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Confession of a cheating teacher

By Benjamin Herold on Jul 28, 2011 10:06 AM

by Benjamin Herold
for the Notebook/NewsWorks


[UPDATED: 7/29, 1:10 PM]

Reporter Benjamin Herold will be discussing this story on WHYY Radio (90.9 FM) this evening between 6:00 and 6:30.  Tune in to NewsWorks Tonight to hear more.

She said she knows she's a good teacher.

But she still helped her students cheat.

"What I did was wrong, but I don’t feel guilty about it,” said a veteran Philadelphia English teacher who shared her story with the Notebook/NewsWorks.

During a series of recent interviews, the teacher said she regularly provided prohibited assistance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams to 11th graders at a city neighborhood high school. At various times, she said, she gave the students definitions for unfamiliar words, discussed with students reading passages they didn’t understand, and commented on their writing samples.

On a few occasions, she said, she even pointed them to the correct answers on difficult questions.

“They’d have a hard time, and I’d break it down for them,” said the teacher matter-of-factly.

Such actions are possible grounds for termination. As a result, the Notebook/NewsWorks agreed to protect her identity.

The teacher came forward following the recent publication of a 2009 report that identified dozens of schools across Pennsylvania and Philadelphia that had statistically suspicious test results. Though her school was not among those flagged, she claims that adult cheating there was “rampant.”

The Notebook/NewsWorks is also withholding the name of her former school. because the details of her account have been only partially corroborated.

But her story seems worth telling.

During multiple conversations with the Notebook/NewsWorks, both on the phone and in person, the teacher provided a detailed, consistent account of her own actions to abet cheating. Her compelling personal testimonial highlighted frequently shared concerns about the conditions that high-stakes testing have created in urban public schools. The Notebook and NewsWorks believe that her confession sheds important light on the recent spate of cheating scandals across the country.

In the last two years alone, 22 states and the District of Columbia have had confirmed cases of cheating, according to Robert Schaeffer, Public Education Director of FairTest, a nonprofit critical of the “misuses and flaws” associated with standardized tests.

Almost always, says Schaeffer, those involved say they broke the rules because they felt pressured to generate unrealistic test score gains and avoid sanctions under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

“That’s the background against which teachers and principals cross the line,” he said.

This teacher, a middle-aged White woman who grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, told a story of tangled motivations and constant stress. At the end of it all, she said, she had trouble recognizing herself.

The intense pressure from administrators to raise scores at her former school did indeed contribute to her cheating, she claimed:

“It’s easy to lose your moral compass when you are constantly being bullied.”

But she was adamant that she did not care about boosting test scores. Instead, she described her cheating as an act of self-styled subversion, motivated by loyalty to her students.

“I wanted them to succeed, because I believe their continued failure on these terrible tests crushes their spirit,” she said.

Whatever the teacher's reasons, School District of Philadelphia officials say such actions are unacceptable.

“In the end, the children are the ones who suffer from an adult’s poor judgment, regardless of the motive,” said District spokesperson Elizabeth Childs. 

‘I wanted to be there for them’

At the beginning of PSSA testing each year, the teacher recalled, things weren’t so bad.

Administrators would convene pep rallies and distribute candy as incentives. Teachers would visit classrooms to check in on the students they taught. Some students would place a photo of their own children on their desk for inspiration.

“The first day, they would be really energetic,” she said. “But by the third day, kids would be putting their heads down, or just not coming.”

Pennsylvania’s annual testing regimen is a grind. Spread out over weeks, the tests involve six sections, which are scheduled to take approximately eight hours to complete.

The teacher found it painful to watch her students grow discouraged and disengaged as the tests dragged on.

“A lot of people understand how these tests deprive [students] of a real education,” she said. “But I also think that there’s a whole self-esteem side that people aren’t talking about.”

Almost all of her students were poor and African American. Most, she said, came into 11th grade reading far below grade level and dealing with challenging personal circumstances.

“It was absolutely amazing what was going on in their lives,” she said.

The teacher also felt that standardized tests like the PSSA, particularly the reading passages, were biased against her students.

One year, she recalls, most of the passages on the reading exam were about gardens.

“I was like, ‘What the [heck]?’” she said. “This is so unfair. It doesn’t have anything to do with my children’s lives.”

Regardless, the teacher said, administrators constantly pushed teachers to encourage students to buy into the importance of the tests.

She resisted.

Because her students were so unprepared and the tests so unfair, she believed the whole endeavor was a farce. Given that, she viewed encouraging her students to take the tests seriously as a betrayal of their trust.

That view, however, was met with charges of racism, according to her account.

She described a schism between some White teachers and the school’s largely African-American administration. The administrators, she said, mistook her stance that her students were being set up to fail for a belief that they were incapable of succeeding:

“They really believed we didn’t care about the kids, which is ridiculous.”

In retrospect, she wishes she had found a way to meaningfully address her students’ deep-seated academic deficiencies and the troubling school culture created by high-stakes testing.

Instead, she cheated.

As the testing sessions dragged on, she said, some students – those who hadn’t already given up, or grown “sullen,” or just started filling in random bubbles – would request help.

More often than not, she obliged.

“Kids would ask questions, and I would answer them,” she said.

For example, a student might ask what the word “amphibious” means.

Sometimes, she would give the student the definition. Other times, she would point to the place in the text where it was explained. On rare occasions, she would just direct the student to the correct response.

Part of her just wanted to keep her students engaged. Part of her wanted to transform the drudgery of test-taking into a learning opportunity – if nothing else, they might learn a new word. And part of her wanted to undermine the whole testing enterprise.

“I never went to any student who didn’t call me to help them cheat,” said the teacher. “But if somebody asked me a question, I wasn’t willing to say, ‘Just do your best.’ They were my students, and I wanted to be there for them.”

‘A pattern of intimidation’

The teacher still works in the District, now an entire year removed from the neighborhood high school where she taught for over a decade.

But it doesn’t take much to bring back what she describes as the trauma of her final years there.

A big problem, she said, was a revolving door of principals and vice principals, each of whom seemed to be more of a “bully” than the last.

Invariably, she maintains, teachers were the target: “I felt under siege.”

She also disliked what she saw as the school’s penchant for embracing fads rather than sticking to a consistent educational plan. At one point, it was graphic organizers. More recently, it was computer-assisted test preparation programs.

During her last year at the school, she said, administrators started pulling students out of her English classes without warning to cram last-minute test-taking strategies.

“They think there’s a magic bullet," she said.

Underlying it all, the teacher believes, was a mandate to bring test scores up and meet the school’s federal Adequate Yearly Progress performance targets.

“The prevailing message was, ‘We have to make AYP this year, or they’re going to shut our school down and you’re all going to lose your jobs.' At every professional development [session], that’s what we discussed.”

In response, adult cheating was “widespread” and “constant," she claimed:

“Math teachers were sitting down in the seat next to the children, with a pencil, actually working out problems with them. I saw that many times.”

By her account, administrators regularly saw such incidents and said nothing.

More damningly, in her mind, the school’s testing coordinator would use test makeup days to round up children who had started taking the exams, but hadn’t finished. The students would be brought to a room and made to complete sections they had begun days earlier – a clear violation of testing protocol.

The Notebook/NewsWorks spoke with another current District employee two other current District employees who was were at the same school in 2009 and confirmed parts of her account, including the claim that multiple teachers provided prohibited help to students during the test.

Spokesperson Childs said that the District hopes it employees report any cheating in a timely manner to facilitate effective investigations.

“We entrust the care of our young people to our principals and teachers, and the overwhelming majority of them are hardworking professionals who take on that task with fidelity,” said Childs.

The teacher who spoke with the Notebook/NewsWorks believes that most of those who cheated at her school did so to boost scores and protect their jobs.

But she is adamant that this was not her own motivation.

"I never believed for a minute that we would make AYP, no matter what I did," she said flatly.

So why compromise her integrity and risk so much?

“When you’re in a place where there’s a pattern of intimidation, you lose sight of what is important,” the teacher concluded. “I was someone I didn’t recognize by the end of my time there.”

Cheating hard to prove

Finally, the teacher believes, the realities of life in struggling inner city schools are starting to be made public.

"The fact that there is cheating on these tests is really just another layer of deception,” she said, citing underreporting of student truancy and school violence.

But over the past five years, allegations of cheating in the District have proven difficult to substantiate.

According to internal documents first obtained by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the District investigated more than 30 claims of cheating between 2006 and 2010. Many involved allegations of similar testing infractions to those described by the teacher who spoke with the Notebook/NewsWorks – adults alerting students to questions they had answered incorrectly, allowing students to return to sections of the exam they had not previously completed, and the like.

Often, the investigators found partial evidence of infractions, or evidence of testing violations they attributed to ignorance of proper test administration protocols. In only a handful of instances did investigators find substantial evidence of intentional cheating.

District officials said discipline in such instances varied, depending on the situation. They have consistently described their test security protocols as "robust."

Currently, the District is investigating 28 schools flagged for suspicious results in the 2009 report that first motivated this teacher to come forward. Results of those investigations are supposed to be provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Education sometime in August.

The teacher who shared her story cautions that it can be difficult to understand the decisions made by people – teachers, administrators, students – in “failing” inner city schools in the NCLB era without having first walked in their shoes.

“I thought I was really strong-willed and sure of what was right and wrong,” she said. “My only defense would be that I lost track of what was right because it was so stressful to be there.”

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Comments (740)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 28, 2011 3:15 pm


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:42 am

My thoughts on this are - why isn't the school curriculum designed to support the questions on these tests? If the curriculum were designed in conjunction with the disciplines being tested, then the kids would be prepared for the questions.

There seems to be a disconnect between the organization making the tests and the organization responsible for defining the school curriculum.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:13 am

The reason why some people feel a Federal Department of Education is not something we need - just makes more rules at a level far removed from the local classroom

Submitted by sharon (not verified) on July 30, 2011 1:12 pm

you are wrong

Submitted by Mary (not verified) on July 31, 2011 5:26 pm

She already admitted she was wrong, and you obviously don't understand where she is coming from. The teachers are put under pressure by administrators to improve students test scores. The government nor the administration is willing to admitt that the studets are prepared to take standardized test. They don't value education the way the older generation value it. They are satisfied mostly with whatever grade they receive. The government are not helping by threatning to cut teachers jobs if AYP is not meet.

This is coming from an experience teacher, being one for about15 years I have presented with the opportunity to cheat for my student's but I feel that it is morally wrong so I declined. Instead I find ways to help them after school .. and sometimes on the weekends.

We have a serious problem that no one seems to want to fix.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 12:07 pm

The problem is that the children are being taught by teachers who can't write a coherent sentence themselves.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 1:35 pm

If Mary is truly a teacher, she needs to learn to write. Here are a few errors:
1. Ending a sentence with a preposition.
2. No apostrophe s to indicate possession.
3. Lack of conjunction "neither".
4. Spelling of "admitt" and :"studets".
5. Subject-grammar error of generation and value and government and are.
6. "Meet" in the present tense.
7. Comma splice sentence in second to last paragraph.
8. Incorrect use and format of ellipses.

If you are a teacher, your students should consider themselves lucky. Your writing is atrocious. If you are a teacher, your English is an embarassment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:37 pm

Mary could be a math teacher or teaches a subject that doesn't getvanal about ending a sentence in a preposition. Most of my typing mistakes are because my fingers are too big for my iPhone or the self-correcting feature.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:48 pm

No, I don't buy it. There are certain fundamentals that have gone by the wayside in terms of teacher skills and values. One, being able to appy grammatical rules to a written statement. If a person has not taken the time to practice and understand these basic rules, there is no way they will keep up with the rigor of academic rules and applications. Secondly, cheating...again, no excuses, no grey area, teachers are faced with cheating probably more than any other occupation in the world. We should be able to rely on them to set an example for our future citezins. These are only the FUNDAMENTALS of teaching. If we can't rely on these, I am afraid we are losing the definitive "good teacher" We need to quit compromising our teachers and our students and not be ashamed to hold high standards for either.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:06 pm

The root cause of the problem is not teachers, it is lack of parenting skills and values or maybe even lack of skills and values as a society. There needs to be responsibility at HOME before our educational system can function as it is currently designed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:29 pm

Ok, but it is unrealistic to think we can fix that at this point. We need to talk about what we CAN do, and that is providing our future generation with the best education possible. Perhaps that will increase parenting effectiveness in the future.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 6:01 pm

apply* citizens*

Submitted by Raymond (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:44 pm

The grammatical errors are the fault of the reporter who wrote the article and the typesetters who failed to proof their work!!!!! As for the other comment: why don't teachers teach to what is on the test? A teacher is only given generalities--reading comprehension, BUT---you cannot teach that if students are below level to begin with!!!! Things have to be done in an orderly manner---you cannot take a student who is below level and just jump to the required level over the weekend. The problem with standardized tests is that they expect EVERYONE to be at a certain level at a certain time. Not everyone can do that. They do not consider people who may have special circumstances who may have indeed made real progress from where they were to where they are now. A standardized test says everyone must be at a certain point right now. People do not learn at the same rates.

This points to the biggest problem in American education: it assumes that everyone must go to college. I now teach in Europe where there are different schools, with different academic levels and requirements according to the aptitude of the student. Here, there are school designed for students to go directly into vocational programs and trades and they graduate from HS at age 16 and go right into the work force.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 25, 2013 2:08 am
Amen. We are all individuals and much "academic learning" happens at different developmental times during life and with varying degrees of formaility of explicitness. Standardized test can be nothing more than what they are: first order metrics that attempt to have universal application in a world of enormously diverse (existential or instantial) individuals (coming from a vast array family backgrounds of measurably differing socio-economic, ethnic-cultural, religious/non-religious or areligious, and, of course, some students are blessed with talents that others may not be so blessed: generosity of spirit, sense of love and respect for self, others and in many cases, a force beyond them they see on a religious or spiritual level--not to mention some students have parents who have both graduated from Ivy League schools with a full time mom at home, while others may be single parents without a highschool diploma working 3 jobs to feed their family. This is America. We have means, we have great numbers of scholarly, learned educational professionals (UGA's Dr. Kilpatrick, Leslie Steffe,and John Olive; FSU's Norma Presmeg, Janice Flake, Benjamin Fusaro, Larry Dennis, and Leslie Aspinwall (and the greats like Piaget, Bruner or Eric Erickson) as well as more popular or egalitarian profligators of wonderfully wideranging and fascinatingly useful educational ideas (e.g., Robert Clark, "Whole Brian Teaching," Love and Logic, or The Kahn Academy--to name only a few). There is no magic bullet. I can witness that certain administrations (I think unconsiously so) DO in fact create environments of fear and bullying--NOT so much "administrator on student" as it is "administrator on teacher." I could write all day about how this came about in two settings (a University and a rural elementary-middle school). And yes, there can be "hurt" coming from many sources (we are all simply human). I believe in both the hard and softer sciences to help us learn about the world we share. Ultimately, I believe in God who has created all that are (and is) in this world. As was written above, relationship and respect for self and others is a grounding fundamental in the classroom. As was also mentioned about Mother Theresa, teaching can be all consuming--and this level of commitment cannot and should not be expected by all teachers. That's my 2 cents. This has been an intensely eye opening read! I can see (and have unfortunately seen) exactly how this can happen (i.e., a teacher loses their moral compass and sort of "non-violently" rebels as her commitment is to her students--not the Fed. DOE or some "fairy standard in the sky"--if we cannot expect the BEST from our students and that be ENOUGH, then we MUST look at what Europe is doing and stop behaving--forgive me--like 5 year olds!) . Commitment to bureaucratic power/money mechanisms versus commitment to our aspiring youth is turning the USA into an artificial, superficial, one-sized fits all conundrum. Are tests good? BY ALL MEANS. But that's the catch. "By all means" rather by "one standardized approach!"
Submitted by Chris Bates (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:00 pm

You're so busy counting commas you missed the (explanation) point. Now moving into creative writing... you're in a coma, forget journalism.

And I'm not anonymous. I'm somebody! And calling the wrong person an embarrassment in my old school and they'd "steal you later." It was the students that had my back, not some nick picking obsessive compulsive. That person sat in the Library leaving his student teacher to fend for himself. Of course there was a fight, and this person realized it when the police radios alerted everyone to a fight in the student teacher's room. That's a take home message for students.

This was a GREAT English teacher! But sitting in front of library students reading, leaving a student teacher unattended in a listed "Persistently Dangerous School" - not good.. Of course other, less worthy teachers simply left early, until the Ivy League professor responsible for the student teacher saw it and took them all away....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 7:47 pm

and we teachers are all waiting with baited breath for you to volunteer your time to teach students. When you do, please report back on your success . . .

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 7:06 pm

For all of you English / Language Arts teachers out there:
This "critique" of writing is an example of what you should NEVER do. I never use absolutes; but in this case, I will make an exception.

As to the jist of the story, I am able to relate to the teacher's frustration with the testing situation. The teacher understands that the continued blasting of summative assessments serves as punishment for the students who are brainwashed by their schools to enter in the testing arena with full energy and extra effort. Despite the very best of intentions, students are unable to answer the questions, and become discouraged, the expected result of continued lack of reinforcement. The teacher expects that her classroom is a center of learning, and knows that the tests are a waste of everyone's time, and tosses aside convention.

I appreciate her, and I have done the same (although this help and intervention is far more rampant with the benchmarks.

Cheating? The teacher is not cheating. The legislative bodies that support testing are cheating the students. The superintendent is cheating the students. Once again, the teachers are caught in the middle.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 2, 2011 6:48 pm

On prepositions ending sentences:

"This is the sort of English up with which I will not put!" - Winston Churchill

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on August 2, 2011 9:29 pm

Yes--love it!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2011 1:45 pm

You're a boob.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 5, 2011 1:47 pm

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Comments (230)

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is whether it’s acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition.

I know many of you were taught that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, but it’s a myth. In fact, I consider it one of the top ten grammar myths because many people believe it’s true, but because nearly all grammarians disagree, at least in some cases (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 1:25 pm

Yes, and the serious problem is we have teachers like you, who are improperly trained, and don't know what they are doing. You have just proven it with your punctuation and grammatical errors. We MUST hold teachers accountable. And we wonder why students aren't passing these tests. hmmm....

Submitted by Tracey R. (not verified) on August 1, 2011 2:27 pm

To all of the above "anonymous" posters: Will the real Arlene, please stand up? You are bullying people again.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 2:54 pm

Really, and you want this teacher teaching your children? It is apparent, and not just because of heated writing, that this person has not had enough training in the rules of grammar or punctuation. See, again, it is looked upon as "bullying". Should we all close our eyes and allow our education to deteriorate to save feelings? No, that is a waste of tax dollars and time. It is not bullying to expect people to be well trained and capable of doing the job they were hired to do.

Submitted by walkie74 (not verified) on August 1, 2011 3:14 pm

First of all, your complaints about this teacher's grammar have nothing to do with the subject matter. Has it occurred to you that her field might NOT be English? I'm an English teacher, and I'm terrible at math; that doesn't mean I'm unfit to teach my subject. And as an English teacher, let me tell you that the teaching of proper grammatical rules has all but disappeared from the curriculum. Not by our choice, mind you--it's because of the administration. We have to focus on essay writing and getting through the assigned literature, not to mention the aforementioned testing. If we get to grammar, it's mostly through correcting those essays, or in five minute chunks once a week... but I digress. Suffice it to say that if you want to fix the education system on your own by firing all teachers that don't use proper grammar--be they art , math or PE--have fun with that. And don't get upset when the problem gets worse, not better.

Mary is right. I don't have as much experience with standardized testing as she does, but I've done everything I can to help my students pass the exams. I gave them practice tests, figured out where they had the most trouble, drilled them on those sections, made myself available after school, during lunch, even on my Facebook so I could answer their questions. This year, I taught a CAHSEE class (California High School Exit Exam), so I got to see what they were dealing with in even more detail. We have testing roughly every six weeks--it seems that every time we turn around, our classes are taking yet another trip to the computer lab or being asked to bring in their #2 pencils. It's gotten to the point where I've seriously considered creating a set of "teaching to the test" lesson plans. Let's not even discuss how this impacts the curriculum, or a teacher's ability to meet the state standards, especially when one has a principal who arbitrarily decides if those standards have been met or not. The general statistic is that the first 3 to 5 years are the hardest for new teachers; I'm nearing my fifth year, and I'm almost burned out. But I stay because I know the kids need me.

I really wish the higher ups would actually listen to teachers, principals and students to figure out how best to educate them. I think an observation of schools in other countries might be a good idea too. Something is definitely wrong here--there's a solution, but we just haven't found the right one yet.

Submitted by Megapril (not verified) on August 1, 2011 11:25 pm

So you're an "experience" teacher? I certainly hope you never help kids cheat, especially when it comes to basic writing skills like grammar and punctuation... And you have really been teaching kids for this long? No wonder so many of them are not ready for the tests!

Submitted by arizonerak (not verified) on July 30, 2011 5:40 pm

There is a problem with not having a FDOE. Each state is able to develop their own standardized tests. Scores get reported and then people judge the quality of education in each state by those scores. It isn't an accurate portrayal of each states success as success is not based on a consistent assessment across the country. FDOE could mandate one standardized test that is administered in all states giving a more accurate snapshot of education in each state.

There is just some much to think about when considering pros and cons of FDOE. I think this could be a benefit, but I also understand the idea that the people making the decisions may be "far removed from the local classroom." It's is complicated.

Submitted by policy maker (not verified) on July 30, 2011 7:46 pm

couldn't states come together to agree with a national score or exam without federal intervention....thus collaborating on a solution to a uniform code of standard performance

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:00 pm

This idea is in the works....called the Common Core Standards....look them up. Not created by the government...almost all states have adopted them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:18 pm

Absolutely, we are switching to them next in Idaho, and I can't wait...more problem solving.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 10:19 am

You are correct. But the standardized state testing is supposed to change for the next school year. I believe the 2012/2013 year, we will be seeing a national test for each grade level.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on August 1, 2011 2:38 pm

That sounds interesting. But the inherent problems with standardized tests and the issues of the misuse of standardized tests will never go away.

It is inapprioriate and wrong to use them to judge and evaluate individual students, their teachers and their schools. There are just too many variables that must be taken into consideration.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 9:31 am

Being far removed from the class room has nothing to do with it. There has to be a standard set for post-secondary education. Suppose these same teachers provided answers on the SAT's enabling a person to be competative for big scholarships that they would otherwise be unqualified for? Is that acceptable? There isnt a single subject in the high school curriculim that isnt passable with a reasonable amount of study. Teachers caught assisting students should be fired on the spot. Teaching our youth that cheating is acceptable is deplorable!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 10:29 am

You have to be there. I am so blesed that I am no longer at my old school. For many years, my school has been "celebrated" for its "high" test scores. This year 2010/2011, I taught 3rd grade for the first time. Now I understand what teachers who are constantly referring to the LNCB Act mean. The administrators were plain crazy during test time. After all the "pep rallies" and parties were over, the principal had all the teachers watch a video from our CEO warning about the consequences of cheating. She then commented that if she get in trouble for cheating, she was going to take everyone with her!

The next day, testing began. Despite all the rules and regulations, my proctor(the person who helped me with the test) informed the principal a few of my students did not finish the test. I had the lowest 3rd grade class--nineteen out of twenty-five received some kind of services--so I expected they wouldn't all finish. They just ran out of time.

The next day, the principal had my proctor take over the testing. She began by having them finish the test from the day before. She even made them redo parts of the writing. I became so ill at what I witnessed, and so depressed, I went home after the test. I got myself together and returned an hour later.

The principal at this school is cold-hearted, bullying, and loves to brag about how she has the support of the CEO and top school officials (because the test scores are always "high)." She must be telling the truth, because she has violated teacher's rights, bullied and harassed teachers, repeatedly stolen money from teachers, parents, the children, and the school district--as well as the federal government and done anything else she wanted to do, but she is going to be a principal there as long as those test scores remain high!

Thank God, I am no longer there.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 31, 2011 11:44 am

If your old school is a "Vanguard" school on N. Philly, your principal's bullying ways are well-known and her ruthlessness no surprise. Glad you're no longer there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 11:08 am

Sorry for mispelling blessed. ;>)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 4:53 am

Sorry to ruin your day, but you misspelled misspelling too. That's OK though. Proper spelling really isn't important in our society anymore.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 3:45 pm

Being far removed from the classroom has EVERYTHING to do with it! Teaching and educating is personal and based on the needs of the learner. But standards can be created and designed for students at all levels if input is given to states, districts, and school districts. As a teacher, I have administered many inappropriate tests to my students that were created by textbook companies and federal sources.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on July 31, 2011 3:01 pm

Yes, what you say here is one of the main themes of the Save Our School Conference and March in Washington which took place yesterday. Tomorrow,I will have more to report about the SOS conference and march. There were thousands of Great teachers, students, parents, professors, adminsitrators and activists with similar views who were from almost evry state in our country. It was very enlightening and very rewarding to see so many people so committed to turning education back into a student centered profession.

Submitted by libby (not verified) on July 31, 2011 1:10 pm

True that. This was several years ago, but I remember a math quesyion about how much water a tea pot holds. A tea pot in West Texas holds about 2 gallons. Almost all our kids failed that question.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:21 am

I whole heartedly agree!! Gardening questions for urban locations? Not a good choice. It needs to be based on finals given in the schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:26 pm

If you read it right it states "gardening passages" on an English exam. The topic of the passage shouldn't make a difference, its about understanding plots, climax etc... If we keep making excuses for today's youth our country will end up worse than it already is.

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:04 pm

The "gardening" passage was two poems about gardens. One was by Emily Dickinson and I forget the other author. The poems did confuse many of my students. It wasn't necessarily the content - flowers and gardens - but the archaic language. While I like poetry, I do not understand why it is on the standardized reading test. There are other passages to use if the goal is to determine if students can identify figurative language.

Bottom line is what is the test measuring and why. This year the 11th grade PSSA included web pages to read. I actually thought they were useful since students certainly spend more time reading web pages than poetry.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 3:23 pm

Agree: What is the test measuring and why? I have been out of school for 25 years and do not remember that last time I needed to read and answer questions on poem or any poetry. If this test is supposed to test Math, English Ect. then lets see them do it. Poetry has nothing to do with actual english. Actually we should start with teaching our youth how to speek it first!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:27 pm

Maybe you might want to have another go-around with school. That way you will figure out how to spell "speak."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 9:13 pm

I also think you need to make sure you are able to spell before you put comment out there!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 8:43 am

I agree that you should know how to spell all of the words in your comment, or at least use spell check. However, if you want to correct someone else's spelling you should use proper grammar in doing so. "I also think you need to make sure you are able to spell before you put (A) comment out there!!!!!”

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 11:38 am

I totally agree. ;>)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 1:26 pm

Quit insulting people's spelling on here. If you are a pretentious teacher, knock it off. How do you know what this person's education is? Let people speak their minds and quit being so high and mighty.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 2:07 pm

Tihs wohle seuqcene aubot selpling and gammrar is phatitec.
Dno't you all hvae athninyg pducrovite you can be dnoig bsdiees tarenig popele aprat. (I bet most of you were able to read this. So I guess spelling really doesn't matter.)
Thank you for making me laugh today.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 2:23 pm

Our pleasure, Arlene, how was France?

Submitted by bjstonom (not verified) on August 1, 2011 10:38 am

Love the way you put that!!!. I have 8.5 years of teaching experience in the classroom, both elementary and high school. I left the public schools due to being tired of the FCAT hoopla and no money. Our administration didn't bully (back then). We always made high ratings and were considered and "A" grade school. The problem I had was friends would turn on each other when it came to splitting the bonuses. Staff members give 100% of their effort making sure that our students are successful in their endeavors and when its time to reap the harvest of our work, greed would break out everytime. Now, you're only worth 50% of a share of the bonus or 30%. With FCAT creative teaching goes out the window. Everything is scripted or geared towards FCAT from the first day of school. Many of the ESE children were posed the question like such: "You're not going to take the FCAT test next week. Are you?" The sixth grader is allowed to make the decision for himself (without ever consulting the parent once an IEP is written) to not have to even show up during FCAT testing days especially if they are viewed as a behavioral problem. This process repeats itself throughout his/her academic career, and the child graduates 12th grade unable to read, write and or comprehend on a 6th grade level. The kicker? Now the student wants to enter the workforce or a vocational trade to help take care of themselves and all other services and government checks have stopped because the student has "aged out". Transcripts are pulled. This is when the child learns that he graduated with a certificate and not a diploma. You cannot imagine the punch to this young person who stayed in school to graduate only to feel like it was a total waste and failure.
As far as the comments about learning to speak, and write English, we are the only country that spends 12 years teaching a child how to master this in their own native tongue. And for what? Children in other countries focus on several other languages, social dynamics and developing synergies in order to compete in a global market. If your word processor doesn't have spell check or auto correct it is not the end all to be all. Lighten up and foster self-esteem for the profession of teaching, especially if you plan to stay in it. I went on to law enforcement and teach part time at a private college. Be Blessed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 2:54 pm

Ok, the word is speak, not speek. Seems like you either didnt' spend enugh time in English class or never learned the subject or maybe, like me, you just can't type! At any rate, the use of poetry on the exam is not necessarily to prepare you for a lifetime of poetry. Poetry uses a great many forms of communicating an idea, or a visioon. It is descriptive, uses alliteration, allegory, and metaphor. Those things ARE used everyday, and more, are presented in conversation. A child HAS to learn to seprate out, for instance, the metaphor from the actual object being described. Many of these children read and understand far below grade level. THAT is the problem. I DO feel too much time is pent on testing. Teach the curricula, and the test scores will follow. There is nothing "standardized" about every state having a different test to pass to graduate.

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Submitted by Oregon Teacher (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:18 pm

My kids can have a good understanding of plots, climax, etc, but if a reading passage is on a topic they are unfamiliar with (including content specific vocabulary, like sapling or germination), the entire passage can quickly become confusing. This is especially true of my ELL students- several came to the US within the last five years, their family doesn't speak English at home, and they aren't yet familiar with words like germination (or whatever). It's frustrating to have watched kids work really, really hard throughout the year, and be able to identify protagonists or rising action, but because of unfamiliar content or language on the state tests, they stumble.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:26 pm

I teach to a predominantly hispanic clientele, and our district teaches these words. Words that fall under literary elements, protagonist, rising action, etc. This helps the ESL studens so much.

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on July 31, 2011 4:09 pm

OK, here is a passage: "England's openers labored 34 balls before scoring their first boundary as Strauss cracked two fours through the leg side. Cook made patient start before motoring past his skipper". Would knowing reading strategies help you to understand this? If you don't know the game there is no way to understand what the author is talking about.
The problem with the current system: it does not provide our students with opportunities to build up their background knowledge through various experiences.
I recommend to watch this:

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 12:01 am

Please, tell me that passage was not on a test. I am 60 years old, have been reading since I was 4 years old, and the only thing I could tell you about the above mentioned was that I think it pertained to a sport and one not played in the U.S. How close did I come?

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on August 1, 2011 2:27 am

I don't understand it either. This passage, I believe, is about cricket. It is not from the test. It is from Dan Willingham's book "Why don't students like school", and is used to illustrate the importance of background knowledge. If you watch the video, you can see why.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 12:51 am

You obviously have not taught in the inner-city. You really can not understand unless you have experienced it.

Submitted by EJ (not verified) on August 1, 2011 2:47 pm

The fact is, that every major research project that has studied test performance has shown VERY clearly that students do better when they relate to the content of the questions. This is in part because they are often more familiar with the concepts, terminology, etc. The primary factor, though, is that students are more likely to care about topics to which they relate, and students who care about a topic are more likely to participate to the best of their ability. Think back to your own schooling -- how many times did you find yourself asking, "When am I ever going to need to know this?"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 9:13 am

If you teach to the test, the only thing the kids are learning is how to take a test. Not how to think and find answers for themselves. I think a better question would be "why haven't we found a better way to evaluate progress than standardized tests?"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:44 am

If you teach skills that are being evaluated on a standardized test, then you are still teaching skills, such as, critical thinking, problem solving, using context clues, finding the main idea...this is what is being asked on these tests, it is not at all about memorization. What is wrong with teaching skills? And furthermore, what is wrong with testing them?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:52 am

There is nothing wrong with teaching skills. However, I feel that testing them in this manner doesn't give anyone an accurate picture of that student's performance. One test is a ridiculously small sample size. In addition, an enormous amount of pressure is put on kids to do well on these tests, which leads to anxiety, and ultimately, perhaps, not doing as well as they might if you told them the test means nothing. Someone on here mentioned portfolios. That would be a much more accurate way to evaluate a student's progress. One day's test score cannot paint a clear picture of how much or how little a student learned on the other 185 days of the school year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:35 am

The only problem with portfollios being used as a criteria for growth and knowledge, is again they are a bit subjective. They also require one to be responsible, neat and artistic. You think kids have anxiety over testing, imagine if they don't have artistic abilities or access to computers, or better yet, parents who will help them as many have when these projects have been completed. How fair is that? At least with standardized testing a computer lab is a fair playing ground. As far as students missing school, falling behind, and consequently doing poorly on a test, well...there is no process, no testing, no porfollio that is going to fix that problem, it simply is a problem and the teacher can hopefully report the absenses to the counselor if it continues to worsen.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:21 pm

A portfolio does not necessarily contain artwork. It can be a portfolio of journals, math work, science labs, and so on. Basically a collaboration of the student's work throughout the year. Students could be allowed to choose their best pieces for evaluation.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:59 pm

ok, fair enough, so then what criteria do you suggest these be graded by? What would the rubric look like? Will it be the same one your fellow teacher uses? And if not, is that fair?

Submitted by D.J (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:16 pm

I'm a senior in a North Carolina High school and portfolios do work. I've seen them save kid's entire grades. The way they have to be done is using work through out the year that shows a student is learning, is retaining, and is able to reproduce that knowledge. Whether they are tests, projects, notes, or just study tools, the work should show that the student knows what they're doing. At my school we take End of Course Exams (EOCs) and if you don't pass the exam, you fail the class regardless of what grade you made in the class. Can you image the stress put on someone with that knowledge in your head? Even for an A+ student the mere thought of knowing that everything you studied for and worked for can be undid because you were a question or two shy of passing. Portfolios would eliminate that entire problem. Yes you take regular tests in the year, and those can be included, but it's the other smaller things that should count more. That amazing study tool the child used to learn which countries fought on which side in WWII that the teacher adapted for her next class. Or maybe the well written essay that debates two opposing ideas that makes you think. There are better ways to see if students are learning than these tests, we just have to find them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 10:06 am

Why would teachers using different rubrics be unfair? I could make the arguement that having different tests and different teachers and different facilities is also unfair. The point is, nothing will ever be totally fair. This is the world we live in and though we strive to beat inequality, it cannot be done.
I am a high school student and I currently attend an upper class high school though in the past i have attended a variety of other schools. Unfortunately, we do not use portfolios, and bad test takers suffer from this.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:06 pm

If they can't handle anxiety and tests then they don't belong out in the real world because that's about all life is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 9:26 am

When have you ever been made to sit down and take a test for 6 days in a row spanning over 8 hours at your place of employment? In the real world, people are supposed to be able to solve problems and can use many different resources to do so. Therefore testing is NOTHING like the real world and alternative measures, such as portfolios, would make more sense in testing student knowledge and real-world ability.

Submitted by sharon (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:39 am

I agree

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:30 pm

Exactly right!

Submitted by Teacher from Pittsburgh (not verified) on July 30, 2011 9:13 pm

For all of you saying this stress is what it is like in the real world. Please consider what you were doing in THIRD grade...most likely not stressing over the PSSA. These are not high school graduates about to go to college, these are kids as young as 9. It is ridiculous that a kid has to worry about anything at 9 years old aside from doing chores, homework and playing.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 31, 2011 11:38 am


Submitted by Megapril (not verified) on August 2, 2011 12:05 am

Agree completely... I have a Son about to enter third grade, and having two older Daughters who have been through it already, I am afraid all this testing is going to taint his, so far, great experiences with schooling...

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 7:32 am

I agree!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 9:57 am

This is interesting because I've been hearing this same argument (and justifiably so) from teachers who taught in the 70's.Has anyone looked into how well these testing companies are making out financially? It is not a cop out to say that too many thigs are geared toward privite enteprises of some sort these days.

In my opinion progress counts for a lot,and you would see a lot less cheating if teacher's jobs weren't on the line due to making AYP alone.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 11:35 am

That tis the question I have asked so many times.

Submitted by Megapril (not verified) on August 2, 2011 12:50 am


And by the way, I know this blog is supposed to be like a "notebook", but does anyone else find the words being crossed out a bit fake and ridiculous??

Submitted by A. Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 9:51 am

I agree that the disconnect seems to be the problem. From a non-Western society with an emphasis on standard testing, I find that there's even a disconnect very strange. If these exams are necessary, then you must prepare your students for it specifically - not help them cheat on the last leg when you hadn't taught them anything, in the case of the exam, useful.

I don't think it's unfair to have passages out of their context, goodness, some of us folk in Asia take *British* standardised degrees. Your reasoning is absolutely too insular; should kids not be expected to know whales exist, since they haven't seen them in person? Books that don't revolve around the city and perhaps require some simple imagination is way out of their reach? Sounds to me like pigeonholing, like you're sure they can't reach out of their 'comfort zone' to learn more. To a non-US person with all of our media and literature imported from Western zones most of us will never travel to, this sound obviously like something is lacking in day-to-day teaching; something that cannot be resolved by 'cheating'.

Submitted by Inner-City-Kid-</3 (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:20 am

Agreed. As students we should be taught to think out of the box and use our imagination. Just because they may live in an area with no gardens doesnt mean they dont know what a garden is. Were told to lie but to make it believable and thats not hard to do if were taught to think at a wider range

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 1:49 pm

This is an excellent point - access to gardens doesn't preclude a student from being able to read a paragraph and answer text-based questions about gardening. I don't have to know what a geranium is to answer a text-based question about the types of flowers Sally planted her in garden.

In elementary school I took a reading test that had some material and vocabulary waaaay outside my knowledge base, much too sophisticated for most elementary students to understand. I aced the exam because I realized the answers could be discovered by careful examination of the context and critical thinking. Teaching students to read carefully and think critically about what they've read might be a huge step forward in preparing these students for exams.

Sadly, testing many of these students so rigorously is a bit like trying to build a house of cards from the top. There's no foundation of learning to hold the high-level knowledge and critical thinking the tests demand of the students. And how do you teach those skills, anyway? (Obviously, I'm a huge fan of critical thinking. I believe it is more important than memorizing information, as it allows you to arrive at the correct answer instead of pulling it out of a hat.)

That said, I was at the very beginning of widespread standardized testing during my last years in high school, and we thought those tests were a freaking joke. I was pissed when one of the English tests involved reading a fake water bill! And the tests I took weren't nearly as brutal as these sound - six sections of tests, each taking eight hours?! It sounds like there are much bigger problems than cheating in this school division.

Submitted by arizonerak (not verified) on July 30, 2011 5:22 pm

This is where inquiry based teaching and learning comes in. It supports the critical thinking skills students need to be successful in all areas of life.

Submitted by Inner-City-Kid-</3 (not verified) on July 30, 2011 9:58 am

I dont mean to sound rude but as a student myself Ive taken a ton of these tests. A lot of the tests are basic information things that were or should have been taught to students during the middle school years. Again I dont mean to sound rude and I know a lot of people who fail these tests (I live in new orleans so we dont have the best apples of the bunch) but as a highschool teacher they need to teach us highschool work they shouldnt have to go back and teach us what we should already know.

Its not the organization making the tests that are wrong its the schools and the teachers who refuse to teach. The school boards need to crack down on these schools and force teachers to do their job and teach the kids what they need to know. I remember in middle school I only had to do work in one of my classes the enitre time I was in that middle school. Only ONE teacher out of all of them actually taught her students. The rest of the teachers wrote elementry type questions on the board, told us to answer them and that was it. If a lot of the teachers in the inner city schools wouldnt give up on the students then there would be no problem with taking these tests.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:55 am

You said it, teachers need to quit complaining, and learn how to teach!!!!!

Submitted by Inner-City-Kid-</3 (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:15 am

Just for everyone who saw my post I dont mean ALL teachers, I dont. Im just saying that a lot of the teachers in my area have given up on the kids and refuse to teach them which is the real problem.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:22 am

And maybe if the teaching profession paid better, it would attract better qualified individuals to the profession in the first place.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:32 pm

Your right... an average of 35000 in most states for 9 Months worth of work....... yeah, it really sux.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:41 pm

I am a teacher and I think we are paid very fairly, We have gov. holidays off, all holidays with weeks to enjoy, weekends, and then 3 months every year. With a master's degree a person can make middle upper income too.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 5:47 pm

I read many posts. I find them interesting. However, I didn't read many that discussed responsibility and accountability. Teachers taking responsibility.

I have advocated for better as well more mature teachers. I am taken by the number of teachers who constantly complain or have an excuse for not being able to reach their students.

Teachers are not unique from any other persor you know. Teachers have short comings like you and I. Teachers, however, are unwilling to admit their flaws. Instead of taking responsibility for short comings, Teacher's Union and teachers would rather deflex the blame. The parents are blame or the child's home life is to blame or the child's troubles. It's never the ineffectiveness of the teacher, principle, and administration. Teachers know the classroom atmosphere and student challenges before ever deciding to venture a career in education. Why make excuses for not meetng the challenge? Why blame administration, parents, and students?

Teaching is a difficult skill no matter if you are teaching someone in public school, private school, or on a job site. Successful instructors know how to command their pupils' attention and respect, not everyone has that ability. For some, the art of teaching is second nature. On the othe hand, communication is a challenge for others. Those who cannot effectively convey instructions clearly and concisely should consider another occupation. Teachers, don't continue to hang on to your teaching with the knowledge you are unable to effectively convey the school's curricullum (spelling)

There is no right or wrong in this discussion. However, this problem can be corrected if the appropriate prospect are hired. For those who are currently employed, they should be assessed and given additional training if warranted. There is a lack of clear leadership in the our school systems. We must hire the right person from the top level to the bottom

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on July 30, 2011 6:23 pm

Sounds like you never been to an inner city classroom. In my two years in the District I visited quite a few of my fellow teachers' classrooms trying to learn from them. Never met one who is "unable to effectively convey the school's curriculum". Maybe there are a few out there, but they are definitely not the major problem. The major problem is inept and unprofessional administration, especially at the very top.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 6:20 pm

I have been teaching in an inner city school for 15 years now. There is no reason these standards can't be taught. Enough of the excuses.

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on July 31, 2011 7:03 am

You are missing the point. Don't think you are unique in doing your job right. Stop attacking people you never seen in action. I repeat: the issue is not the "bad" teachers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 1:34 pm

Actually, I didn't attack anyone. I simply feel that of all professions, teachers are complaining more than anyone else. This could be the reason for our bad reputation and I wish it would stop.

Submitted by youngphillyteacher (not verified) on July 31, 2011 3:16 pm

Other professional are not constantly blamed for the failure of the system. I've been "other professional" for a while, and can see the difference in the way the teachers are treated. There is time and place to discuss our professional development. There are blogs on this site discussing ways to improve instruction. This thread is about something else, and teachers are not complaining, but pointing out what is wrong with the system.
As Dr. Thomas recently posted on "Schools Matter":

"The accountability movement, then, is focusing on “fixing” the people while never considering the failure of the systems:

• When students drop out of our schools, instead of assuming there is something wrong with the children themselves, what are the conditions in our schools and our society that are compelling these children to drop out?
• When student test scores are low, instead of examining the students, what are the flaws in the tests themselves, in the process of testing itself?
• When educators cheat on standardized testing, instead of assuming those teachers to be self-serving and “bad apples,” what in our system of accountability is driving professionals to these behaviors?
• When poverty proves time and again to be the primary determining factor in student outcomes, instead of trying to remediate the children living in poverty, what are the social forces creating lives of poverty for those children and their families?"

BTW I never heard a scientist telling another scientist: "your experiments did not work out because you are not good at research, quit your job or quit complaining". Same with doctors, or any other professional. Only (some) teachers think that they are better, and are in a position to fault their colleagues.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 6:50 pm

I am a teacher and COMPLETELY agree with your post. I am so sick of hearing all of the whining that goes on in this profession!!!!!!! I can teach standards, have fun, reach aprox. 90% proficiency with a predominantly hispanic majority. IT CAN BE DONE!! Quit whining and watch your fellow colleagues who CAN do it. Oh believe me, I get a lot of garbage being on this side, the only teachers who agree with me are the ones who make the marks! We are being restructured right now for not making AYP, My grade level made it in every area for the last 4 years, however, other grade levels did not. The grades below us are going to observe us using standards, critical thinking, student involvement so they can improve their scores. Did I mention I teach in the lowest socio-economic school in the district, so don't feed me the "it can't be done " baloney.

Submitted by EJ (not verified) on August 1, 2011 2:57 pm

I agree! It can be done -- but only if the teachers are given the necessary autonomy to do it. The growing trend seems to be using a 1-size-fits-all approach by forcing teachers to use a "canned curriculum". In fact, in one school where I taught, we were chastised if we did not keep to the pre-set schedule. I clearly remember one meeting where we were expressly told not to waste time reviewing previous materials to address confusion because the materials would do it for us. In that environment, it's hard to be a teacher and nearly impossible to make progress with struggling students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 9:24 pm

I too am an advocate for quality teachers.....however; it is very difficult to reach children that do not have the support they need at home. Not to say that it can not be accomplished but it is a serious challenge.

Education should be a team effort not just a school effort. It is very painful to hear you speak in such a manner...I am a member of the NTA......simply to protect myself when I am assaulted by a student. I am not a member of the NTA for any other reason. Not to "deflex blame" as you say.

I proudly teach all learners whether they have problems, low socio-economic factors or no one at home when the get home from school.

The effective teachers are the first ones to step up and say..."I do not know how to teach that...I need some help"

When those scores come is my name that is on the report...I do take responsibility and own up to my strengths and many many other teachers do as well!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 1, 2011 5:39 am

This is why England is talking about testing Education students at the Freshman level before they're even permitted to major in Education. Why should institutions of higher education even allow students to endeavor as an Education major if they don't have what it takes to build a successful career?

Of course, the British labor unions consider this to be the worst of all ideas, but why? Why should we allow just anyone who thinks they want to be a teacher graduate from college, be hired by a system, and then find out they're not suited to teaching, after they become tenured?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 8:42 am

Seriously? Do you think I am untrained? Through hard work and many, many years in the classroom, I have learned how to teach. I have learned that there is no one more important in any school building than the students who occupy it. I have learned that a kind word and a smile can encourage students more than "dire consequences". I have learned that some parents are willing to blame me for their child's failures. I have learned that some students carry a very heavy burden and find it difficult to ask for help. I have learned that the best way to reach my students is to let them know how much I care about them. I have learned that each one of the thousands I have taught over the years has taken a piece of my heart. I don't complain because I love my job. What I don't like is listening to people who presume to know how to do my job better than I do. What I don't like is bureaucrats who are untrained in my field telling me how to do my job. What I don't like is standardized test scores paralyzing the spontaneous creativity that can happen in a classroom. What I don't like are parents who send their children to school bruised, battered, hungry and dirty and then don't understand why their child may struggle...but, what I love most about my job (one for which I am very well trained) is all those kids who still come to school on the very first day eager to learn....

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:29 am

The problem with your agruement is how do you teach students who dont come to school? Have you ever actually spent ANY time in an inner city school before? Your lucky to get 75% of your students there everyday. While students teaching I had many students who regularly missed school. Im not talking about one or two students Im talking about 25% or more. So not only are they grade levels behind to start, but then you cant even get them caught up because they are never there. I even had one student who I only saw 3 times the whole times I was student teaching because he was in and out of jail (8th grade) for stealing cars. Its easy to point the finger at teacher "not doing their job" but how can they were there is no one in the seat to teach? Also, when students are several grade levels behind there is no way to teach at grade level, esp. when trying to build on things they were supposed to already know.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:56 am

You are blaming a test process for students who don't make it to school? Do you think getting rid of standardized testing is going to fix this problem? Perhaps it will point out that this child has serious deficits and that truancy is one of them, and something will be done. What are you suggesting? Leave the poor truent child alone, I don' t think the student would appreciate that.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 12:14 pm

The problem here, Mr. or Ms. Teacher, is the horrible usage of spelling and grammar in your post. Your writing is riddled with very basic errors. It exudes unprofessionalism and is a shining example of your own poor education (and/or laziness for not proofreading before you write or thinking before you speak). These bad habits are in turn being passed on to your students. How are students supposed to learn when their own educator doesn't even know the fundamentals of an elementary education? If your writing skills aren't the epitome of failure in the American educational system, then I don't know what is. You should be ashamed.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 12:53 pm

I agree that posts should be proofed, but some people write in the heat of the moment. What makes you think that everyone who posts comments is a teacher? Your simplistic blame game is typical trademark of administrative trolls who post on this very site. Not all of us have secretaries to proof our work ahead of posting. Just because someone posts an error on this site that does not mean they are teaching it in school. Many who post here come to vent at a system that does listen or respond in a positive way. How would you know what goes on in the classrooms these days? I suspect that if you actually spent any substantial time in one you'd be a little bit more sympathetic. Instead you come off as an arrogant know-it-all who wants to guilt-trip teachers into silence. God forbid any teacher should be caught being human around you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 1:25 pm

Oh my gosh, you are about as presumtuous as they come, did I spell that correct for you? Because if not, I don't care, it is my summer off and I am writing for you to listen to my ideas, not critique my puncutation. God help us if this is what you do to a student who turns in a paper to you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 1:33 pm

"presumptuous" I hope you are a better teacher than a speller.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 1:40 pm

yet again, meaning completey lost....I mispelled purposely oh wise one.

Submitted by TeachYourChildrenWell (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:00 pm

I guess you also misused the word "correct" - it should be correctly - and misspelled "completely," as well. I don't get your point either. I have listened to teachers whose grammar has made me cringe and whose spelling - on the board for students - has made me wince. Sure, we all post with a few typos, but if you're going to describe yourself as a teacher in these posts, then please represent our profession appropriately.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:57 pm

Wow, I feel sorry for you when your only defense is to point out spelling errors and gramatical errors. How about you take a stab at some of the actual points.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:25 pm

Need I remind you, we are in a discussion, not a spelling bee. Why don't you stop correcting and attend to the discussion please.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:20 pm


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:19 pm

I agree with everything you have said. If students are several grades behind from K - 8th and are continued to get pushed up to another grade --- what can a 9th grade english teacher do with a child reading on a 4th grade level. It starts way earlier than that 9th grade teacher, but her job is in jeporady if her students dont pass!!!

The entire system is not fair -- for the teacher because she feels the pressure to keep her job and wants to help her students and to the students because they are going from grade to grade and are not prepared.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:27 pm

So basically you're saying that you and others like you cater to the ones who are behind due to jail, drugs and whatever other reasons they don't show half the time. How is that fair to the supposed few who actually are on grade level? What happened to if the student wasn't up to grade level they failed??? If teachers stopped pushing these kids through school we wouldn't have such a problem. I remember when I was in High school I skipped a particular class too many times and despite having an A in the class I was denied my credit for it due to too many unexcused absences( more than 3) and you know what.... it was the right thing to do.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 3:25 pm

Yes, I'm sorry to say, many of us teach in schools where we are ORDERED to teach to the bottom third of the class. They talk a good game on 'differentiation' - but if your 'bottom third,' as they are labeled for us, don't rise up, we are in trouble.

The main problem is that there is no logic to the system anymore. Tracking is called racist, so we put kids of EVERY 'ability level' together in one room - from the genius to the borderline retarded - and then we tell the teacher they ALL have to perform at a high academic level.

Pretty terms are thrown around like 'project-based learning' (i.e. 3rd grade poster projects in high school), or 'differentiation,' which is basically coming up with 4-5 sets of worksheets or projects (that range from dumbed-down to really hard) and then you hope more than half the class completes them.

Actual class time (in our day and age) is not like 20 years ago, suburban America. Now the teacher is a referee keeping the kids from killing each other, doing drugs (in class) or worse. Maybe there's five to fifteen minutes of 'instruction,' but the rest is controlled chaos with the 'hands-on' learning in which the teacher begs the students to complete the work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:33 pm

Here we go again with the whole.....Pooooor Teachers! I am a teacher and it just isn't that difficult, if you don't want to work in an inner city classroom, GET OUT! No one is stopping you, but quit whining!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:30 pm

What exactly do you teach and where?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 4:04 pm

Oh yes, let me just give you my address....ha hahaha!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 6:30 pm

I was just wondering because it seems to me that you are not teaching in a school with a high poverty rate. Nobody asked for your personal information. I would like to know what you teach and where. I have taught in PSD for almost 20 years and all those years were in very challenging areas of the city. I have seen every kind of social problem you could imagine. There is no need to be judgemental. Our job is difficult and we seem to be public enemy number 1 at the moment. We do not need to be turning against each other. Now is the time to stick together.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 6:32 pm

I actually teach in the lowest socio-economic school in my district, which is why perhaps I feel so passionate about this topic. They most definitely can be taught these standards! I have been meeting proficiency targets since NCLB started. I am so tired of all the whining and blaming. Yes, I work hard, I am like a theatrical performer when I am in my classroom. I start every year telling my students that education is their ticket to a bright future, we study the careers they want and then look at how the standards apply. They buy into education so I don't just cram it down their throats. I believe in education, even with all the rules now set in place, and believe me, it does wonders for my students' test scores as well as their futures.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:43 pm

I think we have a lot in common. I too have been meeting proficiency standards since NCLB came into play. I share your passion and inspire my students in the same manner. I think we have more teachers that do a good job than we have whiners. I just believe that we all need to stay cohesive in this "teacher's fault" climate.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:17 pm

I think that is awesome truly, but I will tell you this, we have some inefficient teachers. I have seen them all over the place. They need training so i cannot just jump on the bandwagon. I believe in this testing. I have seen so many teachers give up on kids and the only thing that saved them was their poor test scores because they were flagged and put on the tier model, where a plan is made to help them. I am sorry for my fellow colleagues who are miserable right now, but it is training they need by teachers who know what they are doing rather then joining the "poor teachers" club that simply encourages them to feel sorry for themselves, prolonging their blame on the current system

Submitted by Ms Gill (not verified) on July 31, 2011 2:04 am

(I'm not anonymous because I think it is rude, and if you have an opinion, you should put your name on it. That is an attitude I share with my students.)
I understand that you think the tests are helpful, but calling teachers whiners because they disagree with you is unfair and unhelpful to a discussion about improving education.
I believe that I am a good high school English teacher. My students do relatively well on the ELA portions of the standardized test for California. However, I think those two statements have little to do with each other. The so-called writing test my students take has no writing--only bubbling. As a result, I take much more pride in the writing my students produce than whatever score they achieve on some silly standardized writing test. If I started to "teach to the test" all year long, my students' education would suffer. Even though I hate it, I put on a happy face and do a bit of test prep right beforehand. It bumps up their scores a little and helps relieve some administrative pressure. So I suppose the scores show that I can be pragmatic, but they don't really show that I'm teaching the kids critical thinking skills, or much of anything that they might need in college or for a career.
Yes, I am sick and tired of hearing people berate my profession and blame us for everything. That isn't why I'm vocal about how much I distrust the testing machine, though. I'm vocal about it because I think it is bad for kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 8:34 pm

Just because it is the "lowest socio-economic school in your district" doesn't mean it holds a candle to the lowest socio-economic areas here. There are districts where "poor" looks like kids who are raised in hundred thousand dollar homes instead of million dollar homes. If you'd like to be more specific, it would be more helpful to your argument. I teach in a school where 100% of the children are in poverty, 35% are labeled special ed, and at least 70% come from multiple child, single parent homes. I have been told on more than one occasion that the goal of life is basically to run the system and not have a job, to get as much money out of the fed as possible while putting out the least possible effort. I have also been told that if you don't have a child by the age of 20, you must have something wrong with you--(you know they give money for that Miss?). I have also been told multiple times that parents would like their child labeled ADHD so that they can get the extra SSI benefits. This is a pervasive and growing problem. Telling my students that their education is a ticket to a bright future isn't enough when the future they most want is to suck money from the government in any way possible so as not to get a job. Another question to be asked is: what age are your students? From seeing multiple grade levels, it seems that by middle school and higher, if a child has "checked out," there is very little chance of reeling them back in. Saving one may happen, saving 30 out of 35 just isn't feasible.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:23 pm

We are at 99% free and reduced with 45% ESL, and a huge portion of IEP's.Let me just give you a snapshot of my class last year. 6 diagnosed ADHD, 6 IEP, 7 ESL, some overlapping. This was with a class of 27. I understand your struggles, but again, I believe with the right training it can be done, I know this first hand. I teach 5th grade.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 3:09 pm

It's not the teachers who are pushing these kids through.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 7:40 pm

Many of us are not pushing them through. If they attend summer school and go consistently, they are automatically sent to the next grade. Or, or, I have had this happen to me numerous times. The principal liked a student, felt sorry for them or their family for whatever reason, and sent them on. How? She went into my grading system and changed the grades I gave with no notice or consideration for why they were held back.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:14 pm

Hello, my name is Toni and I'm a single mother of five. A few months ago I was offered a better employment opportunity and so we relocated. As a result... we had to change the kiddos school. My kids went there for the remaining three months of the school year. At the end of the year they had the annual award assembly. I went in support of my children and at the end of it said hello to each of the teachers one by one. I eventually got to my Son Riley's teacher. Of course, ever mother wants to know how the kids are doing for them. I was told by her that he had not turned in a single piece of homework since he had been there and she decided to just give up on him. That was her exact words to me. I immediately got angry because of the lack of communication. I felt that if he was not turning in his homework I should have been notified. Especially because I stayed up late nights after work to make sure it was done. I feel that in certain areas teachers are lacking. It's hard to find one that actually cares. If a teachers feels that a child needs to cheat for a test then that student should not be allowed to go to the next grade because all that's giving is false hope. That child will not be able to maintain once they're older. My son's grade did not reflect the homework he did not turn in. She passed him with all "O's" and I know he didn't earn those. I don't really know where I'm going with this other then I feel that it's a teacher responsibility along with the parents to make sure no child is left behind and when you help them cheat you're teaching them a variety of bad habits they will take with them as adults. They will be the liars, thiefs, and people in life who expect hand outs. It's time to make children accountable for their actions. These children who are not being taught appropriately are suppose to be the rulers of our country one day. How will they do that if they don't know the basic fundamentals?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:14 pm

Excellent points Mom! Keep fighting...teaching is a choice, education is a right! If a teacher doesn't like their profession, go find another one, either that, or do your job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 12:54 am

I agree... The more I thought about it it was the fact that she stated she had given up on him. Like he wasn't worth the effort. The worst part of it is he is 7 years old. He is in the beginning of his educational career. I believe I did the right thing. I marched into the pricipals office furious and told her exactly what you said. "If your teacher wants to give up on my son; then she has no reason to be in the position she's in" Point being, my son deserves better that. Too make matters worst, she never even gave me an opportunity to correct it during the school year. I demanded for every single piece of homeword he failed to turn in, and had him do each of them again. I did my part as a parent, but she failed as the teacher.

I hold my children to very high standards. Those students you speak of, the statistics... Who do not attent school every day was me. I was pregnant at 14, and had my first child at 15. Instead of getting the support from my school, I was kicked out because they said it was a contagious behavor. They didn't care that before I went to High School, I was a 4.0 student with every recognition you could receive at that age. I had some personal stuff happen within that family that affected me in every way you could think of, and hit my rock bottom.

Luckily, I enrolled into an alternative school where I met one of the most amazing counselours. And I mean she was amazing. With her help, she helped me find what was really going on with me, and overcome it. I graduated high school at 16 with a 3.8 GPA while doing the running start program to receive an certification in computer applications and pre-reqs for nursing. There usually is a reason a student is troubled. Had it not been for that woman I met in school, lord knows where I would be now. I am a successful teenage mother, and am now working on a degree to open a transitional home for teenage mothers that will offer schooling, child care, housing, and support from "like" people. I did not get to that because I cheated, or had help from a teacher to get higher test scores. I got there because I was determined and had the right people in my corner. I applaud the teachers who do the right thing by students. You're making a difference in those children's life. More then you'll ever know. Keep up the good work and thank you from one person who really excelled because of the right people =-)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 1:06 am

Please excuse my typos. When I'm in the "heat of the moment" I type as fast as I argue... Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up. Have a great rest of the evening.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 7:49 am

I am an urban high school math teacher. First, I agree...if a teacher tells you that he/she has given up on your child, that teacher is not doing her job...she should not be teaching. But in your post, as in so many posts, I noticed that you went from this one teacher saying she gave up on your child to "in certain areas teachers are lacking'. In other words, from ONE teacher to ALL teachers. This is a common trait among the posts here and on society in general. One teacher fails to do his job (and those teachers DO exist) and we all get blamed. Go to the administration about that teacher. If you get no satisfaction, go to your state's DOE about that administration, but if you take one, admittedly totally unacceptable, behavior by one teacher and extend it to cover all teachers, you are doing more bad than good for the system. Fight to get rid of those teachers who don't teach. Don't damn all teachers because of them.

Oh, one more thing. You are correct, in certain areas teachers are lacking. We aren't all lacking in the same areas, but we are human and we all need help and resources in some areas. Unlike Donald Trump, we don't claim to be perfect...just teachers.

Submitted by Teach (not verified) on July 31, 2011 11:39 am

Toni, your post makes a lot of sense. First of all, the teacher in question was derelict in not telling you your son wasn't doing homework. I have the opposite problem - I repeatedly tell parents their children aren't turning in homework - an am often ignored.

We have this odd attitude toward parents - teachers complain that they're not involved, then complain that they're too involved. We should be grateful for those who show concern for their students. I wish more parents shared your attitude.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 12:56 pm

You're right, that's not the best way to phrase it. I'm in Washington state and the education given just in my area alone needs a lot of help. It's not what it used to be.
There's some I understand considering classes are overloaded now and when you have "X" amount of students and one teacher it makes it harder.

I also have a brother who is has a learning disability. When he went to his teacher she held out her hand and asked for extra money for staying after school because she couldn't fit it in during the day. Too me alot of teachers in this area (that's all I can comment on is what I'm currently dealing with) have lost the passion of teaching to make a differents in a child's life.

Bottom Line... I wish there were more teachers like you in the WA educational program.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 12:03 am

In California we are not allowed to retain students who speak english as a second language, because retention is viewed as subjecting ESL students to racial bias.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 10:42 am

We should not have to teach to a test and there should be actual educators in the positions to better the ways standardized testing is done instead of pompous politions that have NO clue about the classtoom.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:26 am

You have it backwards........the Tests should be designed to support the School Curriculum. Enough tests could be designed to fit the curriculum of any class. Thus, the teacher would have to pick the most appropriate test for his/her class. There is a kind of disenfranchisement of the students when the teacher cheats in the way described.

School counselors must take a closer look at each students home life to better evaluate their stress level in relation to their ability to learn. I see a certain amount of revamping of the Charter Purpose of Schools as a whole. Truly, this is an issue that needs a much closer look at!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:46 am

First of all your idea has the issue of money. Enough tests could be designed to fie the curriculum of any class? In what district is this possible. Secondly, your plan has no consistency. If a child moves from school to school, or district to district, if there are no agreed apon standards, he may be repeating the same thing over, or again, be learning what a subjective teacher thinks is important.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 3:32 pm

The issue of money!?! Give me a break! DOE wastes enough as it is. Where there is a will, there is a way! You just don't know how to think outside of the box!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:21 am

That is teaching to the test, which is also illegal. Most times you really dont know what the questions will be. Its a guarded secret.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:51 pm

This thinking that "teaching to the test" is wrong, what do you suggest we teach... what isn't on the test? That is ridiculous. Besides, teachers can't teach to the test because we have no idea what the answers are, but what we can do, is teach the "skills" necessary to perform well on the test. That is what this test is all about, skills. And there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

Submitted by Williams (not verified) on July 30, 2011 12:15 pm

They have put teachers in a box and taped it shut. There is nolonger any indivisuality left in teachers. They are to teach the test, thats it. It sucks the creativity out of the childs learning experience, no wonder they are bored. My children know that if you mess with my teachers you mess with me. Instead of dogging them give them a chance to do what they love to do. Teach. I never felt like standerdized tests tell what a student really knows its a set up for failure. As far as students not showing up for school, u can't teach whats not there. Some of the lives these children have to lead would give yall nightmares. Some just try to make it to the next day. I grew up in a place like this, I know what I dealt with then I can only imagine what they deal with now.

Submitted by Daniel De Kok (not verified) on July 30, 2011 11:34 pm

AMEN, Williams! I taught a subject that WASN'T tested (music) and we were still expected to submit lesson plans that reflected the test, as though progress in all subjects could be measured by a carbon-copy (that's Xerox-copy for you kids LOL) standard. I'm done. I watch the three-ring circus that is the School District of Philadelphia and roll my eyes and shake my head in disappointment.

Submitted by Janey (not verified) on July 31, 2011 3:39 pm

Oh wow I just don't know what to say To be honest my response here is not just to this post, but to the 50+ posts that I have already read. First, I come from a big city business background and have been teaching mathematics for the last seven years in a small town. I must say that I am not afraid, nor intimidated by state testing - I think it's a necessary evil. ALL students deserve to have their teachers accountable, in a concrete manner, to someone for their learning. Before you ask, I teach in a low income, small town in MIssissippi. My school does a fabulous job of using these yearend state tests to identify a weakness in the student and adjust his/her learning accordingly. How in the world could a teacher think that cheating is good for the student? Our students who do poorly on a particular section or skill will receive extra tutoring to help them catch up. If their scores are artificially inflated then they might slip through the cracks. Additionally, what in the world did she think she was teaching her students about life - more of the same........lie and cheat if that makes you feel better - wow! GOOD TEACHERS DO NOT TEACH A TEST; however, they do use the state required benchmarks, curriculum, or whatever you want to call it to guide their teaching. Why do people insist on calling this teaching the test? I am not at all "in a box", in fact I sing, dance, and sometimes act very foolish to keep my student's attention. I simply teach what the students should know at the appropriate grade level - what's wrong with the idea?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 31, 2011 9:27 pm

Thank-you! We desperately need more teachers like you! Pass this on to others.

Submitted by Kris (not verified) on July 30, 2011 2:57 pm

The curriculum IS aligned with the test. If you aren't a public school teacher, you would naturally come to that conclusion -- that the curriculum and/or teachers aren't "doing the job".

You forget the other side of the coin. Some students have very low attendance rates, they sleep in class because of many factors outside their control, they don't engage in class...the list goes on and on. The problem is that the expectations aren't aligned with reality in the classroom.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2011 3:27 pm

I'm a teacher at an urban school and everything in this article is 100% true. Standardized tests have discrete stories/problems that test analytic abilities. In an English class, for example, it would be difficult to prepare students about questions about something as random as gardens. What you try to teach is reading strategies, grammar, stylistic terms, etc. and these are extremely difficult lessons to instill in students who may not speak English particularly well and, as is the case with most high school students today, never read outside of the 20 or so minutes a day in class.

Submitted by TR (not verified) on August 1, 2011 6:45 am

Kids know what gardens are. Please don't make them out to be less intelligent than they are. The problem with the Emily Dickinson piece is the language of her time- just like Shakespeare and Homer- the kids understand the theme and plot. They need to learn reading comprehension skills so they can apply them to discover the meaning behind anything they read in the future, whether it is on a test or, hopefully, just for fun. Our jobs are to guide our students to become independent, life-long learners.

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