Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shanker Blog » "Show Me What Democracy Looks Like"

Shanker Blog » "Show Me What Democracy Looks Like":

“Show Me What Democracy Looks Like”

Posted by  on April 29, 2014

Our guest author today is John McCrann, a Math teacher and experiential educator at Harvest Collegiate High School in New York City. John is a member of the America Achieves Fellowship, Youth Opportunities Program, and Teacher Leader Study Group. He tweets at @JohnTroutMcCran.
New York City’s third through eighth graders are in the middle of state tests, and many of our city’s citizens have taken strong positions on the value (or lack thereof) of these assessments.  The protests, arguments and activism surrounding these tests remind me of a day when I was a substitute civics teacher during summer school.  “I need help,” Charlotte said as she approached my desk, “what is democracy?”
On that day, my mind flashed to a scene I witnessed outside the White House in the spring of 2003.  On one side of the fence, protestors shouted: “Show me what democracy looks like! This is what democracy looks like!”  On the other side worked an administration who had invaded another country in an effort to “expand democracy.” Passionate, bright people on both sides of that fence believed in the idea that Charlotte was asking about, but came to very different conclusions about how to enact the concept. 
At my school, Harvest Collegiate High School, we teach about democracy every day, yet a large portion of what we do is dictated by state standardized tests, which are undemocratic; a small group of people make decisions that control many citizens (including students, teachers, and families).
Last spring, I developed assessments with a group of teachers, state DoE officials, coaches from the Institute for Student Achievement and the union. We created a series of Common Core-aligned performance tasks for math classes across the city, in accordance with the city’s new teacher evaluation system.  We began by thinking deeply about each math discipline, reading texts by leading thinkers in math education (such as Driscoll and Wu), debating, and changing the language of certain items to meet our students’ needs.  We brought the tasks to students in our classes and shared their work and feedback with the group to use as evidence as we continued to improve it.  A group of stakeholders from various backgrounds reading, working, arguing, and thinking together: “this is what Shanker Blog » "Show Me What Democracy Looks Like":