Tag Archives: Carol Burris

The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance

Carol Burris says:

[W]atch the Relay Graduate School of Education video entitled ‘[A Culture of Support]’ . . . . Go to the link and look for the title. In the video, the teacher barks commands and questions, often with the affect and speed of a drill sergeant. The questions concern the concept of a ‘character trait’ but are low-level, often in a ‘fill in the blank’ format. The teacher cuts the student off as he attempts to answer the question. Students engage in the bizarre behavior of wiggling their fingers to send ‘energy’ to a young man, Omari, put on the spot by the teacher. Students’ fingers point to their temple and they wiggle hands in the air to send signals. Hands shoot up before the question is asked, and think time is never given to formulate thoughtful answers. When Omari confuses the word ‘ambition’ with ‘anxious’ (an error that is repeated by a classmate), you know that is how he is feeling at the moment. As the video closes with the command, “hands down, star position, [you are back reading right now]” there is not the warmth of a teacher smile, nor the utterance of ‘please’. The original question is forgotten and you are left to wonder if anyone understands what a character trait is. The pail was filled with ‘something’ and the teacher moves on. . . .

[The teacher] is performing as taught by a system that … better prepares students for the dutiful obedience of the military than for the intellectual challenges they will encounter in college. In schools taught by RGSE teachers, the Common Core State Standards will be, I fear, merely heavier rocks in the pail.

As I watched the video, I thought about the rich discussions, open-ended speculative questions, ample think time, and supportive feeling tone that I find in the classrooms of the teachers at my school. I remember the same culture in the middle school where I taught. Both are diverse schools that serve students with little as well as students with much. Suburban parents would be horrified by the magic finger wiggling and drill techniques used in the video clip. How sad that charter school students are treated as if, were they were given one second to think, the teacher would lose control. How horrifying that [in this school] student grades and punishments are put on public display. The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance.

via http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/is-filling-the-pail-any-way-to-train-teachers/2012/07/04/gJQADViVOW_blog.html

Is this imposing upon ‘other people’s children’ the kind of education that White, middle class parents would never accept? Or is it merely giving traditionally-underserved students access to the tools required for accessing the codes and cultures of power?

Want students to look worse? Change the cut scores.

In a must-read article explaining the politics behind cut scores on state-level tests, principal Carol Burris notes:

In 2011, the College Board created a College Readiness index.   It was a combined index of 1550, which only 43 percent of all SAT test takers achieved. You can find it here. Now add up New York’s chosen index.  It is 1630, significantly higher than the 2011 College Board’s index associated with a B- in college.

The above illustrates how one can manipulate the percentage of college readiness by … changing the definition of “college ready” to suit oneself. . . . In the end, [the New York State Education Department] chose values that are extraordinarily high, producing an index that exceeds the College Board’s index for achieving a B- average.

Next time you read or hear about someone saying that more difficult tests and/or higher cut scores will ensure college readiness, remember this and ask some tough questions.

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