We entered teaching because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of the students who passed through our classrooms. Recognizing this, those of us in public schools do what we can to work on those higher-order skills, but we are limited. I saw several problems. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard.
I have just retired as a high school teacher. Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. Today I have listened to people who are not teachers, have never worked in a classroom, and have never taught a single student tell me how to teach.
My students, mostly tenth-graders, were quite bright, but already I was seeing the impact of federal education policy on their learning and skills. The structure of testing has led to students arriving at our school without what previously would have been considered requisite background knowledge in social studies, but the problem is not limited to this field.
Remember, high schools also have tests—No Child Left Behind and its progeny such as Race to do schools teach cursive writing anymore questions Top require testing at least once in high school in reading and math.
Let me end by offering my deepest apologies, not because I may have offended some of you by what I have written, but because even those of us who understood the problems that were being created were unable to do more to stop the damage to the education of our young people.
Kenneth Bernstein is a retired, award-winning social studies teacher who lives near Washington, DC. In my final year, with four sections of Advanced Placement, I had AP students as well as an additional forty-six students in my other two classes.
Where do I begin? Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing. Ultimately, it was to little avail, because the drivers of the policies that are changing our schools—and thus increasingly presenting you with students ever less prepared for postsecondary academic work—are the wealthy corporations that profit from the policies they help define and the think tanks and activist organizations that have learned how to manipulate the levers of power, often to their own financial or ideological advantage.
They may be very bright. I mentioned that at least half my students were in AP classes. If you teach either in a medical school or in programs that offer courses required as part of the pre-med curriculum, do you want the fatality rates of patients treated by the doctors whom you have taught to be used to judge your performance?
By Kenneth Bernstein You are a college professor. If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support.
Many of us tried.
If a student hits the points on the rubric, he or she gets the points for that rubric. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.
I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind. Many of us are leaving sooner than we had planned because the policies already in effect and those now being implemented mean that we are increasingly restricted in how and what we teach.
Students often do not get exposure to art or music or other nontested subjects. High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms.
In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.
I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. Some critical thinking may be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.
I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. Which is one reason I am no longer in the classroom. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours.
I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. Please do not blame those of us in public schools for how unprepared for higher education the students arriving at your institutions are. From what I saw from the free response questions I read, too many students in AP courses were not getting depth in their learning and lacked both the content knowledge and the ability to use what content knowledge they had.You are a college professor.
I have just retired as a high school teacher. I have some bad news for you. In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.
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