I will get back to the Faculty development pieces, but I wanted to comment on all the recent discussion on No Child Left Behind.
Yesterday the Times ran this article about how schools that are performing poorly on the standardized tests are narrowing the curriculum. While there is some concern about this potentially damaging these kids because of a less rounded education, how can one be worried about not learning history if the kids can't read? So I was less bothered by that. I did wonder with all the emphasis on reading in the schools, whether the kids were doing any reading outside school. When I was in elementary school, in the mid 1960s, we did two things for reading. One was SRA which was color coded modules that forced certain type of reading for comprehension and combined with a testing/assessment mechanism. The student proceeded through the colors at their own pace, and progressed to the next level when proficiency was attained. I'm guessing that SRA is something like the current focus with testing for reading.
The other things we did was called Individualized reading. We read outside of class and kept a list in a notebook of what we read and then perhaps a sentence on the book. During the reading time in class the teacher would have one on one consults with the students about their individualized reading. I'm not seeing anything like that discussed in the papers. Everything is about the testing. But are the kids reading outside of class?
I did a quick Google search and found a piece from NPR on the issue.
The commentary by David Dunn, who is a spokesman for the Department of Education, confirmed my fears. Lots of emphasis on looking at scores, no discussion about whether the kids are reading on their own.
From that I found this other piece about a new Delaware Middle School run by the clergy that is having success with high risk students
But the regime they have in place is draconian. In essence, school becomes the total life for these kids, because their home lives are so debilitating. With such intensity of commitment the kids do learn --- and they read, real books according to the piece.
So the question seems to be whether absent a middle class home life that gives the kid the support to develop the reading habit on their own, if this type of commitment at the Delaware school become a necessary condition for real learning. It seems to me the answer is it likely is.