Accountable for binder stuffing

“Mrs. Lipstick” teaches special education students who are too disabled to take standardized tests. Instead, teachers assemble binders with worksheets students have filled out to show they’ve been taught the same curriculum as non-disabled students. There’s no time to design and teach meaningful lessons, she writes on Organized Chaos.

I’m supposed to give a child a meaningless worksheet, briefly teach the subject and then re-teach it over and over again until the child can perform it for that worksheet only. Then I put the worksheet into a plastic sleeved binder along with all the other worksheets that have been a complete waste of time and I submit it for a grade. A meaningless grade because the child isn’t actually expected to know the information because I wasn’t expected to actually teach the information. It is a binder just for show.

Parents of intellectually disabled children don’t want this, she writes.

I can’t imagine one of my parents saying, “Oh yes, I want to know that my child can identify the Powhatan Indians on a worksheet. . . . That’s more important than knowing how to safely cross the street, identifying the letters, telling me that they love me, or counting to 10. And make sure it is on a worksheet. Not a fun hands-on activity that can help my child distinguish between American Indians and settlers, but a worksheet.”

Why spend the time on worksheets and binders? It’s supposed to show special education teachers are being held accountable, she writes.

Why should all children be taught the same lessons, regardless of their abilities?

Algebra II mandate gains momentum

Algebra II is becoming a required course in a growing number of high schools, reports the  Washington Post.

Of all of the classes offered in high school, Algebra II is the leading predictor of college and work success, according to research that has launched a growing national movement to require it of graduates.

In recent years, 20 states and the District have moved to raise graduation requirements to include Algebra II, and its complexities are being demanded of more and more students.

In Arkansas, which now requires Algebra II for most graduates, only 13 percent of students passed a rigorous end-of-course exam.

“All those numbers and letters, it’s like another language, like hieroglyphics,” said Tiffany Woodle, a Conway High School student and an aspiring beauty salon owner. “It obviously says something. I’m just not sure what, sometimes.”

As part of its push for higher standards to prepare students for college, Achieve has promoted Algebra II. The skills learned in the course are needed for college and in the workplace, the group claims.

But Georgetown’s Anthony Carnevale, one of the researchers who reported the link between Algebra II and good jobs, says that just because taking the class correlates with success doesn’t mean that it causes success.

“The causal relationship is very, very weak,” he said. “Most people don’t use Algebra II in college, let alone in real life. The state governments need to be careful with this.”

The danger, he said, is leaving some kids behind by “getting locked into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.”

Does Tiffany really need advanced algebra to run a beauty salon?

Economist Russ Roberts, who’s married to a math teacher, warns of a one-fad-fits-all mandate on Cafe Hayek.

Teachers still have genres in Minnesota

Schools have decided to adopt Balanced Literacy in District 719, Prior Lake-Savage, Minnesota.

But it’s not all bleak. Teachers will still be able to assign some books. According to the Savage Pacer,

Every reading class – which includes all K-5 classrooms and grade six through eight reading and English classes – will receive a “classroom library” consisting of around 250 age-appropriate fiction and nonfiction books from a variety of genres, said Greene. But despite the new approach to give students an array of reading options, teachers still will be able to assign some texts to entire classes.

“There’s going to be a balance,” the coordinator said. “It’s not going to be always that free-for-all reading. Teachers still have genres and they still have to introduce students to different things.”

What’s wrong with the existing curriculum? It’s “one size fits all,” says Greene.

Well, so is Balanced Literacy, but in a different way. Balanced Literacy focuses on reading strategies. Dan Willingham argues–and I agree–that content knowledge affects reading comprehension more profoundly than reading strategies do. But teachers under BL must focus on strategies nonetheless.

The phrase “one size fits all” is another example of the “witchery of words.” Anything can be called “one size fits all.” We must ask, one size of what? And all of whom?