Wednesday, September 30, 2015

CURMUDGUCATION: RI: This Is Why Tenure Is Necessary, Part 32,871,299

CURMUDGUCATION: RI: This Is Why Tenure Is Necessary, Part 32,871,299:

RI: This Is Why Tenure Is Necessary, Part 32,871,299

William Ashton is in trouble again.

Ashton is an English teacher in Rhode Island. If you remember his name, it's because last spring, the Jacqueline Walsh School for the Performing Arts suspended him for allegedly badmouthing the PARCC. The "badmouthing" was the process of correcting student misconceptions about how an under-95% testing rate would affect the school; to put it another way, he contradicted the standard state-generated propaganda about why students "must" take the Big Standardized Test.

The suspension spurred student protests, including old-school (picketing) and new-school (facebook page). And ultimately, Ashton was back in his classroom. That was last March.

Now, Ashton is in trouble again.

This time, he appears to have answered a question about birth control in the time of the Pilgrims. And now the student is back out on the sidewalk, picketing and protesting that her teacher is in trouble for answering her question.

Pawtucket Superintendent Patti DiCenso has seized this teachable moment by dragging the students out of class to scold them, informing them that "they were being inappropriate and shouldn't be protesting." DiCenso, in what I can only assume is a bid to model how grown-up professionals deal with disagreement, has blocked one of the students from the superintendent's twitter page (@PawtuckSup, just in case you want to say hi). 

DiCenso told Norton and Roberts that they were being bullies because they were demanding the return of their teacher and threatening to peacefully protest if he wasn’t reinstated, they said.

Now, we are only getting the students' version of this meeting, so I'm going to hope that this is a big of hyperbole on their part and not their superintendent of schools saying foolish, foolish things. DiCenso's office 
CURMUDGUCATION: RI: This Is Why Tenure Is Necessary, Part 32,871,299:

Students Should Be Able To Show What They Know

Students should be able to show what they know.

Many folks take this as a self-evident truth. Arne Duncan has said it more than a few times, and heads nod as if this is one of those reasonable-sounding things that Duncan says from time to time.

But I think it demands closer examination.

Because possessing a skill or piece of knowledge is not the same thing as being able to demonstrate it. This problem lies at the heart of public education; it is one of our largest, most fundamental, and yet most commonly unexamined issues.

Ask your students. This is why many smart young people hate school. Understanding, figuring out, getting a handle on a piece of knowledge is really exciting-- but having to prove to somebody else that you understand is a big fat pain in the ass.

Finding proof of student learning is a huge part of the teacher's job, and whether it is done poorly or not makes all the difference in that teacher's effectiveness. The challenge starts from the very moment you formulate the problem. There is a huge difference between "How do I figure out of this student understands" and "How do I make this student prove to me he gets it." The first is a valuable Students Should Be Able To Show What They Know