professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

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Basis of comparison

Since "reformers" are always eager to compare how we do things in education here versus other countries, I can only fervently hope that they turn their eyes and ears to China and its latest ideas about reforming education there. Yong Zhao writes about those reforms here: http://zhaolearning.com/2013/08/22/china-enters-%E2%80%9Ctesting-free%E2%80%9D-zone-the-new-ten-commandments-of-education-reform/.

Here are a few ideas I hope will cause some renewed discussion about educations:

4.No Homework. No written homework is allowed in primary schools. Schools can however assign appropriate experiential homework by working with parents and community resources to arrange field trips, library visits, and craft activities.

My homework consisted of asking kids to read for pleasure at home. I still provided 20 minutes a day Monday through Thursday and 40 minutes on Fridays. Managed to cover the curriculum, too. I sent home applications for library cards, too. Once I even was able to take my classes to the public library for the day. Once we took our entire 7th grade team to San Antonio for the day and to Galveston for another day. Sadly, field trips were curtailed before I headed to the university.

5.Reducing Testing. No standardized testing is allowed for grades 1 through 3; For 4th grade and up, standardized testing is only allowed once per semester for Chinese language, math, and foreign language. Other types of tests cannot be given more than twice per semester.

Can you imagine? I can since I left the public school classroom when we were testing kids twice a year at most and not even in every grade. Some grades took ITBS. Some took TABS (Texas Assessment of Basic Skills). Other than that, we were free as classroom teachers to design lessons and assessments as we saw fit. Not every classroom operated in the same manner. Teachers had autonomy. It was a good time to be a teacher, and I loved my job.

Of course, I hate the comparisons made to other countries as I think we are comparing oranges to brass railings (oops, was that a metaphor? Pardon me, Obi Wan Coleman). I do think it interesting, though, that we can see a sort of pendulum swing happening in China. Unfortunately, it is less pendulum swinging and more like THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM here. As the Sword of Damocles (another mixing of metaphors; I am on a roll) hovers precariously over autonomy, workshop, authentic reading and writing, and the cornerstones of a literacy rich classroom, I worry that the pendulum will not swing back unless we set it in motion in the opposite direction. That could be dangerous, I know. But I think if there is not more push back that we will damage more than curriculum; we will damage kids.

So, as these first weeks of school begin, I hope that those of you fighting the good fight have the full support of your colleagues and your administrators. I hope that you are surrounded by the materials of the UNprogram: books, paper, pens, pencils, art supplies, more books, shelves and bookcases for books, and maybe a fairy godmother or godfather who can help ensure your kids have WHAT they need; they already have WHO they need in you.
Tags: china, reform, unprogram
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