Listen to the kids: They will teach us how to teach them
On the eve of the spring testing season, we are talking less about the need to teach to the test. I wish the OKCPS could make a clean break and explicitly renounce the bubble-in malpractice of the last decade and a half. Teachers and principals should be told that they are now free to ignore test scores and focus on holistic and meaningful instruction that respects the dignity of our children.
I doubt we will make a clean break. I expect bubble-in pedagogies — that often cross the line into education malpractice — will slowly fade away. But, recent articles in The Oklahoman about A+ Schools and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) instruction provide signs of hope, as do the values articulated by the Northeast Task Force.
For extremely complex reasons, soul-killing basic-skills instruction has been the most ubiquitous in our highest-challenge schools, especially in northeast Oklahoma City. In the name of school “reform,” second-rate teaching, which the late Martin Haberman derided as “the Pedagogy of Poverty,” was rebranded as an instructional “best practice.”
My John Marshall and Centennial students consistently reported a clear pattern. Those who transferred from schools inside and outside of the OKCPS and the metro area shared completely different stories about diverse classroom experiences. The kids who came up from the poorest parts of our feeder groups recounted the same narrative: They had been robbed of a meaningful education, receiving a steady diet of worksheet-driven instruction for standardized tests.
It is hard for fearful educators to renounce teaching to their list of measurable, testable, aligned and paced “standards of instruction.” They have to worry about budgetary problems and more. What if we can’t find the money and the will to properly establish high-quality STEM programs? What if test scores fall during the transition away from test prep?