Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Raven and the Diamond

Ravens, like many bird species, are attracted to shiny objects. I read a story once about a homeless man who stumbled across a raven's treasure trove of objects inside a hollowed out elm tree. The stash included broken watches, discarded bottle caps, and a diamond ring. It seems so impractical: I mean, what's a raven doing with a diamond ring? I found myself thinking about this story at a staff meeting today. Months ago expensive new television sets, cameras, and speakers were installed haphazardly in our classrooms. We were given a remote control and told training would commence shortly. Today that training finally took place.

The idea is that the camera will videotape our lessons and students in the alternative school can get their lessons even while not physically in the room. We are expected to control the camera by remote control, zoom in on the board, and otherwise operate the camera while starring in the lesson. Oh, we're also supposed to teach 20-30 students who are in the room while we do this. I am skeptical about all this to say the least.

In my opinion, this is another example of school districts (not just mine) doing everything they can to cover their butt. If a child in alternative school failed a test or class, they could blame the school for not delivering instruction. Now, schools can give that child a live feed of our lessons. Realistically, this may have an extremely small positive effect for a small group of students. In other words, tens of thousands of dollars (perhaps more) have been spent to potentially help trouble-makers learn a little better. Maybe this would be less frustrating if we had the money at our school to buy copy paper.

No Child Left Behind really means cover your butt. Schools (and this is a generalization that does not only apply to my school) will do whatever it takes to keep up the appearance of progress. There is no incentive to innovate or try meaningful school growth, because you don't get any points for that. Cover your butt, teach to the test, and make it look like you are helping every student. It's not all bad, all this documentation and assessing, and schools should be held accountable. I just think we need to find practical solutions that help the largest number of students possible, rather than throwing out large sums of money to help a small group of students who chose to violate school rules.


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