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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Doing their best to kill the joy


A bit of Jackson Brown's Great Pretender lives in me. I wake up some days a bit lost, but then I find my dreams in the smiling faces of those children and teachers I work with.. My fellow teachers and our CCSU Literacy Teachers are path finders. 

When I was a young university student, Dr. Jerry Weiss asked us to consider stories from different points of view. He said what if you read To Kill a Mockingbird from the point of view of a Black Person, Hispanic Person, LGBT person, Immigrant, White person, a person of faith, and a person of no faith. What happened in that in class that day became one of my deepest most sincere learning experiences. Readers bring their life experiences to the text they read, and those experiences lead to multiple meanings. I would learn later on about Louise Rosenblatt's Reader Response Theory which took it to the next level. 

Well, teaching that novels have different points of view leads right into Rudine Sims Bishop's Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Doors. Teachers have learning experiences that shape them; they are fed not by Common Core State Standards, but by theory. Research shapes us. 

Our work is hard, and our nation's policymakers and legislators are working around the clock to make it harder. They don't care much for research; they prefer counting numbers. Professionally my view is a public school system that often tries to break teachers. It is around the concept of breaking teachers that I begin to feel lost, a great pretender. I then remember research guides me in the right direction, not test scores or policymakers. I remember teachers can make learning joyful. Then I put on my Mr. Icredible outfit, and say Does anyone feel like winning a gold medal today. 

Then I remember these teachers and children needed me to rise above the noise. When I do that, I find my teaching soul. With teachers it is never about us; it is about those we teach. 

For 40 years the ones I teach have always brought me back to my teaching dream. That dream that said I will be a teacher who makes a difference. Teaching is difficult, and the system appears to be making it harder, but those faces in front of me make it worth every day for 40 years. 

I am the Great Pretender renewing my dream,

Dr. Jesse P. Turner 

CCSU Literacy Center Director 

If you like to listen to the song that inspired my morning walk it is Jackson Brown's The Great Pretender. > <

Monday, March 20, 2023

Is there a test for the love of reading?


A great deal of what happens around teaching children to read in our public schools is based on test scores. 

The assessments used are Norm Reference and Criteria Reference Assessments, which in order to be standardized must demonstrate large failures. If they can’t do that, then the assessment becomes invalid. We should not surprise that the conversations always revolve around large academic failures. Norm Reference Assessments must show 50% falling below the mean. Criteria Reference Assessments are Mastery Based requiring 75-80& correct responses. They are created to show large failure, and this is also why there is a never-ending Reading war. Regardless of the reform failure is guaranteed. They are informative, and can help us see how schools are doing nationally, and how they measure up using a performance-based measure. They are however weak measures to judge how individual students are doing in their everyday school performance, and often contradict class grades and student Grade Point Averages. Failed to consider variables, such as poverty, race, linguistic competencies, or emotional or cognitive challenges. Basing education reform policies on this data is an invitation to an endless cycle of aggravated data pitfalls. Most of all they often lead to reforms that fail to engage children in learning to read in joyful and meaningful contexts. The result can be “Aliteracy” readers who can read but are uninterested in reading. > <

There are more relevant assessments, diagnostic ones with clear individualized instruction paths. Those rich data informal classroom-based assessments, the ones informing teachers here and now, where their students are. The results of those other high-stakes ones will generally come in during the next school year. They often offer little to no immediate benefit for children. 

It is no big secret that focusing on high-stakes assessments increases anxiety and always ends up turning learning to read into a chore. I will suggest focusing policies solely on Norm Reference and Criteria Reference Assessments is a dog chasing their own tail syndrome, that often fails to inspire teachers and a love of reading. They also almost always cut out the voices of those closest to those learning to read, teachers, parents, and students. 

If our public schools want to develop generations of readers who love to read, they might consider rethinking our 100-year love affair with standardized testing.

Just Saying,
Dr. Jesse P. Turner 
CCSU Literacy Center Director

Dr. Turner, show us the joy

Show us the joy, Dr. Turner! 

If you like to listen to the tune that inspired my morning walk it is Three Dog Night's Joy to The world > <

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Push back against Diverse Books, Equity, Inclusion & Diversity is an attempt to create passive citizens


Isn’t the push back against diverse books, diversity, equity, and inclusion another dog whistle attempts to create passive citizens. Citizens easy to rule, easy to maculate, and easy to stir up.

The Pan-African activist, journalist and entrepreneur, Marcus Garvey, wrote “a people without knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” Trees that are not firmly rooted in rich, fertile soil do not grow, do not bear fruit, they cannot withstand strong wind, or bear heavy loads. 

If you wonder how a White Teacher from Jersey City knows about the life of Marcus Garvey? It is because, I had old schoolteachers who refused to confined by the dog whistle blowing status quo Florida Governor. 
Ain't no Governor going to turn me around,                                                                                                  Dr. Jesse P. Turner                                                                                                                                              Initing to Save Our Schools
Badass Teacher 

If you like to listen to the song that inspired my morning walk today its Ain't going to let no one one turn me around. > <


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Dear Governor DeSantis, you can't study Women's History without studying Sexism and Race.


Imagine if Governors, Think Tanks, and Politicians, just let teachers teach.

We have these Read-A-Thons at our CCSU Literacy Center. We read, we ware our pajamas, eat tons of popcorn, are not allowed to sit on chairs. We take Gold Medal Reading Challenges, where we earn Gold Medals for reading and sharing what we are learning. We have them every month. Don't tell the children, but are pushers of SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) and choice. Don't tell any policymakers either, they have a hard time with the idea of choice and SSR. 

The above image to the untrained eye, may look like children having fun dropping parachutes off the balcony in our Henry Bernard Annex right outside our CCSU Literacy Center. Some find it difficult to see how parachutes fit into administrative SROs (Strategic Learning Objectives). We did not count words read correctly last night, there was no test, we were having too much fun reading. But, trust mw everyone was learning some very important lessons about real life. 

As in Hamlet “there is a method in my madness”. Everything we do in our Literacy has purpose and reason just beyond reading. March is Women's History Month, we are discovering role models of nobility, integrity, and honor in the lives of famous women in history. Our girls are seeing possibilities of their own futures, our young boys are learning to value and respect the lives of women. Of course we are building a love of reading and reading stamina. Again, don't tell the policy makers or legislators, because they sometimes struggle with the idea that free reading improves reading. At least they always leave it off their PowerPoint Presentations at PDs. Sometimes I wonder if they understand that the readers who love to read do better on those high-stakes assessments they love. It is just to hard to put love of reading into their SLOs. Why how we you test it? You could observe it of course, but that would qualitative data, Every Policymaker knows that qualitative data can't be measured on standardized test, or their PowerPoints.

Back to our Read-A-Thon, we started reading about great women in aviation in the fall, (you don’t have to wait for women's history month to learn about famous women. We have continue learning about women all year long. We read about Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Hazel Ying Lee, and Olga Custodio female aviators who broke new glass ceilings. We are not done yet; we discover others every day. American History is everyone’s story, and we celebrate all stories.   

The fact we were studying female aviators, might be might call this being WOKE Education to some people. I just call it good teaching. Now, Governor Ron DeSantis probably disapproves because each of these women had to overcome obstacles of sexism and racism, that sounds like being WOKE. Word is the Governor thinks that kind of learning might upset some children. After decades of teaching, I find learning about how people overcame sexism and racism motivates and lifts them. Children like the idea of people breaking barriers. 

Back to the parachutes, there is a learning theory called; "Hot cognition" a hypothesis on motivated reasoning in which a person's thinking is influenced by their emotional state." What we learn during positive emotional learning, stays with learners. The parachutes are just a door to build healthy respect for each other. I wager 20 years from now our children will remember Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Hazel Ying Lee, and Olga Custodio. BIG HINT Governor DeSantis, you can study Women's History without studying Sexism and Racism.  

I am an old schoolteacher unafraid of being WOKE,                                                                                   Dr. Jesse P. Turner                                                                                                                                     Uniting to Save Our Schools                                                                                                                         Badass Teacher  

Here is a link to some great books celebrating Women's History Month. >*F 

If you want to listen to the song that inspire my morning walk this morning its Sam Cook cover of Blowing in the wind"