High needs, high stakes

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Susanna Steeg

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  • 1. High Needs, High StakesTeachers Tensions Within LearningSusanna M. Steeg, Ph.D.George Fox University

2. An invitationThought flows in terms of stories stories aboutevents, stories about people, and stories about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn in the form ofstories. ~ Frank Smith 3. Why narrative? Researchers in education who gravitate towardsnarrative inquiry are inherently interested in details,complexities, contexts, and stories of human experiences of learning and teaching. [Narrative] resists easyanswersoften reveals what has remained unsaid, what has been unspeakable. It [shows] the importance of context, reflexivity, difference, and multiple identities. It compels us to care about peoples lives in all theircomplexity and often moves us to action(Schaafsma & Vinz, 2001, p. 1) 4. Some background Me District This course experience 5. District snapshot DistrictStateGrade 3201070.7%82.8%2009 63% 82.8%Grade 6201046.6%76.6%200952.7%76.5%Grade 10201052.9%71.3%200938.9%66.1%*percentage of students at or above proficiency in reading, based on stateassessment 6. District Context04-05 05-06 06-07 White 36.2% 34.1% 33.1% Hispanic29.7% 31.9% 33.3% American Indian 32.1% 32.4% 32.0%Districts reaction to low scores:Programs!Expert vs. teachersDirect instruction 7. The course Theoretical Foundations to Literacy Textbook: Lenses on Reading, Mandel &Morrow Major assignments Initial Theory Paper Final Theory Paper 8. My questions What factors deserve consideration for teachers in high-needs, high-stakes, heavily-programmed districts regarding the structure, content, and emphases of their learning? What did it mean to teach the learner in this particular course? What tensions emerged? What happens when teachers experience tension/cognitive dissonance between their thinking and the doing mandated by their district? 9. Knowledge about teaching develops in theinteraction between the individuals hopes, ideals,and desires on the one hand, and the feedback, orbacktalk from the other participants inconcreteeducational settings (Korthagen, 1996, p. 102). 10. Findings Theres no room to breathe, here 11. Where students wereWe have been given a program to follow withfidelity, and even given lesson maps so weknow which instructional strategies to use whenand what examples to use. This way no teacherswill leave out any skills or strategies, or focus onunnecessary ones. By taking away teacher choice,our district hopes that all students will belearning what the publisher (and a consultantwho created the lesson maps) has deemedimportant for that particular grade level. 12. I am feeling a lot of tensions in teaching readingespecially from the district mandates, the readingguidelines and non-negotiables that they (the district)has strenuously mandated us to follow. Having XXXX asthe chosen one who knows everything we should andbetter be doing to teach kids to read feels stifling andtakes the joy out of feeling ownership over my ownteaching. I really dislike the way our district ismandating our way of teaching reading, and therestrictions placed upon us with a heavy hand. Whomakes these rules and regulations and based up what? Itis frustrating to be treated like reading robots basedupon others beliefs. Have I or am I being brainwashed tobelieve certain things about reading by administrationand their beliefs? It is something I am thinking about. 13. What I have discovered is that I have a largequantity of defiance theory for the idea that aperson is only smart if they can prove themselvesthrough a specialized evaluation. (Maybe thisshould go to the state; better yet they could taketheir own endorsement assessments and provetheir worth as an instructor.) I am an effectiveteacher because I can teach not because I can spurttheories.Right now I am glad we have direct instruction forour reading program because I do not see all thesteps needed to be successful as a reader. 14. Most of the time, I feel wishy-washy when it comes towhat is best for our students. After spending a day or twowith our consultants, I feel myself having been swayedto their position; then I have to present it to the staff, andI hear the comments that three years ago I would havebeen making: Our students need be to exposed to grade-level materials, a variety of genres, and building capacityto read a whole book, not just an excerpt in a basal.Sometimes I feel like I finally get itand then I realize Idont. 15. I am ready for the magic pill that cures allproblems. I know it wont happen, but I still wishfor it. This course did not give me a clear cutanswer to my problem; instead it muddied thewaters more. 16. Teachers attitudes/dispositions as shapedby these forcesWithin this course, teachers indicated a clear senseof the high-stakes nature of literacy assessmentand its influence on district policy and practice. Passive resistance Lots of questions Why is it important to know this? This cant change the way I teachwhy should Ilearn it? This wont work for our kids Desire for easy answers or ONE right answer 17. My response OK, how can I take the next step? 18. Things I did Created pre/post opportunities Renegotiated rubrics/assignments Asked lots of questions Created time for them to talk, discern sharedideas, identify tensions Response strategiesSomethingSomething I SomethingSomething Ithat wonderIll share disagreedsurprised withme 19. Factors deserving consideration in highstakes districts History and culture District Schools Cohort Personal prioritiesconversations that lead to sharedinterests Students Teacher Coming to peace with not having it right Making space for teachers not to know Acknowledging the impossibility of big changes Pushing boundaries 20. That which was from the beginning, which wehave heard, which we have seen with our eyes,which we looked upon and have touched with ourhands, concerning the word of lifethat which wehave seen and heard we proclaim also to you, sothat you too may have fellowship with us.I John 1:3 21. Thank you!Susanna M. Steegssteeg@georgefox.edu 22. I will no longer just adopt someone elses way ofthinking as my own without much reflection andinner thinking of my own beliefs. I know I need toalways continue to step outside my world to learnmore in order to grow and justify my beliefs. Thisis one of the highest and best goals for those weteach.