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New Year Reflections, On Teaching Our Kiddos-ESSA

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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Second Chances.

How do we make sense of our changing educational world when the only constant is change? Classroom scenes of Blended Learning, Flipped Classrooms and every imaginable combination come to mind.

Test scores were released, but we've been too busy to talk much about what happened in reading and math, in fourth and eighth grades. I trust NAEP as the Nation's Report Card. More importantly, what are we going to do now that NCLB is officially awash, to bring the joy back into classrooms, feature the arts, replace vocational courses yet meet the technology needs of our country?

Do we really have to be like Finland, or certainly not Korea, where exhausted children fall asleep at their desks, to compete. In my opinion, too much competition and way too early.

It's time to rethink what happened to cursive writing, how much screentime and coding for a kindergartener? How do we swing some of the pendulums back, but keep what's really great for kids? Is it true that too many American students can't write a complete sentence, much less manage Common Core's complex tasks? 

A big believer of ESEA, Title One, never a fan of NCLB. At the beginning, I was one of the trainers of California's Model Curriculum Standards for K-12 Language Arts. The perfect storm of evidence-based, scientifically designed, scripted instruction collided with a language first teaching model. A whole lot of tests that were not reliable, valid and did not give teachers or parents adequate information to boost teaching, took over. And stayed.

I find it ironic that we bemoaned the factory model and in the 90's "restructured" our public schools. We've always been reforming and restructuring, as long as I can remember. Yet it seems to me that NCLB was indeed the ultimate factory model, just a different kind of factory. 

The spiral curriculum dominated American education for many years.

A diagnostic-prescriptive-evaluative approach, or target teaching is not new at all. Quite the contrary. Common Core was just more of the same in some ways, unique in others, depending who you ask. 

Our shared voices are important now. This is an exciting time! I have high hopes, as we meet our educational destiny. I fervently hope that ESSA, however imperfect, provides time to step back, reflect and make mid-course corrections which benefit children. 

Teachers need choices, whether pedagogy or how much recess time. Teachers need money to create fantastic learning environments. With 51% of our nation's children living in poverty and many more on the edge, poverty matters.

It comes to school on the faces of our children.

Policymakers expect children to achieve cookie cutter results, when all children learn best differenty. Students may experience challenges showing what they have learned. For example, I nearly flunked algebra, with a tutor, because I could never show the steps of my work.

My most significant New Year reflection is that January marks my forty-fifth year as an educator. 

In 2015, as a lifelong learner, I started Twitter, FB, wrote fifty- five blogs on my website and researched constantly. What I bring to the educational table is experience. 

We have a long way to go as far as test scores, and Summative tests stayed in ESSA. But in the end, that's pretty meaningless. The what's next and best for kids is the top of the learning agenda right now. 

For a couple of years I wondered if we are well grounded from the reforms, or rudderless, afloat. 

I think we are somewhere in between. Tonight I share hope with you, hope for our future. You are the angels, making a difference in the learning lives of children and I thank you.


Leaving footprints on your reading hearts.



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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 47 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Monday, 10 December 2018