Monday, March 24, 2008

Forced Into Doing Something Idiotic?

It's the question that applies to 100% of all teachers in this country. At one point or another (sometimes at all points), we're forced into some kind of program, whether it's a literacy program, a test-practice program, or a math program, that is completely idiotic and hasn't been thought out very well.

I live and work in New Mexico, which, needless to say, means that I am VERY familiar with idiotic ideas in education. I could be talking about many things right now, but mainly I'm talking about the Response to Intervention model that is currently a dark cloud hanging over our schools(you can Google it yourself if you'd like more information, because I don't want to provide a link that is completely one-sided in its definition and explanation of RTI).

Here is precisely what Response to Intervention is:

Everyday, for 40 minutes (longer in some places), students are pooled in to homogeneous groupings (groups of students at similar skill levels, so all the high kids are together, lows together, etc). In these groups, the teachers have to design some interventions that will serve the students. Since this is reality, and not some superintendents wet dream, the interventions have quickly turned to 40 minutes of daily test taking strategies.

It's supposedly mainly an intervention model that focuses on literacy components. However, intervening on students in no need of the intervention is not just a head scratcher, it's absolutely moronic. Now, I'm sure that some schools out there have appropriately implemented the model to only address those students who 'need it,' but now we've stumbled into a new area of debate.

The struggling student, many times a student with special needs, has obviously, OBVIOUSLY, become the plague of schools across the nation, because they hold down test scores (called Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP). Response to Intervention was crafted to serve these students. Before RTI, many schools would just pull these students out of science or social studies instruction (because who needs those? I'm not joking, I have literally been told that social studies doesn't help on the test, so it's not important) and work on reading strategies more. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, social studies and science are important disciplines, especially at a younger age. When educators make the error of assuming that literacy instruction is isolated to some sort of 'reading block,' or must be done in a certain way, they are taking away the power of differentiated and cross-curricular instruction. Done correctly, science and social studies are extremely valuable literary subject areas, especially for the struggling student, who is also at risk for being the bored student.

Second, well, I think I just said it. The struggling student is at risk for being the bored student. If we pull them out for 40 more minutes of test taking strategies, echo reading, and comprehension testing from isolated passages and short stories that they connect to in no way, then they'll just hate it even more.

So, have you been forced into doing something idiotic? I'm going to make a new label titled 'forced into something?', as well as 'teaching the test,' and will put similar posts under those labels so that this discussion can be furthered in the future. I realize this blog is new and doesn't have many readers as of yet, but if you come across this post and a light bulb goes off in your head, let me know what you're thinking or what's happening where you work, and we can discuss that a little more as well.