Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!

Super Teacher's Job is Never Done!
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Teaching is the profession that teaches all the other professions. ~ Author Unknown

My goal is to reveal one teacher's humble journey of self-reflection, critical analysis, and endless questioning about my craft of teaching and learning alongside my middle school students.

"The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called 'truth'." ~ Dan Rather

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How do we REALLY make classes more rigorous for our children??

With another budget crisis, class sizes are rising, numbers of teaching positions are dropping, and frustration among staff and parents is at an all-time high. With the ongoing push for accelerated, rigorous, gifted and talented (GT) instruction K-12, middle schools are also feeling the brunt of the beast. 

Every year, more and more students are pushed into advanced classes who are not ready or capable for the challenge -- at least yet. The result? Numerous classes, especially English and math courses, are filled with students with an enormous range of reading, skill, comprehension, and thinking abilities. 

Do not get me wrong. I am all for teachers differentiating their instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Totally. What I am not a fan of, though, is the consistent "watering down" of advanced grade-level curriculum and attempt to "teach to the middle." What results are high-achieving students who are not challenged, struggling students who feel even more frustrated, and teachers who ultimately feel depleted and unsuccessful. 

While I could go on and on, I thought you may be interested in some recent news in my county by a group of vocal parents finally expressing their concern over these classes:
As I mentioned at last night's Delegate Assembly, the Board Of Education has been receiving testimony of late in support of a campaign to eliminate the state-mandated identification of gifted and talented (GT) students.  The proponents of this campaign have stated their ultimate intent to eliminate any grouping of students by ability within [our county], which they describe as "tracking," in favor of placing all students in one-size-fits-all classes in which all students are expected to reach the same level of achievement.   

MCCPTA will be testifying next week to remind the Board of our stated positions, set forth in two recent resolutions, in favor of continued identification of GT students and continued recognition that a single level of instruction, no matter how rigorous, cannot meet the needs of the entire spectrum of students.  

The "No Labels" and "anti-tracking" campaign have been among the drivers behind the elimination of honors and GT instruction opportunities in favor of all students being placed in "advanced" classes in middle school and having their options for advanced instruction in high school limited to AP classes.  While many of us have mixed feelings about the necessity of labeling students as "GT" or "not GT," identificaiton of gifted students is mandated by state law.  Many of us also recognize that throwing out all academic grouping will harm students at ALL levels who need instruction tailored to their needs.  Numerous studies have shown that students at all ability levels benefit from flexible ability grouping that allows them to learn with peers and move between groups when ready. In addition, MCPS itself has issued a report saying that county teachers have not been able to "differentiate" effectively in our heterogeneous classrooms with our huge range of academic levels.  As class sizes go up in the current budget climate, it is even less likely that teachers will be able to simultaneously teach multiple levels of instruction in a single class period.  

Below is a petition from the Gifted and Talented Association of [our county], urging the county to continue to challenge EVERY child with appropriate levels of instruction, using flexible academic grouping, and to retain the state-mandated "GT" label. As parents, we know that [our county] does not "track" students based on the 2nd grade GT label--teachers and parents together choose the right level for each child in each subject area, sometimes choosing a high math level but on-level English, or vice versa, regardless of the "GT" label. 

Parents do now have the right, and will continue to have the right, to change their child's academic level in any subject, but only as long as we have academic levels to choose from! 

Here is the link to the petition:

Please pass it on to your local PTA eLists.  I will circulate MCCPTA's letter to the Board later today.  

Thank you,
__________________Chair, Gifted Child SubCommittee

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