[Susan notes: ]
Published in St. Petersburg Times
The St. Petersburg Times does not allow articles to be posted but let's' hope these letters slip by. Kudos to teachers, parents, and concerned public who don't allow this principal's tactics to go unchallenged.
This article amazes me. Principal Tricia McManus has perfected the worst example of "teaching to the test" I have heard about in a long time. Children should not be taking multiple practice tests. They should be learning concepts that will enable them to take any test (FCAT or curriculum) with confidence.
In addition, McManus' motivational methods are ridiculous. It is not developmentally appropriate for students to be looking at their classmates' scores on a "Data Wall" or signing "contracts stating what they will earn on this month's FCAT exams." I can only imagine how many children look forward to their "data chat" with McManus when all the students' scores are posted on a wall, complete with color codes to indicate "students with disabilities" and students who rank the lowest.
It appears that principal McManus also decides the children's "goals for the next round of testing" during these data chats. What is unclear is how she determines these goals. Has there been a recommendation from the teacher? Has the child shown a consistent level of improvement? Or is it determined by how many points Just Elementary needs to move up a letter grade?
As a parent and a teacher I wonder why principal McManus has set the burden of raising Just Elementary's ranking so heavily on the shoulders of the children.
After reading Sunday's article on FCAT and the sticky notes, my disappointment with high-stakes testing deepens. Of course scores will increase with prescriptive teaching strategies, but there will be consequences.
Ten years from now, because of the "sticky note mind-set," our children will become passive or combative, producing nothing significant for the 21 century.
Laura Focaracci & Maureen Stearns