Teaching with Poverty in Mind
Chapter 5 reflection
Jensen identifies five themes from his research that drive change within the classroom. The first is standards based curriculum and instructions. Academic standards are a defined set of skills and knowledge that all students are expected to learn at specific grade levels in each specific content area. Standards simply define what students need to learn. Curriculum and instruction define how the standards are to be taught. The two must align to assure that all resources, instructional practices, and assessments are available to meet the requirements of the standards.
I do believe our school is heading in the right direction. Things to take a good look at to assure standards and curriculum are aligned are the resources available to teachers and training in evidence-based instructional practices. The textbooks currently used at the elementary school are very outdated and appear to be the main resource available to teachers. As for training in instructional strategies, the opportunities are there. Since I returned to North Dakota, I have attended a couple of conferences that had presentations on instructional strategies, which were very enlightening. So the teachers just need to be provided the opportunities to attend these conferences.
Jensen also writes about the achievements of the North Star School in New Jersey. He identifies the feature of teaching to mastery as one of the features that lead to this school’s success rates. This school has developed formative assessments that are administered every 6 to 8 weeks with feedback given to teachers in an easy to read format. Teachers would need to have a plan of instruction or an instructional road map for the school year to ensure that students learn the skills/concepts being assessed. Pre-assessments to determine students’ current levels of instruction are also completed. Teachers are not left on their own to decide what additional or alternative instruction is needed. Teachers work with instructional coaches to make decisions as to what are the best interests of each student. Students who come from low-SES environments may achieve at a slower rate because of so many other stressors in their lives, but they can succeed when instruction is formatted correctly for them; when all of this is developed, it works very well. This is the same system used in the school I taught in before coming back to Rugby.
A quote that I have appreciation for:
“America’s educational system today is more of a boot camp for high-stakes testing to measure the strength of an educational organization than a place for children to learn about the world or themselves.”
Jensen identifies standards as the most visible measure of a school’s success. Standards are here to stay. Standards are simply standards, and it is up to each teacher to present them in a manner that keeps students engaged and thinking. Let us never forget that we are teaching children .