Poor Joshua Guild. Slate, Microsoft’s on-line magazine, asked the 23-year-old teacher to keep a journal for a week as part of its ongoing “Diary” series. But Guild, who teaches 6th grade at Benjamin Banneker Charter School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, came down with a fever and missed two days of school, “only the second time I have missed two days in a row since I began teaching at Banneker in 1996,” he writes. But Guild didn’t let a little flu bug keep him from meditating about his work. “For a teacher,” he writes, “coming in to school the day after a sub has been in your room can be a mini-nightmare. Invariably, the room has been left in utter chaos. There are ‘situations’ to take care of—some of your best students have ended up in the office, while the usual ‘challenges’ have been in rare form.”
One of President Clinton’s biggest education proposals—national school standards and testing—is in deep trouble. “Only seven states have committed themselves to the President’s testing program, and even some of them are said to be having second thoughts,” writes Peter Schrag in The American Prospect (March/April). The reason: Americans are deeply ambivalent about tough standards, particularly when there are consequences attached to them. “We pay great lip service to standards,” Schrag writes, but “we become far more timid and divided when they stare us in the face.” Moreover, he argues, “virtually any test will run into pre-existing divisions between the party of hard-nosed phonics, math facts, and other basics, and the liberal reformers, particularly those in teacher-training institutions and states’ departments of education, who believe that only open-ended questions, creative answers, and other performance-based assessments provide a true picture of a student’s ability.” If Schrag is right, there’s little hope for national testing in math and reading in the near future.