Having arrived at the close of the first quarter of the new school year and having completed fall conferences, I find there is not even the briefest pause in the frenzied push to bring all students to my states specified level of reading achievement as evidenced by a specified range of scores on my districts specified assessment. This frenzy continues on as though all children develop neurologically at a specified rate, as though all children mature physically and emotionally at a specified rate, as though their homes, environments, diets, bedtimes, exercise, and life stressors all align with a specified uniformity. It would appear as though a specified time is spent, each evening, reading or being read to by all children in all homes, regardless of all the diversity of cultural and family norms today. Even more ludicrous, it would appear that all time spent by all children in front of all forms of electronic toys and devices, including television and play-stations, is specified including content and duration of time.
The momentum of this frenzy is being maintained and fueled, at least in my world, under the umbrella of the RTI process (Response to Intervention) a procedure of progress monitoring come of age with the passage of IDEA 2004. The constant assessment and data analysis that accompanies this progress monitoring under this RTI paradigm shift is wearing me out, and my peers as well. I find myself caught in a quandary of when and how to carry out formal and informal assessment of benchmarks and progress monitoring during the instructional day. This data, once collected, must be analyzed aside from the demands and rigors of delivering good instruction and mandated curriculum which extend long beyond a reasonable workday. In addition, the reporting and regurgitating of this data takes place before or after the workday with the preparation thereof taking place outside of the workday as well. Those of us who are caught up in this new paradigm know that all these intrusive added variables come at a sacrifice of our energies, time, and our abilities to deliver good instruction and to give the best of ourselves as educators to our students. It has not been specified to us as yet, however, just how to achieve these impossible demands and be good at what we are suppose to be doing, which is to teach to the ends that children learn!
I am discovering, however, that there are some very talented individuals who are very aware of the struggles of educators, like me, desperately trying to make sense of all of this frenzied madness. One such individual is Diane Ravitch, former Assistant Secretary of Education under the first president Bush and a nationally recognized scholar and historian of education. Ms. Ravitch has reversed her stance on issues such as standardized testing, school choice and the No Child Left Behind Act as noted in an article posted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 5, 2010, authored by Maureen Downey a longtime reporter for the AJC, http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2010/03/05/diane-ravitch-education-has-become-search-and-destroy-mission-and-teachers-are-the-targets/. These individuals are also intensely dedicated to the education and the well being of our nations youth as well.
So, as I take this moment to pause at the close of this first quarter of the new school year, this article and the voices it represents, gives me hope in knowing that there are others out there working to make sense of this madness and moving forward toward rational resolutions as well.