Imagine that I assign all my students a written exercise. My teaching was not evaluated on the basis of how well my students did, but I felt I had a responsibility to prepare them for the examination in a way that could result in their obtaining college credit.
There is no consideration of grammar or rhetoric, nor is credit given or a score reduced based on the format of the answer. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such Creative writing rubric for 4th grade often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure.
Let me end by offering my deepest apologies, not because I may have offended some of you by what I have written, but because even those of us who understood the problems that were being created were unable to do more to stop the damage to the education of our young people.
I listened to a group of disingenuous people whose own self-interests guide their policies rather than the interests of children. But many of the courses still focus on the AP exam, and that focus can be as detrimental to learning as the kinds of tests imposed under No Child Left Behind.
Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education. We have very little say in what is happening to public education.
A teacher cannot possibly give that many students the individualized attention they need to improve their writing.
Many of us tried. My students did well on those questions because we practiced bad writing. And I heard nothing of value. I listened to a cabal of people who sit on national education committees that will have a profound impact on classroom teaching practices.
If, as a teacher, you want your students to do their best, you have to have them practice what is effectively bad writing— no introduction, no conclusion, just hit the points of the rubric and provide the necessary factual support.
He offered the following: I served several times as a reader for the examination that follows the course. If it takes a more realistic five minutes per paper, the total is more than thirteen hours. I had too many students.
Further, the AP course required that a huge amount of content be covered, meaning that too much effort is spent on learning information and perhaps insufficient time on wrestling with the material at a deeper level. Even during those times when I could assign work that required proper writing, I was limited in how much work I could do on their writing.
They may be very bright. You need to inform those creating the policies about the damage they are doing to our young people, and how they are undermining those institutions in which you labor to make a difference in the minds and the lives of the young people you teach as well as in the fields in which you do your research.
In case you do not already see what is happening, I want to warn you of what to expect from the students who will be arriving in your classroom, even if you teach in a highly selective institution.
High schools are also forced to focus on preparing students for tests, and that leads to a narrowing of what we can accomplish in our classrooms. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs.
It is for this that I apologize, even as I know in my heart that there was little more I could have done. I learned to balance these seemingly contradictory requirements. I spent the last thirty minutes listening to a group of arrogant and condescending noneducators disrespect my colleagues and profession.
Kenneth Bernstein is a retired, award-winning social studies teacher who lives near Washington, DC. Class sizes exceeded forty students—in elementary school. Thus, a teacher might prepare the student to answer those questions in a format that is not good writing by any standard.
The explosive growth of these classes, driven in part by high school rankings like the yearly Challenge Index created by Jay Mathews of the Washington Post, is also responsible for some of the problems you will encounter with students entering your institutions.
But we have not been able to prepare them for the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them. Some critical thinking may be involved, at least, but the approach works against development of the kinds of writing that would be expected in a true college-level course in government and politics.
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