Thursday, December 14, 2006


I'm sitting in an enormous teacher's meeting in Plano, Texas... [yawn]...

Don't worry, I'm taking notes, of course, but occasionally she drifts off into miles of data and anecdotes, so I'm also surfing the wi-fi. Whee! This makes the experience WAY more beneficial, because I can also immediately access the information she's referring to, I can Google pertinent items instantly, and I can still pay attention and my hand doesn't get a cramp from trying to write way too much stuff.

It's a beautiful thing. This is the way ALL meetings should be, at least for people like me.

UPDATE: Susan asked for a TAKS update. This meeting really wasn't about that... it was about helping kids improve their writing. Say what you will about standardized testing (most of which is valid complaint, by the way), teaching kids how to write better IS a standard that we English teachers need to achieve. There isn't much that any standardized test can ruin with writing -- you need to learn writing anyway, and it's helpful in the "real world" to be able to extemporize well and quickly, so the TAKS model works for the writing test. That's all that this meeting was about -- how the TAKS officials are scoring the kids' writing samples. None of what she said was outside what a good English teacher should be emphasizing anywhere in the USA.

I can't really speak to the other subjects, but I do know that we're not going to move back to the top of the educational heap by coddling kids and kowtowing to the "every child's a winner" theorists -- "No Child Left Behind" is a pile of crap. Every child needs to have options available to them. Not every child needs to go to college. College needs to be a place where the brightest and best end up, and where the expectations are extremely high. We've made college an expectation, and as a result a college education has cheapened and dumbed-down. I sincerely doubt that most college graduates today could pass an 8th-grade exit exam from a hundred years ago.

If we don't expect kids to pass a standardized test, there really isn't another feasible method of determining educational success (on a large scale) (which IS necessary if public funds are to be used for education, which is an assumption built into our current educational system). However, instead of putting such intense pressure on schools to produce 100% successful test takers, the test should help determine where students go next. If they can't pass it, that's fine. They have other options open to them. It's not the end of the world.

Our mistake is trying to produce perfectly stamped-out clones. Can't be done.

[stepping down off soapbox]

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