Re: [March4Education] FYI
- Dear Mike, and All,
Thanks for your email. Year before last I complained, through my emails, so
much about the problems with the Open Court that Harlan Kerr came and spoke
with me about my concerns. He asked me if I was using the materials. I told him I
was using Open Court materials with my known best practices methodolgy. In
other words, I was using the book and the workbooks I felt were useful in ways
that I knew would best support my students needs, as opposed to following the
Teacher's Guide when it had lessons that bored my students and didn't help
them. I don't follow a script. I was scared to say this, but I try to live my life
with integrity by being honest and being a good teacher. Open Court as
scripted was literally hurting my student's skills.
As a teacher in a school where kids come in with a lot of resources I don't
have the same pressure to follow the guide that you have at Downer. We don't
get the Open Court Police in the way that teachers at Bayview do, or perhaps you
do. I believe that you are very courageous in speaking out to help your
students in the way that you are doing. Our kids at Hanna have lost out because of
the Open Court demands; no more school garden, teachers not doing stage
performances because there's not enough time, etc. Thank you for your positive
actions. I do believe there is a middle place that can work with Open Court. I like
some of their materials; high frequency word cards, Readers, decodeables, and
other parts of the program, but the script must go!
In regard to the ELD training, I went to the 1st one and it felt like an ad
for the stuff our district didn't buy. Who needs that? I would have preferred a
training that focused on learning how to use the materials our district
purchased. In the 2nd grade training most of our "training" focused on what other
materials we might want to ask our school sites to buy that the trainer's
company could sell us. What a waste of my time! I am not inclined to go to the 2nd
training for that reason. Are we being told it's mandatory? I will be the
person assessing the 2nd graders at my school site, and implementing it with our
12 ELD 2nd grade kids. I'm keeping an open mind about Moving Into English until
I've actually used it.
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- Go Mike, Elizabeth, Thomas and Eduardo!! I'm so proud of you for taking this courageous stand.
I can't come to the Oct. 10 meeting at 3, since I now work all day Mon, Thu and Fri. Please let us know what we can do to support you!!
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We put this out to the Downer staff yesterday and thought it was appropriate to share with people on wccusdtalk and March 4 Education. Sorry for the length.
Jonathan Kozol, educational author and activist, recently spoke at King Middle School in Berkeley. It was an inspiring evening and Kozol�s message was clear: particularly at a time when public education (especially for poor children of color) is under attack, we as educators have a moral obligation to look out for the best interests of our students.
There are certain practices expected of us here at Downer School and across this district which do not serve our students and we will no longer go along with those practices. On the other hand, many of our students� needs are not being met and we pledge to do what we can to provide for those needs. It is time to stand up for the children entrusted to us and it is our intention to do so at every occasion. Listed below are some of the positive actions we will take on behalf of our students:
School Governance: The district administration, including the school board president and acting superintendent, have publicly stated that top-down methods of decision-making are ineffective. In a very large school with a veteran teaching staff like Downer, it is vital that decisions which affect our students be made jointly by teachers and administrators. Adjunct duty committees have now been established. These committees need to be given the power to develop proposals within their areas of expertise which can then be brought back to the full staff for approval. It is also important that the committees be given time to meet, possibly one Project Meeting per month.
After School Program: The after school program should serve as a support for students who are struggling in the classroom. Crucial to the effectiveness of such a program is input from the teachers who work with these students day in and day out. Some of us hope to offer after-school classes to provide for needs which are not currently being met.
Student Study Team: The Student Study Team is critical as we strive to meet the needs of all students. It is a positive step that SST slates have been chosen for morning and afternoon meetings. However, many teachers are not familiar with the SST process. We will offer assistance to those teachers as they complete paperwork and implement classroom modifications; SST meetings can then be the culmination of systematic efforts to help children and will run efficiently and effectively.
In this list are some of the practices we will no longer support:
Text-Based ELD Testing: With the current focus on accountability, teachers are required to administer (and students to endure) more and more testing. Most of these tests are ill-conceived, many are redundant, and all are time-consuming. The new ELD tests are all of the above. The test lacks clarity, collects information similar to that provided by CELDT and teacher observation, and severely impacts instructional time. We will not give these tests.
Low-Quality In-Service Meetings: High-quality staff development is crucial as teachers seek to grow as professionals. However, much of the staff development offered by our district is of poor quality. Since our first obligation is to our students, we will no longer leave our classrooms to attend meetings (on- or off-site) which are not of benefit to us or the children we serve.
Wednesday Project Meetings: Article 46, Section 2 of our contract states, �Staff development during modified Wednesdays in elementary schools shall be jointly designed by the schools� principals and the staff except that the District may require a particular staff development activity during one Wednesday per month.� If classroom teachers were allowed to collaborate, as the contract states, Project Meetings would improve the instruction we provide for our students. District officials have recently agreed with UTR regarding this contract language. Therefore, we expect meetings to be jointly planned within the near future. If they are not, we will no longer attend.
Phonics Lessons In 4th Grade: Research has shown that phonics lessons are useful for most students in grade 1 and for some students in grade 2. At the 4th grade level, it is inappropriate to spend large chunks of instructional time on phonics. Currently 4th grade teachers are expected to spend 20-25 minutes per day on these lessons. We will no longer do so.
It is our sense that we are not alone in feeling as we do. We hope that you will join us. We welcome your thoughts on all of these issues � collegial dialogue is part of the strength of any successful school. If you are interested in these ideas or have questions to ask, please feel free to speak with any of us. We will hold a meeting on Monday October 10th at 3 p.m. in Rm. 505 to discuss these matters in some depth. Working together � teachers and administrators alike -- we can continue to grow as a faculty and as a school.
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