I received a question in response to my quote from Claire. And yes I know this is another rant but I promise I will stop soon because I have to. I’m returning home in the next week and doing some work with some teachers into June and then disappearing from this blog until after the conferences so please allow me this. The topic is just too critical.
First, Claire’s quote again:
…we can’t watch children suffer through misaligned, antiquated curriculum and abusive tests any more….
The question I received:
…I would appreciate it if you could point me towards some posts, or the correct primer/source that addresses how what DPS is doing, or other HFW curricula are causing children to suffer….
This is a massive request. Where to begin? A proper response would require another book but I have no more books left in me in this lifetime at least. Maybe we can talk Claire into such a book.
Here’s the short version of a response from me:
Unless and until we understand that all the current ways of grading and weighing and labeling children in our classes are causing them pain, we will continue to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution.
Only a few of us here are sitting close enough to the smoke to notice that the building is on fire.
Look at the mental health of our kids. Look at the way they respond to being tested. They don’t even want to take the tests. They should want to take them! If their hearts aren’t into the tests, and they merely do them reluctantly, as part of the drudgery of schoo, and if they don’t really care about showing what they know, then what do the numbers mean?
I have seen kids get really excited about word count increases in their bar graphs on free writes. THAT is authentic assessment. The rest is garbage. Anything connected with item analysis is, in my opinion, pure horse manure. I remember when I said that here about ten years ago and I got blasted so if you need to blast me that is why we are here but I won’t stop saying it.
What DPS is doing is in my view wrong but Diana’s hands are tied. She is merely the Curriculum and World Language Coordinator for the Denver Public Schools and cannot control how the students under her charge are tested. They have taken from her the most important part – assessment. Why? Probably that answer has to do “m” and ends in “y” with “one” in the middle.
I know about that from being in the belly of the beast as a member of the DPS writing team for those tests for a number of years. Data people would literally come from the district office and in those summer months give us talks about a lot of statistical mumbo and expect us to understand and apply it when writing the tests for the kids. There had to be a certain quantity of a certain level of difficulty etc.
In the log-filled, money grubbing eyes of the district, those tests are great tests. DPS is one of eight major metro Gates schools and has money to burn and they are burning it. Just the WL DPS tests have cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to develop, all bought and paid for by children’s self esteem.
To repeat, the basic flaw in our collection of data is that the kids see their language classes as they see all their other classes – as something they have to do but don’t care about. Even with the magic of stories, the entire approach is 100% flawed, because according to the only research we have we cannot accurately measure what language learners have acquired.
Due to the fact that we cannot measure language gains, and when a big portion of the language learners are not motivated to learn the language, because they are fifteen and don’t have enough food and their dad is in jail or their mom is working three jobs, one cannot call the results of the DPS assessments and the efforts of multi-million dollar data collection team in any way accurate. It is, after all, part of a corporation and since when have corporations actually been interested in how much good their products do for those consume them?
But nobody is standing up to this nonsense! There is no one standing up. We are all sitting down.
Claire told me privately a story about standing up to and backing her principal. She was heavily armed with data. Claire if you could tell that story in a comment field I think many here would like to here it.
Claire they might also like to hear about that time you asked the governing body of an educational foundation (west coast? east coast? I can’t remember) about the nature of data collection, and how what they actually require from teachers in terms of written curriculum docs is not at all what their principals were asking of their teachers, which I consider a serious breach of the chain of command.
If you could dust those two things off and share it as comments below for those of us who many be interested, I would appreciate it. This is too important, by the way, to go to the Forum since people aren’t yet used to going there.
In a few weeks I will have dinner with Diana Noonan (who is on the assessment session panel at iFLT with Claire and Tina) and we will discuss this. I know that Diana works very hard to comply with her data team. You should see the work she does! She has a great team around her – Paul Kirschling and Sabrina Janczak and others of that rock star CI team in Denver, but really, the cards are stacked against her success because of the simple fact that too many of the kids don’t care and that the data collectors consider her wealth of experience as somehow inferior to their talents, which don’t exist in the field of world language acquisition.
I ask this again, how in the world can test results not be grossly distorted when more than half the kids in the room have been turned OFF to learning by the general sturm and drang of being graded into a deep hole by the big cat graders (those big yellow grading machines) of the industrial grading process?
Claire is suggesting something gallantly new here and every fiber of my body knows she is right. She says we won’t get anywhere near accurate results until we start looking at kids as people and not machines whose minds can be seen, like a gas tank, as “empty” or “half full” or “full”.
It has to end and we as the experts in the profession are the only ones who can stop it, and we will, even if at present it is only Claire calling out for this change in Whoville, TN. We will not stop calling out.
There is a fire in the house. How big will it get before we see that children are suffering deeply at every level of their education, and that includes the ones who are “succeeding” because they are learning things about being the best that only contribute to our society’s current dire situation re: the false belief that competition and dominance by the few over the many is not what our country is about?
How long will it take for us to act like adults in our buildings who know that their primary responsibility is to protect children and only secondarily teach them a language? How can we teach them a language before we build a bridge of trust and a web of connectedness with them in the classroom? These things are not being done and the results are catastrophic.
Even with the Invisibles, the most powerful way I have ever seen of doing stories along with Matava and Tripp scripts, they may not be enough to put out the fire although they make our teaching stories a lot easier.
We are not here to teach just kids’ minds but the whole person and we are failing miserably, keeping the data collection just on what their conscious minds can remember, which if we are doing TPRS right is FAR from what they actually know. I am glad Tina Hargaden suggested we move this discussion to the Forum, because otherwise I would gladly have allowed it to become an out of control fire here, as it has been here for many weeks now.
So if you resonate with any of this, get over to the Forum and start reading. Thank you Tina for figuring out how to deal with this exploded thread by sending it and four others to the Forum so we can lighten it up here and especially take our much needed hiatus through June and July.
Let’s all go work in gardens. Let’s do that now so that we can rest from what has been a particularly active year here and then in the fall we can work on helping change things for children in the real way – by examining more and more closely what Claire accurately calls the antiquated ways in which we grade kids. Let’s actually learn how to assess them authentically!
We must now come to realize that it is really our own ignorance and fear of those bullies in administration – I bet you could name one right now! – who need to be educated to the fact that we no longer need item by item counting of bits of knowledge nor do we need item by item listing of what we want them to learn. That’s over, out with the old grammar-translation model.