Saturday, August 06, 2005

Reading and other things

A post over at The Endless Faculty Meeting refers to the USA Today article about schools killing reading for kids by making it too heavy and too lightweight at the same time. If you haven't read the article, please do. It makes the point:
It's time for states and school districts to kick the mega-textbook habit that four or five big corporations control and start spending money on the kind of books that will make kids want to do sustained reading, to get lost in the written word. For English classes, that's paperback novels (whole novels) and collections of short stories (complete short stories) and poetry.

This is something we talked about some in our Advanced Institute this year: the influence of business in schools. We didn't talk as much as I would have liked about the textbook industry, though.

But what I found even more interesting in the article was:
The desire of school officials to make courses teacher-proof — to put more faith in bland compendiums than in the skill of teachers — is only getting stronger with the spread of high-stakes state exams.
I listened to my fellow participants in the institute talk about the new mandated curriculum they are forced to use and how they will, or will not, use it. That is what it boils down to: the school systems are so afraid of "failure" that they don't want to give teachers a chance to be creative. They want something they have been led to believe is foolproof.

I find this ofensive. It denies our standing as professionals. It implies that we do not know what we are doing. Schools are looking for something that will make all students successful, and I don't think they are going to find it. There is no one thing that will work for everyone. Good teachers know that.

How would I react if I were in this situation? I honestly can't say, but I hope I would be able to do what I felt was best for my students. I know you have to pick and choose your battles, so how do some of you deal with the issue of mandated curricula and the pressure to prepare kids for exams? How much do you use the required texts and how much do you supplement with more interesting or appropriate materials?

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