Project Rationale: What happens when I invite the community into the classroom through online publication?

Posted on April 23, 2011


The stormy waters of constant “education reform,” “standards,” and testing movements that have only become more virulent and oppressive with each passing year threaten to drown out high-quality education in Michigan. Faced with threats of state takeovers, schools continually increase the pressure on teachers to raise test scores. All around the country, this pressure has resulted in desperate schools taking desperate measures, from usurping Best Practice by Drill and Kill, to organized, school-wide test fraud. At Adrian High School this year, the eleventh-grade English teachers were directed to spend twenty minutes per day on ACT Practice Tests for every day during the three weeks leading up to The Test. This year has also brought NWEA, an online skills test that students will take three times per year. The testing industry consumes more and more of the school year; classroom teachers have to be incredibly knowledgeable and flexible to provide high-quality learning experiences in this ever-more-narrow view of education.

This test-crazed climate has become the catalyst for me to begin creating a body of online content that I have come to refer to as “my online empire.” In a world where “Education Reports,” have come to mean a public blaming and shaming of schools, teachers, and ultimately, our students, through publishing “failing” test scores, I want to send my voice, through online publication, to humanize, broaden, and democratize the public conversation about student “achievement.” Children are NOT test scores. They are human beings, and through posting artifacts from and articles about a humane and democratic classroom, where Best Practice brings forth critical and creative thinking, and where achievement means so much more than what can be measured on a standardized test, I send my voice to offer the community an alternative vision of “student achievement” and “tenured, union teachers.”

What will happen? I don’t know. I’m curious to find out. I’m taking it step by step. I began by creating online content over the summer of 2010, to use for classroom demonstrations and instruction. I created a Youtube channel, a public figure Facebook page, and a blog. I began writing. I created a plan to gradually introduce online assignments in Part A of my American Literature course; I invited students to post writing projects online for extra credit; I began using online content that I created for in-class instruction, and I often reminded students that they would be required to post their writing projects online in Part B of the course. By second trimester Parent-Teacher conferences, I could provide parents with a hand-out that invites them to several websites with student performances and/or information about coursework. The classroom door is opening.

Third trimester Parent-Teacher conferences are this week. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do, but when I decide, I’ll post it here. One thing I know for sure is that I will provide parents with information about legislation that de-funds and destabilizes public education. Parents need to know what’s at stake. I need to take this opportunity to raise awareness about the threats to public education and democracy. It’s my duty, I believe, as a citizen teacher. I cannot stand by silently while the state legislature makes education a privilege available only to the rich.