Please ⬅️  to see the amazing day I had working with Turnaround Arts at Moten Elementary School in the #DCPublicSchools. Huge THANKS to Universal Studios Entertainment for backpacks 🎒 and Pure Growth Organic for snacks for these inspiring students. We sang, we danced, we talked about the solar system. I love MOTEN’s commitment to #ArtsEd - it was my #mondaymotivation. Thank you Principal Stanfield-Dogbe.

Good Riddance To The Common Core

Common Core testing will turn out to be the money pit that consumed American education. The sooner it dies, the sooner schools and teachers will be freed of the Giant Federal Accountability Plan hatched in secret and foisted upon our nation’s schools…

Frankly, the idea of subjecting third graders to an eight-hour exam is repugnant, as is the prospect of a 10-hour exam for high school students, as is the absurd idea of testing children in kindergarten, first, and second grades. All of these tests will be accompanied by test prep and interim exams and periodic exams. This is testing run amok, and the biggest beneficiary will be the testing industry, certainly not students.

Students don’t become smarter or wiser or more creative because of testing. Instead, all this testing will deduct as much as a month of instruction for testing and preparation for testing

I spent two and a half years teaching in a DC public elementary school and I watched the Common Core come into that building like a snake. I watched that snake destroy teacher morale and give students as young as six years old test anxiety. I left just after I learned that soon our Kindergartners would be tested, too. I didn’t leave specifically for that reason, but it feels good to have gone before I had to watch and participate in that particular type of torture.

It should be noted that I was a librarian. I still had an active roll in testing.

My first year I watched my third through fifth graders sit for exams that went for several hours over several days. I watched my second graders take the same length of exams for practice. Their consolation? The scores didn’t count. 

There were no specials (library, art, P.E., music) on these days. We were used as proctors. My second year I watched my second graders take the test for real and my first graders get prepped. The third through fifth graders were pros at it by then.

Both years I stood as a proctor for the final exam in DC, the DC CAS (though it’s name and content seems to change every few years). I say stood because I was not allowed to sit for the duration of the test. I was administering the exam with another teacher to a group of third grade special education students. We were in the room for several hours before and after lunch, not sitting allowed. Monitors from the downtown offices sporadically showed up at school buildings to check what the proctors were doing. Sitting and leaning were not allowed. 


Because there was proof that several schools had participated in cheating in previous years. Teachers were changing students answers on exams. Why? Because their jobs depended on it. Their livelihood, their reputations. Because IMPACT, the teacher effectiveness system I always hear non-educators saying they wish school districts or the government would implement, is a very real thing in DC. It has been since 2009, when DC public schools were the first district to pilot such a thing. 

Six months out of that system with two highly effective ratings and bonuses under my belt, I can tell you for certain what a disservice to teachers it is. The eight-day vacation my $2,000 bonus bought me didn’t make up for the severe anxiety I experienced about going to work each day. Would my sporadic thirty minute observation for that IMPACT cycle be with my 25 kindergartners, three of whom had severe learning disabilities and no aids, and more than 50% of them not native English speakers, who were still adjusting to using the library? Or would it be my second graders, where one of my students had threatened to kill his teacher and often took to attacking other students? Would I accidentally sleep through my alarm after staying up planning lessons until late and have points deducted from my score? 

I loved my students, even and maybe especially the most challenging ones, but while I was earning their trust, teaching them that I was a safe person and place, I was always worried someone would be there to dock points and critique me for not having the purpose of my lesson clearly stated on a white board. How do you quantify love and acceptance? How do you make that into a SWBAT statement? How do you track it?

If it’s not data, they’re not interested. If it’s not something I can grade, it doesn’t count. Classroom teachers had it far, far worse. Test scores determined a much higher percentage of their IMPACT evaluation score and, in turn, their future as an educator.

The Common Core is bullshit layered on top of bullshit. That’s what it seems like the American education system keeps doing. Throwing shit onto the pile and hoping it turns into…what? Success? Capable teachers? Well-educated students? You have successful educators, but you knock them down. You knock them so far down that they teach to a test and lose their natural love and talents for educating. My colleagues were some of the most dedicated, inspirational, and intelligent people. I watched so many of them crumble under stress, lose sight of themselves, and doubt their abilities. 

You have curious and energetic students and you stick them in a room with paper and a pencil or a computer screen and you tell them: “This is what education looks like. This is learning. This test means everything." Tell that to students who are immigrants, students raised in poverty, students whose parents think that education is their children’s key to a new life. Tell that to students who often can’t read the very test they are being given, and you start to understand the detrimental impact this way of teaching and learning can have. 

And yet we still question why they fail. We still question why they drop out. 

These were my students and this is what they are up against. And the government still wonders what to do. And the country still asks if the education system is broken.

And It is broken. But the teachers and students are not the ones who did it.

It gives me great hope to read that seventeen states are rebelling against the Common Core. That parents are encouraging their students to not take the tests. That people are standing up as best they can to defend educators and students. To defend education.

Good riddance to the common core indeed.

Rat E Reaper

This is a birthday present for makapedia who is an absolute darling and if you haven’t checked out her fics before you really need to because they are amazing. Happy brithday!

Maka could not believe that her idiot adopted brother had asked for his seventeenth birthday party to be at Chuck E Cheese. Or, rather, the Death City knock-off, Rat E Reaper. How they had not been sued yet was a mystery.

As she walked into the restaurant and got her wrists stamped, along with her brother and a group of their mutual friends, she looked around the place.

By the counter stood the restaurant’s name-sake, the mascot rat dressed up like a comical reaper. Half the room was given over to dining tables—which were all empty save for one, at which sat a couple and their kid, though they spent more time hissing at each other than paying attention to the kid—and the other half was filled with arcade games. The games were the reason Black Star had been so adamant about coming here; dinner with a game he had said.

Maka could remember coming here as a child, when it had been newly opened and extremely popular. But now, nearly a decade later, the place was looking a little worse for wear. She did not even want to know how sticky the place was.

And judging by Kid’s (one of the mutual friends) face, it was not going to be a fun experience.

Keep reading