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01 April 2014 @ 11:24 am
Clear Cutting  
The problem with announcing topics for the week is that sometimes I just have to write about something else. The good thing about posting topics: I have a record of them and will blog them, I promise. But as I was driving in to the office this morning, traffic came to a standstill. Apparently, someone thought starting construction on a major freeway at 6:30 in the morning would be a good thing. So, the freeway narrowed from 3 lanes to barely 1. It did that on 3 separate occasions. I had plenty of time before my meeting, and a terrific audiobook, so I settled in for the creep and crawl. I passed by what last week had been a lovely crop of trees. My drive parallels the National Forest for a ways, and I love the scenery: deer peering out of the woods, wildflowers blooming like weeds, and those glorious trees. But someone had been at work on the trees. Behind the stand that faced the freeway, someone had sliced down the rest of the trees (I am assuming that this was not part of the forest). Clear cutting. Probably to make way for parking lots, rest stop restaurant, and more as the city pushes relentlessly north.

This clear cutting, this chopping down and destroying of beauty for the sake of convenience is a fitting metaphor for the "reform" movement in education, I think. I connected the two because "Morning Joe" had been up to its usual tricks: talking about education with everyone outside of education they could find. You see, reform does not simply mean these shiny "new" standards (and Diane Ravitch points out that these standards did not follow any sort of protocol never mind that they are unscientific, developmentally inappropriate, and more). We have to tie teacher evaluation to student "success" (which means test scores). We have to close low-performing schools to make way for charter schools and other enterprises.

I said once before that it was a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. Now, they are eliminating the trees and the forest. Clear cutting means giving up reading aloud if it is not tied to CCSS for your grade level and your curriculum and your test. It means pleasure reading is given short shrift (if it is given any at all). Choice in reading suffers from this sort of clear cutting. So does eliciting response unless it is somehow contained in the four corners of the text. It means pushing kids out of comfortable books that might sustain them and into more and more difficult texts that will, ultimately, defeat them.

In the past 10 days, I have fielded lots of questions from teachers and librarians and parents about how to approach a school where kids are being pushed into a hatred of reading, something they loved before AR goals were pushed up and up and reading levels adjusted upward as well, where kids could not go to the parties unless they EXCEEDED their AR goal. Second graders are going home crying about reading because they are being told they cannot read their favorite books. Reason? They are not in their ZPD now that they are scoring well on the AR tests. Or, the lexile does not fit into the bands for their grade (and I think the only band we should be talking about here is the one that makes music).

I think we need to keep talking about the non-negotiables. What are we not prepared to give up when the next wave of reform comes? What practices are those that form the foundation of our reading community? Dick Allington talks about this in an article called EVERY CHILD, EVERY DAY. Here is the link: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar12/vol69/num06/Every-Child,-Every-Day.aspx.

Join Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks) and me (@professornana) on April 13 at 7 pm Central time for a tweet chat about this article.
 
 
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