaps); but it can transform young lives.

    Again, let me say: blessings on all you teachers and administrators out there who are being underpaid and yet are blessing little ones (and sometimes big ones) in the name of Jesus Christ.

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/30/2005 12:03:00 PM  

  • Teachers,
    If you did not appreciate my Jeopardy reference, let me ask you a question? WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN EDUCATION? Do you not know that there is value in knowing things? (thirst for knowledge, love of learning... ring a bell)
    Can you think of teachers who perform less competently than yourself? If not, where does that place you?
    In 16 years of school I saw excellent teachers (20%), just competent teachers (60%), and some that needed either more accountability or a change of address. To understand the problems in education, reread the parable of the soils.
    Kyle- I think you have probably found your calling as a thespian.

    By Blogger c hand, at 9/30/2005 12:55:00 PM  

  • C Hand, I am truly sorry that you feel that your teachers left you hanging when it came to education. Do know that there are very hard working teachers that are teaching kids with all of their hearts. I challenge you to sub one day for a teacher. What you will experience is one hard day of work...and you didn't even have the work that teachers have outside the classroom. (This is work that most people are totally unaware of.) I have 2 meetings (FCA and student council) after school today. I stay late nearly everyday and come early everyday to tutor kids. My dad, due to the hurricanes, has 192 kids, no conference period, and he drives the school bus. My dad also excells in Jeopardy. :) My dad is the smartest, most caring man I know. He, my friend, is a TEACHER!

    By Blogger Brooke, at 9/30/2005 01:36:00 PM  

  • If all of those who can do and those who can't teach, how does anyone learn anything after the first generation? The only explanation would be that those who teach can do a lot.

    As a former professional teacher and a member of families who teach, administrate, and teach teachers at University, this is a subject close to my heart. I understand nearly everyone's viewpoint that has commented and I don't have a solution. We have been blessed enough to remove our children from the system and homeschool them.

    I also send my encouragement and thanks to the teachers who have stuck with it.

    By Blogger Angel, at 9/30/2005 01:47:00 PM  

  • In response to c hand: How sad that you were not privileged to have 100% excellent teachers. How sad that each of us cannot have 100% excellent doctors, lawyers, accountants, pharmacists,etc. (Forgive my sarcasm.)
    The profession of education is no more perfect than any other profession. I will be the first to acknowledge that there are teachers who need to choose another profession. Unfortunately, the laws and guidelines we have do not make it easy for administrators to force that issue.
    As is so often the case, we hear more about the "bad" teachers than we do about the "great" ones.
    I am offended by your take on educators.
    And, yes, I'm offended by your continued reference to Jeopardy. The simple regurgitation of facts is not an indicator of education. It is an indicator of memorization. Memorization does not always include application. Application of one's education is what can make a difference in a life.
    Perhaps any parent reading this who appreciates the teachers of their children and acknowledges their ability to teach not only "facts and figures" but life skills as well, would take the time to write a note of support and appreciation. I know from personal experience that teachers treasure such notes and letters and keep them to reread and reread. It's what keeps them going in spite of negativity. And if you remember a teacher who made an impact on your life, why not write a letter and let that teacher know?

    By Blogger Nellie, at 9/30/2005 01:58:00 PM  

  • Nellie,
    Kudos to you for being a school principal all those years.
    My point of administrators are the Central Office staff who are out of touch.

    The principals I worked for were outstanding professionals and often juggled and jumped through hoops to please Central Office edicts.

    I am sorry if I offended you.

    By Blogger Hoots Musings, at 9/30/2005 03:09:00 PM  

  • No offense taken, Hoots! I got tired of jumping through those hoops.

    Guess this all just hit a nerve with me today.

    And, c hand, you are more than entitled to your opinions. I just don't happen to agree with them. At least you made some of us take a stand about education.

    By Blogger Nellie, at 9/30/2005 03:34:00 PM  

  • Brooke-
    Thanks for agreeing with me. All my best teachers knew stuff too. I appreciate your simpathy, but I fear it is undeserved. I am of course primarily responsible for any missed educational opportunities. A more attentive mother and more involved father would have helped also, but that's off topic. Home life is of course the trump suit, but it's not pc to talk about. It invariably leads to Plato Republic type solutions(state takes kids, ie no unequal parenting) or anti egalitarian conclusions (we can't all be equal, some will have it better than others) both are bummers.
    It's much more fun to support Mike's solution - more tax, less accountability(no TAKS), more money, less knowledge(no jeopardy winners, very last thing we want,very very last thing), more money...and more money. That will fix it.

    Why are so many of you allergic to Jeopardy( I used it as a way to quickly refer to the vast pools of knowledge that should interest anyone attuned to the world that God has made). Facts are the substance that surround TRUTH and give it form. You shouldn't be scared of it unless you are someone trying to construct their own truth and reality. Besides all that, TEACHERS ARE SUPPOSE TO KNOW STUFF.
    Nellie- I think your post explains alot about the current state of public education.

    p.s. Mike - Maybe you shouldn't have outed your wife as an ignoramus, she might do better than you think.

    By Blogger c hand, at 9/30/2005 04:06:00 PM  

  • C,

    Can I presume your spelling teacher fell in the other 20%?

    S-y-m-p-a-t-h-y. We should all learn the meaning, too.

    By Blogger Grant, at 9/30/2005 04:39:00 PM  

  • I do substitute for our school district. I consider it a part of my ministry to teachers and children. I sub at the pre-K, Head Start level. I sub in the regular classrooms as well as the early childhood special ed and deaf ed classrooms and in early childhood inclusion. This is my 8th year as a sub. Each teacher I sub for is a certified teacher with an Early Childhood certification. They provide a safe, consistant, loving environment for these children. Some of these children experience things no child should ever be exposed to. Each year there seems to be more paperwork and regulations even for these teachers. The Federal government decided to start administering a standardized assessment test for Head Start children about 2 years ago. Each fall and spring this test is administered. (We do not have to wait until upper grades for the standardized tests anymore). In my opinion, this test does not measure the true benefits of this program - the social growth and problem solving skills these children gain during the year. Yet it is still required of each child in the Head Start program.
    I thank God for all the teachers who get to know each child and each learning style. Thank you for staying in education - you have to love the children to remain where many times there is little support, low pay, and new demands every year that take you from giving your time to the children the way you want. Thanks also to the parents who are involved and supportive of their child's teachers. You are touching lives every day.

    By Blogger Kay, at 9/30/2005 08:24:00 PM  

  • 68 minutes on a message about women? *mutters to self* "must've been a series - who preaches that long?!

    Just kidding - I could listen to you talk for probably 90 minutes!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/01/2005 05:32:00 AM  

  • BST had an education post this week, too. Certainly an issue that appeals to me.

    Our daughter is in Kindergarten this year at our local public school. We've been happy with our decision to send her there. It isn't perfect, but it's been a good experience and I dare say, no situation would be exactly perfect.

    I used to teach elementary school in Texas. When I was there, it was the TAAS. I taught 2nd grade, which did not even take the TAAS, but even at that level we felt pressure. Those students would be taking the test the next year in 3rd grade.

    My first year in the public schools (second year to teach) I remember being "afraid" that my principal would come in while my students were coloring and I'd get "in trouble" because the activity didn't specifically relate to TAAS objectives. It got better later with a different principal, but I do remember thinking it was sad that I was being pressured into pressuring the children so much.

    I am all for accountability, but I do believe teachers need a certain amount of flexibility in how they teach the material. I think we have to have certain objectives that need to be taught but teachers should be given the creative license to teach that how they see fit.

    It's a hard line to draw. You've got to hold the students & teachers accountable, but you don't want to turn either of them into robots who just spit out facts.

    Someone mentioned the students needing to be able to THINK, not just know the FACTS. I 100% agree with that.

    We decided on our local public school over a local private school because of that. We already know that our daughter can learn by doing a worksheet. She is the type of 5 year old who loves to sit down and do workbook type work for long periods of time. She is your typical little "loves to play school" kind of girl.

    The private school we toured was VERY structured and didn't seem, to us, to leave much room for any creativity or critical thinking. It seemed to be alot of worksheets and direct teacher lecturing. (Disclaimer: we were only there a short period of time, but this is what we perceived it to be.)

    When we visited the public school, the K classrooms were full of creative opportunities. There was a general feeling of hands-on learning which is exactly what we were wanting. Yes, she does use worksheets sometimes (which I like if used correctly) but she also does endless activities that do not require paper & pencil.

    She comes home singing songs about the value of pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters. She sings songs that help her spell words. "Skipping" is just one of the developmental skills they are to master this year. In order to test the children on this, they all sing "Skip to my Lou" and each have a turn skipping around the circle. How fun is that?!?! They're being tested but in a fun way! (They don't even realize that they're being tested on it.)

    Our daughter is excited about what Miss S will write on the "Morning Message" and talks about what she will share during "Share Time" on the carpet. She thinks during the week about what she will take for Show and Tell and makes sure it begins with the letter of the week. She loves to tell us about what she wrote about in her journal and how Miss S will help her spell words...or she'll just use her phonics skills to sound it out. Most of the words aren't spelled exactly right, but she spells very phonetically.

    My point is this: I think she is being taught to think and be creative as well as being taught the "skills & objectives" the state of SC has set forth for K students. If we had chosen the private school, she might be reading at a higher level and she might be counting further, but I seriously doubt that her creative skills & critical thinking skills would be being used as much.

    She'll get those other facts eventually when she's a little older, but it'll be harder to teach critical thinking when she's older.

    I'm sure her teacher has tons of paper work to fill out and standards to follow, but she does an excellent job of making it fun for the students.

    I will admit that there are times when I feel like she could be challenged more. If we homeschooled her, maybe we could give her those challenges. However, I think she would miss the classroom atmosphere. It has so much to offer, both in the ways I mentioned as well as in the interaction she has with other students of different socioeconomic levels, different races, and from different kinds of families. Having her in this type of situtation has opened up conversations that we need to have with her and it will continue to do so. We're trying to help her to "be a light." (Another disclaimer: I know she could "be a light" in other situtations as well.)

    As her parents, it is OUR JOB to supplement her education with more challenging activites if we feel she needs them. For us (not speaking against anyone else who homeschools)taking her out of her current situation to keep her at home would do more harm for her true love of learning than keeping her there. She IS learning and if we feel she needs more, we can give it to her. It is NOT the school's job to raise our child. We, as parents, have to be responsible for what she learns and how she learns it.

    PARENTS HAVE TO BE INVOLVED! If the bubble kids had parents who truly tried to help their kids, they probably wouldn't (most of them) be bubble kids anymore. We cannot expect miracles from our teachers with no support from the parents.

    Where I taught, unfortunately, we had many parents who couldn't speak English. That makes it very hard for them to tutor their own children, don't you think?!?!

    The state of public education is not perfect...neither is the state of private or homeschool education. We, as parents, need to do all we can to support whichever situation we choose to place our child in. Public education probably will not change unless enough people speak up...respectfully. Also, rather than just speaking up about it, offer a solution!

    I think parental involvement is the key! If you feel your child is lacking something from their school, offer it to them yourselves. Support your child's teacher. Send them a note of thanks! Be involved in the classroom. Let the office staff get to know you because you're there so often. Don't leave the education of your children to someone else.

    Also, remember to thank God for all of the wonderful teachers who are out there!

    Just my $.02 on the whole matter.

    By Blogger Jacinda, at 10/01/2005 07:21:00 AM  

  • "68 minutes on a message about women?"

    Believe me, it seemed like a mere 2 minutes, imo. Wonderful sermon delivered by a master teacher!!

    btw, TL, my pastor/teacher in San Diego NEVER preached less than 45 minutes and he's been known to go as long as 75 minutes. The beauty of these wonderful preachers is that the so-called "long" sermons all seemed to finish much too soon.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 10/01/2005 07:25:00 AM  

  • It seems that there is just too much bureaucracy in education today -- too much government involvement.

    The government needs to take a step back and let teachers teach. And get back to teaching more of the basics -- get the political correctness garbage out of the classroom (it's nice to live in a small town where a lot of that PC stuff is not tolerated by us parents).

    Teachers needs to expect a lot out of students, administrators need to expect a lot out of teachers, and parents need to expect a lot out of all three. And yes, parents have got to be more involved.

    Also, the teacher's union (N.E.A.) needs to be overhauled -- and most of the national leadership should be canned. If more teachers would do what several here in Ohio have done (either rejected the union all together, or had their dues reallocated), the union would be forced to make changes.

    And finally, I agree with the one who said there needs to be more choice in education. The monopoly of public education is not a good thing. Competition will give us a better product at a lower price.

    There, that's not too much to ask, is it? ;-)

    By Blogger Jeff Slater, at 10/01/2005 11:24:00 AM  

  • Mike thanks for your words of encouragement. Your assessment of the state of education in Texas is right on the mark. In my 19 years in the classroom I have seen the pendulum swing toward and away from “accountability” as the emphasis on standardized testing has waxed and waned. The Texas legislature has taken accountability to an entirely new level in recent years, which in my opinion is to the detriment of the education of our children. I am certain that this trend will continue until voters decide to do something about it.
    Unfortunately the current climate is creating tremendous pressure for teachers to become merely test prep instructors. I will not argue that teaching state mandated curriculum is the reason we get paid the big bucks, but there is so much more to a being teacher and more to the point a Christian teacher. If I had to choose between my own children having a teacher who possesses great knowledge or a teacher with little knowledge but great wisdom, I would choose wisdom and better yet I would choose a teacher who has the heart of servant. I am so very thankful that I am surrounded at Highland by so many Christian teacher role models. Jim, Marsha, Dan, Jackie, Jeff, Alan, Dianne, Moses, Foy, Michelle and many, many others are instructing their students in curriculum, but much more importantly are being salt and light to the students in their classrooms. They are imitating Christ in front of many students who have had no other exposure to the gospel. That is the world changing significance of a Christian teacher. By no means are any of us perfect but these teachers are in the trenches every day and fighting the fight year after year.
    The teaching profession like any other is filled with flawed humans who are in their profession for a wide variety of motives and it is unfortunate that C.Hand evidently did not experience outstanding teachers in his school years. My advice is that if he is aware of inadequacies in our schools he should not just complain but should volunteer, substitute or go back to school and become that special teacher that he wished he had experienced.

    By Blogger Jay, at 10/01/2005 07:35:00 PM  

  • Mike-
    Got the tape. Thank you! Have a good Sunday


    By Blogger Nichole, at 10/01/2005 07:35:00 PM  

  • Elementary majors have to take a menu of classes from every subject. They also have to learn how to talk to irate parents, diffuse hostile situations on the playground, quell a crying child, teach every lesson three or four different ways, and teach a child who is not read to at home how letters work and how to read. They have knowledge of many things. They know about things like "phonemes" and "phonics." They know about "foldables," "guided reading," and "syllibication." They know how to organize homework folders, how to record grades in six subjects for 25 different kids.
    My mother, a third-grade teacher, can teach a lesson on simple machines in three different ways, using manipulatives, visuals, and music. In the same day she teaches simple machines, she can also make a child who has been called "a queer" on the playground feel safe and protected while at the same time using her sophisticated investigation skills to figure out who used the slur, why it was used, and how she should address this situation with the entire class. That night she can call the mother, sooth her, and give her advice on how to comfort and protect her son.
    She also knows how to make a new mother with a crying baby at church feel welcome and loved, how to get a one-year-old to hug his Bible, how to be stern, yet loving at the same time, how to get an entire class of students to line up quietly and quickly for lunch, when to laugh with her students and when to "get angry," how to make a Halloween costume out of tin foil and pipe cleaners, how to teach compare and contrast, how to teach all day, tutor students in the afternoon, and still have dinner on the table by 6--
    So, in my experience, elementary teachers know a whole lot. I would say 95% of mine were very good, and they all knew me very well. Which, to me at the time, was the most important knowledge they could have.
    I don't know how well my mother would do at Jeopardy!, but she sure does well knowing people, third graders specifically. And she sure knows how to love unloveable seeming children (and parents).

    c-hand, I wish you could have had my mother or Mrs. Adams or Mrs. Goss. They would have loved you until you could not feel your toes, and then they would have taught you to read, to spell, and do multipication. They are truly amazing and smart women. And I bet if they played you in Jeopardy!, they might kick your butt.

    By Blogger Good Tidings, at 10/02/2005 04:57:00 PM  

  • Just want to say thanks for putting yourself "out there" on so many different fronts- taking the risk of conflict for the fruit that comes from struggle and growth.
    Specifcally I want to say thank you for putting the link to your sermon. I have struggled with this issue for a while now, often feeling "behind the times", compared to others in my culture, age and gender, but not having the permission, in my personal understanding & convictions, to change. I have at times wished that I didn't have the convictions I do have, feeling that somehow it would be easy to adopt the positions of others just because I don't like conflict or attention, but knowing I would not be doing any of those things out of actual faith & sure conviction before God.
    This was the first time that I have been able to see that my interpretations of certain scriptures actually conflict with the whole context of that same passage. Thanks for your study that would open my eyes to that, even when I thought they genuinely already were!
    I am compelled & excited to reconsider some of the passages you mentioned. It is the first time I feel I can take a view of the whole scripture and see consistency from beginning to end in God's character, - not having to battle the meaning of one verse against another, and at the same time not feeling like I would compromise His timeless words just on the basis of responding to current culture and it's effects.
    I certainly still have questions. I imagine that will be the case anytime we really struggle our hardest to make sure we honor Him in trying to understand Him, no matter what that may change or require of us.
    Thank you for your patience, humility and study that deeply respects and honors those on both sides of understanding this issue.
    We often lose the biggest battles that we desire change in because of our lack of respect, grace and humility. In the smallest things, we often find it easy to assume ignorance of those who think, or even just say something differently than we would. We let a "soundbite" define a whole person to us, and in doing become our own worst enemy. You do a great job of compelling us to rise above that, in His Spirit.
    I hope that makes sense. Sorry for the book. Most of all, hear me again say thanks!! You are an amazing servant of His.

    By Blogger heather, at 10/02/2005 08:01:00 PM  

  • Jami-
    It would not suprise me that your mother Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Goss could beat me in jeopardy(brooks dad too). It was my point that good teachers will know alot. It was Mike's opinion that there is no corelation.(mike said "The last thing I want in a classroom is a Jeopardy winner")
    I have had many good teachers and a few great teachers. That is how I can tell the difference between good, not so good and inept. Anyone who really wants good schools must do the same thing I have been doing.
    When you praise "all our hard working teachers" you actually cheapen the work done by our good teachers by failing to distinguish them from the bad teachers.

    I haven't spell-checked any of this so I appologize(appoligize) for any misspellings. I'm poor at spelling, word puzzels...opera trivia on jeopardy...and lots of other things. Should that prevent me from saying educators need to be curious about the world around them.

    By Blogger c hand, at 10/03/2005 10:06:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger tiredteacher, at 10/03/2005 08:10:00 PM  

  • I appreciate your blog and would like to say that it is because of ridiculous bureaucrats sitting around, who haven't set foot in a classroom, yet come up with these incredible plans to fix an educational system that has seemed to work for hundreds of years, therefore we could assume is not really broken, that good, in some cases great, teachers leave the field and hundreds of students suffer from never encountering those teachers. I know, I'm ready to go work at WalMart rather than deal with what my state thinks the educational process should be.

    By Blogger tiredteacher, at 10/03/2005 08:11:00 PM  

  • Tired Teacher! Please do not go work at Wal-Mart. That would be the educational equivalent of quitting your job with the Peace Corp to sell amo to militant tribal warlords! I'm begging you to instead read this from the ACU Optimist (Clicky-poo!) and reconsider.

    I haven't checked this thread in a few days and Mike's moved on so I don't know who will read this but, for C Hand and any others who agree with him let me make this case for you.

    Gary Varner was one of my mentors at ACU and a brilliant man. He is inspiring, a master craftsman, brilliant artist and one of the best teachers I ever had. He would also be the first to out himself as incredibly dislexic. He even wrote a play about it. The play was primarily developed through improvisation. Gary also (or used to) tell stories for Young Audiences of Abilene. He also holds at least two Masters degrees. The way that Gary has found a way to overcome his learning "problem" and encourage a slew of students to overcome whatever was holding them back (In my case, laziness) is nothing short of extraordinary. Oh, and I also learned a heck of a lot from him about technical theatre. I hardly touched a power tool before college and now I teach tech theatre.

    I believe Gary is a prime example of an extrememly effective teacher who does not rely on tests or fact regurgitation in order to teach his students. Could Gary do well in a Jeopardy game? I'm not sure. He'd sweep up if the subject were Theatre. Of course, what Trebec wouldn't be able to see is that inside Gary's head he is going over why that answer wasn't always correct and how there isn't always a right answer, and Trebec would possibly become flustered if Gary were to answer in his own way by taking you on a journey with the question and soon enough you'll realize that this man knows way more than facts, he lives his subject. That is what he does in the classroom. He pushes his students to live it as well. This is how to teach, and in the end it matters very little how many subjective questions a person can answer on a multiple choice test.

    I hope this clears up, C Hand, why I and so many others here take major issue with your corrolation between the ability to do well at Jeopardy and being a teacher. It's because it DOES NOT MATTER ONE SINGLE BIT.

    By Blogger Kyle, at 10/04/2005 09:24:00 PM  

  • Kyle-
    Some standards are easily objectified, others less so. If I ask the question, "Does Keanu Reeves deserve to win an Oscar?", you should be able to answer an emphatic NO. Whether your reasoning is deemed subjective or objective, the answer would be the same.
    Is the best doctor the one who scored best on his written exams. Maybe not, but I'll bet you wouldn't want the one who gave "inee mini minee mo" answers.
    Standardized testing isn't supposed to be all conclusive. It can be a spash of cold water and might damage self-estime but I think we need alot more of it.
    We need better and stronger, not fewer and weaker standards. Standards are what God uses to align our moral compass. People who run from them end up saying things like "It depends what the meaning of 'is' is"(bill clinton)

    By Blogger c hand, at 10/05/2005 12:35:00 PM  

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