Saturday, April 16, 2016




Rhode Island Teachers Respond to PARCC: A White Paper

By: Janet D. Johnson and Brittany A. Richer

This week’s reading was a study about Rhode Island’s K-12 public school assessment known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is an exam by Pearson.  “These high quality K–12 assessments in Mathematics and English Language Arts/Literacy give teachers, schools, students, and parents better information whether students are on track in their learning and for success after high school, and tools to help teachers customize learning to meet student needs.”  I’m really glad that this study was brought into our classroom because I did not go to RI public schools nor am I teacher, which led me to many questions in regards to PARCC. I had not heard of this exam until we began discussing it in class and had only limited knowledge of the NECAP (The New England Common Assessment Program), which led me to do a little research into PARCC. I listed a few of them below and a video at the top of this blog. Johnson and Richer’s study examined the negative impact that PARCC is having on our Rhode Island schools, teacher, and students.

I was aware of the negative impact that these standardized test have on students but the numbers the Johnson and Richer’s study provided were mind blowing. First, I want to talk some of the numbers that this study provided.
  • 83% of the studies teachers believe the climate of their school worsened (p 15 )
  •  80% of the teachers believed the text experience was negatively impacting their students (p 5)
  • “91% of urban teachers disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that “My students feel the did well on the PARCC test” (p 7)
  • “95% of them [teachers] disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that their ELLs understood most of the questions on the test” (p 8)

I feel as if it’s important to discuss the “elephant in the room”, which in my mind is the fact that this study showed that “teachers in suburban schools reported having the most positive experience” (6).  This exam doesn’t only prove those in the culture of power are scoring better and having a more positive experience with the test but it is emotionally and academically breaking down Rhode Islands oppressed students. Thinking back to Finn, he gave us four classes; executive elite, affluent professional, middle, and working class. The reason I started thinking about Finn when I read Johnson and Richer’s study was because of the time that is being taken out of the curriculum in order to prepare for the PARCC.  Sure, I don’t believe a standardized test should take over and class’s curriculum but it is important to think of how these students are being educated. The oppressed students, the ELL, students with disabilities on IEP’s, their curriculum should be based on educating these students and preparing them for a future, not on passing a standardized test. 

“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to” (Johnson, 23).  I was unaware that PARCC was offered in both English as well as Spanish, however as stated in Johnson and Richer’s study, “there are 84 additional languages being spoken in Rhode Island public schools”(8).  How can we empower students when they feel that there is no way the can do well on the standardized test that their teacher is required to spend the majority of his/her curriculum pushing on their students?  The language along on this exam is giving those of power and advantage on this exam. 

“They must understand the relationship between society, culture, language, and schooling. They must understand the relationships between progressive methods, liberating education, and powerful literacy n the one hand and traditional methods, domesticating education, and functional literacy on the other” (Finn)
I just can’t see where standardized tests or more specifically, the PARCC exam proves students have received what Finn believes (quote above) as a decent education.

"No PARCC,we want freedom; all these standardized tests, we don't need them." 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Teaching Multilingual Children

“Teachers must be creative and flexible, serve as a catalyst for discovery as students learn to operate effectively in their multiple worlds, be able to mediate and resolve intercultural conflicts, keep students on task, and serve as a support base”

Virginia Collier discusses the best strategies to help teachers with ESL and multilingual students, while addressing major issues within the schools when it comes to ESL.  This chapter outlines 7 ways to help better teach ESL.

  1. Be aware that children use first language acquisition strategies for learning or acquiring a second language.
  2. Do not think of yourself as a remedial teacher expected to correct so called “deficiencies” of your students.
  3. Don’t teach a second language in any way that challenges or seeks to eliminate the first language.
  4. Teach the standard form of English and students’ home language together with an appreciation of dialect differences to create an environment of language recognition in the classroom.
  5. Do not forbid young students from code-switching in the classroom. Understand the functions that code-switching serves.
  6. Provide a literacy development curriculum that is specifically designed for English language learners.
  7. Provide a balanced and integrated approach to the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.

Reading this article, I was imagining Delpit being a big advocator for this topic. Her theory of the rules and code of culture of power in relation to teaching ESL is striking.  She wrote, “I believe in a diversity of style, and I believe the world will be diminished if cultural diversity is ever obliterated. Further, I believe strongly…that each cultural group should have the right to maintain it’s own language style” (Delpit, 39). It’s important for students to have an integrated learning experience when learning ESL because their first language is a part of who they are, they family, and their culture. It would be tragic to lose that because as Collier wrote “eradication has been tried and prove to be effective only to turn off students from schooling” (227).

Vaccaro, August, and Kennedy brought us the concept of incubators and outcubators (Safe Places, 84). I feel that the outcubator, where schools are a place that students learn new behaviors and ideas outside of their homes should incorporate some of their own culture.

Someone that I know had told me a story that I was reminded of when reading this article.  His first language was Portuguese and the majority of his family only spoke Portuguese.  He was not taught any English in the house and when he began schooling he was held back a grade because he struggled to learn the language. He began to get angry and embarrassed for being kept back a grade. He told me that when he became proficient in English he refused to speak any Portuguese. He hated the language and was angry that his family only spoke Portuguese. It took him a few years before he began to speak his family’s language but it had been a serious obstacle in his life.  I thought about what it would have been like if he had a teacher that followed colliers rules. Would he have had the same experience? Probably not…

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Safe Spaces

I truly found this article an insightful and useful resource for anyone not only working with but for anyone that spends time with today’s youths.  I thought it was wonderful that the authors incorporated classroom examples as well as educating the reader on how to better name and teach LGBT.  LGBT has recently become a more spoken about topic that it was in the past because of new laws and publicity on the topic.  I think it’s important for all educators and youth workers to read Safe Spaces and learn how to better discuss sexuality and transgender.

“First, educators must ensure that the curriculum includes the perspectives, experiences, and history of LGBT people. Second, educators must ensure that communication inside the classroom walls validates the LGBT experience. But you can’t validate an experience you never talk about. Thus, educators need to become as comfortable using the words that refer to sexual orientation and gender identity…”(98-99).

Well, this basically sums it up to me… exactly what we’ve been talking about all semester. We must name sexual orientation, the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, and name gender identity and what it means to be transgender. Then we can open up a dialogue and teach children what it means to be any of these things and what it means to be a part of a LGBT family. Simply, brushing off LGBT is not the answer and it doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t help those of the LGBT community and it doesn’t help the children that don’t know what it is to be a part of this community. 

For teachers to ignore LGBT issues, it gives a negative undertone to the phrase LGBT. Even if the teacher thinks he or she is doing the right thing by not addressing issues it serves as a great injustice. “Refusing to talk about LGBT issues or showing discomfort when LGBT topics arise are nonverbal messages that tell youth that being LGBT is abnormal or wrong” (82).  I loved how the authors of Safe Spaces used the terms incubator and outcubators to explain how the home (incubator) is where children learn family values and the beliefs of their family and the classroom (outcubator) is the place for children to learn behaviors outside of their family’s beliefs. The classroom should a place where children learn about communities outside their own and how society works.  “The off-stated objective is for children to learn that families come in different shapes and sizes, live in different dwellings, observe different traditions, and celebrate different holidays… The idea is that tolerance will grow as students gain appreciation for difference (85). The LGBT community needs to be advocated for just as much as and race or religion. We should not teach children that being white is best, or being Christian is best, so let’s not teach them that being heterosexual is best.


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