stephanie jones

Archive for January, 2008|Monthly archive page

Pell Grants for Kids?!

In justice, kindergarten, NCLB, politics, poverty on January 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Come on Mr. President…do you think a new initiative will disguise the atrocious failure of No Child Left Behind? Despite his (false) claims that Math and Reading scores are higher than ever, George W. Bush continues to search frantically for any potential success story in the realm of education during his administration. It’s time to face the facts, however, and those include:

1. The federal government has never made sufficient funds available to pay for its NCLB mandates in education leaving local districts and state bodies scrambling to pay the bill, often resulting in the elimination of art, music, PE, and other “extra” classes, field trips for children, classroom materials that could be used for hands-on learning experiences, and even in some cases eliminating faculty or support positions. Leaving local schools and states standing with the enormous bill for NCLB mandates is both unethical and unconstitutional.

2. Curricula (ESPECIALLY in schools serving many working-class and poor students and students of color) has been narrowed so much that students no longer have the option of receiving a well-rounded, rich education that can prepare them for being engaged citizens in a democracy. Even in “Math” and “Reading” students are merely being taught to take tests.

3. The testing frenzy is so out of control that even kindergarteners can be found in classrooms sitting at their seats with paper and pencil. For many kindergarten classrooms, long gone are “luxuries” such as recess, rest time, story time, dramatic play, and hands-on exploration.

4. Students are being pushed out of school so they will not bring a school’s overall score “down.”

5. Teachers are pushing every boundary possible, and even some outright “cheating” on tests to avoid the devastating results if a struggling school does not meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

6. Teachers are told to “teach the ones who you think can pass” and essentially forget the others. Geesh…that sounds a lot like leaving children behind.

7. Even affluent suburban schools are finding it difficult to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) because their scores tend to be high to begin with and to consistently increase those scores every single year is nearly impossible. Thus, the testing frenzy and detrimental effects infiltrate all schools with teachers complaining, “everything is about the test!”

Don’t believe me? There are hundreds of publications about the detrimental effects NCLB has had on children, families, schools, teachers, administrators, budgets, test scores, and education. Here’s one of the latest.

No Child Left Behind is up for Reauthorization this spring. Let’s not continue to allow this Act that is designed for inevitable self-implosion to ruin educational opportunities for all children – and most of all for the children who have been underserved by the system for so many generations.

And Pell Grants for Kids is just another way to rape public schools of funding and give public funds to the private and faith-based sector. Yet another attempt to erode public education for all. Can we not see the writing on the wall?

working against assumptions about students…Kyle part 1

In creativity, justice, professional development resources, stephanie jones, teacher education, teaching reading on January 23, 2008 at 3:29 am

Kyle: Learning from a fifth grade reader who can’t find space for his interests

Kyle, a quiet and thoughtful fifth grade African American boy in an urban public school, drew in his writer’s notebook every day. In fact, while the other thirty-three students in his classroom were busy writing something in their notebooks each day, Kyle continued to draw page after page of human-like figures in various poses and wearing various kinds of attire. He was a prolific artist and demonstrated so in his notebook without a single written word accompanying his drawings. His fifth grade teacher was frustrated with him and his lack of engagement in writing (which crossed over to reading as well) and in a conversation with me as a staff developer in her school she reported that Kyle was “resistant” and was probably trying to mask a “learning disability” by focusing on his artwork instead of writing because he also “struggled” in reading. Additionally, the teacher reported that she was considering reporting Kyle and his artwork to the principal because she perceived them to be violent in nature. Kyle was drawing semi-human, cartoon-like characters with swords, blood dripping from the occasional wound on a body, and the characters were often in sparring-like stances with fists clenched and feet ready to kick. The teacher said that though Kyle had never exhibited any violent tendencies in class that this artwork may be the workings of something going on inside him, and that these terrible thoughts should be officially reported to the principal, the psychologist, his family, and maybe to the local police. In addition to Kyle not writing a single word during the first month of school in writing workshop, he had drawn himself into a pathology – one that was being read by his teacher as struggling academically, resistant to reading and writing, an unidentified learning disability, potentially dangerous, and reason for official reporting.

And then came the turn-around for Kyle’s teacher…

When that concerned, well-intended, frustrated teacher finished telling me about Kyle she waited with wide eyes, hoping that she had found the person with a magical answer to all the problems she saw in Kyle and his classroom practices. Instead of offering a solution I asked the first question that came to mind: “What does Kyle say about his drawings?”
The young teacher looked at me quizzically, “I don’t know.”
Genuinely surprised I asked, “You haven’t asked him?”
The teacher responded, “No. Should I?”
“Of course. We can’t know where to go from here until we start to understand what this artwork is doing for him.”
Kyle’s teacher agreed to have an open-ended conference with him during the week and bring what she learned back to me the following week.

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