Right before the holiday break I received an e-mail inviting me to be a teacher in this year’s 2009 Saturday Scholars program. After looking at the details provided, it seems like the program is going to be a huge investment—hundreds of teachers will be paid $30/hour for 5 ½ hours each Saturday, January 24--April 18, 2009 (with a few exceptions like Easter weekend).
With so many students in DCPS behind academically, it would make sense to invest so much money, time and manpower in such a program, right?
Wrong! Once I read the rest of the details, I realized it was a case of the short-sighted and misguided priorities of DCPS.
As stated in the e-mail, the program’s focus is to help, “…DCPS students prepare for the spring 2009 DC-CAS.” As a teacher who continues to witness DC schools still lacking in so many areas—resources, supplies, enrichment activities, teachers—it is extremely frustrating to see more money and programs focusing on "teaching to the test".
To make matters worse, “The Saturday Scholars program is an intervention strategy for students who are on the cusp of proficiency for Reading and Math on the DC-CAS.”
Targeting those on the “cusp of proficiency” makes me wonder if it is only about improving test scores. Where are the programs for the students who are at below basic? What about the students in my World History class who are reading at a 4th grade level? Or, the students who cannot pass Algebra because they don’t have basic math skills? So, not only are we teaching to the test, but we are choosing to ignore those that need help the most.
What are the priorities of DCPS? Is it really about children first? Or is it about making ourselves look good?
Could DCPS' focus on improving its measures of "student achievement" actually be in conflict with what's best for student learning?