Hokey Pokey (What this blog's all about)

A writing challenge I've given myself to write every day for six months. After some posts, I'll put in a comment with a brief explanation of the inspiration for the piece. Some posts will be practice for bigger projects: character sketches or settings. I don't really know what all will happen which is why I'm doing it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 35

Dear (Legislator,)

I have been out of college for 10 years now and have worked in special education for 5 1/2 of those years.  I loved my work as a teacher and am writing to ask you to remedy some of the barriers legislators have (hopefully) unknowingly put in the way of education.

I have taken CBASE test for competancy, PLACE exam in Special Education, Praxis II in Elementary Education, and Praxis II in Special Education.  I am about to take a second version of the Praxis II in Elementary Education since the testing company and the state of Colorado have changed the test number so that I can once again prove that I am competant to teach.  I graduated summa cum laude from Saint Louis University with nearly 200 credit hours (when it only takes 120 for a degree.)  Since then I have completed hundreds, maybe thousands of hours of classes and trainings both to maintain my license and to meet school district requirements.  If you estimate that I paid approximately $100 per test, I have now spent $500 on tests required by states to prove that I am able to teach.  To be honest, not a one of those tests remotely reflects my teaching abilities.  These tests are not a valuable way for underpaid (and sometimes unemployed) teachers to spend their time or their money.  Continually placing more constraints on teachers is not a useful way for the state to prove it cares about kids or education.  Funding is.  I'll say that again, "FUNDING is the way you show your support of education AND kids."

This goes for state CSAP testing as well.  There is not a single child who is better served by spending her time in a classroom filling in a scantron during the meat of the school year.  Testing is done at a time when children should be learning.  It would be one thing if testing were for an afternoon but it often takes over the entire school for weeks at a time.  When you consider that there are approximately 180 school days and that a minimum of 15 of them are now spent on testing, know that testing is absolutely and without question taking away from children's education.  When my son reaches testing age, I will be pulling him from school during those days to see that he gets some educational activity.  These tests put teachers at the mercy of scores and send them straight to teaching to the test.  I was recently volunteering at an Elementary School where a teacher confessed that teachers just don't have time to teach things like the Holocaust anymore because they're too busy with state standards and CSAP and district requirements.  There are ways to get to an important topic and I know there is a lot of good teaching going on (especially in that school.)  However, creating more complications and hurdles for children and teachers is not helpful to the education of children.  It is necessary to measure progress but with all the money spent on this, I can't imagine it would have been any more expensive to send experts to OBSERVE (not interrupt,) teaching and pull a few students in a random sampling across the state to take qualitative data on how children are doing.  I can go on and on about how horrible the current trend in testing is. 

I'll leave you with an example from my special education teaching days.  I had a student that was hardly able to hold a pencil.  He had occupational therapy issues and couldn't read.  He took in everything he ever saw and heard on a nature program and could recite the information nearly verbatim.  He was intelligent in his way.  He also had emotional difficulties and high stress situations (like testing,) brought them out.  The first week he was "in" my classroom, he screamed all day every day in a stairwell.  He "took" the CSAP.  He painstakingly fought his frustration to fit his letters into spaces they did not fit and filled in bubbles.  I am certain he did not answer a single question correctly.  This was a boy who needed every moment of instruction he could get.  Taking time away from that to put him through a test of endurance for the benefit of the state was not remotely valuable to him. 

Please consider de-legislating education and leaving it to educators to regulate.

(any parent, educator, student in CO)

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