Yesterday I met a dyslexic man who told me he didn’t learn how to read until he was 37 years old. To avoid having to read out loud in grammar school, he’d hit the kid next to him and get kicked out of class. In 8th grade, he was sent to a now defunct “600 School” in Brooklyn, which functioned “to educate emotionally disturbed and socially maladjusted children…unable to profit from instruction in a normal school setting.”
As I begin another school year here in New York City, I am fretting over the academic fate of some of my barely-reading-and-writing students who are over-age for their grade and act out – in large part – because of their learning struggles. Add to that budget cuts, which are resulting in larger class sizes and cuts to academic intervention services (AIS), and a new Common Core ELA curriculum – Pearson’s ReadyGEN – that’s designed solely to prepare students for Pearson’s developmentally inappropriate Common Core NYS assessments. A veteran, common sense teacher recently lamented that ReadyGEN won’t teach her at-risk first graders how to read.
What will become of these students as a result of your corporate ed reform policies that are squeezing the life out of public schools? What are the repercussions of straying from the Common Core script and test prep in order to give these kids what they REALLY need?
Mission Hill, the K-8 public pilot school we are showcasing on this website as an alternative model to corporate education reform, does an enviable job of addressing the social and emotional needs of their students. As narrator Sam Chaltain points out in chapter 7 of A Year at Mission Hill, “relating school to the larger world starts early at Mission Hill.” Teachers take time to listen to students in pain, and they incorporate conflict resolution strategies into their teaching. As you will see in chapter 7, the school acknowledges that their whole child teaching approach doesn’t make problems disappear; rather, students and staff members practice empathy and respect and develop tools to cope with life’s rough edges.
Is there room in the corporate education reform model, with its narrow, test prep-focused curriculum, for the whole child approach? What life skills and real world knowledge does ed reform offer today’s students?
-KL, Teachers’ Letters to Bill Gates
P.S. Here’s the September 16, 2013 cover of The New Republic.