How far will schools go to prepare for Common Core tests? From an elementary school teacher in Chicago, I received the following memo, delivered to faculty this week.
Welcome back and Happy New Year! In order to maximize student learning and reduce the loss of instructional time, we are implementing two new restroom policies.
1. Designated Restroom Times - Take your class to use the restroom only during your allotted time so that multiple groups of students are not competing to use the facilities. Also, the expectation is that the restroom break should last only five minutes. Before leaving for the restroom, clearly communicate the behavioral expectations and the time limit. Use your watch or stopwatch to time the students and praise them when they meet the behavior and time expectations.
Sign up for your restroom time slot in the main office by Tuesday, January 7.
2. Restroom Passes - In addition to scheduled restroom breaks, students will be given restroom passes to use if they need to use the restroom outside of the scheduled time. Students will be given two restroom passes to use between now and the end of the quarter. They can choose to hold on to them and trade them in for a reward at the end of the quarter. Following these guidelines:
Have students fill in their names as soon as they receive them. Passes are invalid if names are crossed out for another name.
For the upper grades, students can use one teacher’s pass in another classroom, but they still only get the same number of passes per quarter.
Use a class roster to have student initial next to their name to indicate that they received the passes.
Have students fill in the “time out” and “time in” and then turn the pass in to the teacher when finished. This will help them practice the CCS of telling time with both digital and analog clocks.
Promote the benefit of not using the passes by reminding students that rewards will be given for left over passes at the end of the quarter.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Several commenters have remarked that the memo does not reference preparing for Common Core tests as the reason for the policy, as I suggested in the headline (although it does suggest that the hall passes would be good preparation).
This memo is evidence of a level of administrative micromanagement that is symptomatic of intense pressure to raise test scores.
According to my source, this pre-K-8 school was recently downgraded to a “Level 3,” the lowest possible score, meaning that closure is a distinct possibility, if scores do not improve. Add to that the fact that new Pearson tests will be based on the Common Core, and this school is in trouble. Scores on Common Core tests have been significantly lower than scores on previous tests in every state where they have been given. And note that teacher evaluations will include their student’s performance on tests as well.
As further evidence, here is a part of another memo, providing guidelines for bulletin boards:
BULLETIN BOARDS (Now labeled with an orange card to assist you) Bulletin Boards should reflect the academic rigor and the differentiated instruction of the Common Core State Standards that are taking place in the classroom and school. Bulletin board work should pertain to the appropriate grade level subject matter being taught. They should spotlight student work and be attractive, stimulating learning stimuli-not mere decoration. No worksheets are allowed and avoid commercial materials. In addition, each bulletin board must have an "I Can" statement in student-friendly language, rubric, specific feedback, title, and a brief (2-3 sentences) description of the activity that took place to produce the work. Classroom bulletin boards should have current work (nothing past 2 weeks).
What do you think of this policy? Is this policy likely to create more focused classrooms and better test scores?
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