Let’s get rigorous!

So I’m not all that up to date with all the latest Pearson Inspired Common Core Standards Based education.  Ya know? I’m old.  When I’m teaching math, I use words like “multiply” and “sum”.  When I teach reading, I use phrases like “Do you like the book?” and “What’s gonna happen next?”   So last decade. So uninformed.  I know nothing, I tell you, nothing.

But I’m a good sport!  I am studying a whole variety of shiny boxed kits that tell me how to teach.  These kits were written by people who obviously know WAY more than I do about teaching.  They’re being paid by Pearson Corporation! They MUST be brilliant!

So the other day when I was forced to sit through yet another workshop on how to teach reading and writing, lead by yet another perky little girly on the Pearson payroll, I did my best to Talk the Talk.  I want to fit in! I do! Just listen to how well I slung the shit… I mean “engaged in meaningful dialogue about the latest trends in enhancing literacy.”

Perky: ‘So, have you found that the rubric is helping you to guide students toward a more rigorous approach to the standards?’                                                                                                                                                                                      

Me: ‘Totally! I find that when I facilitate a close reading of the mentor text, the rubric gives me so much information about which student is approaching grade level on which strand of each standard!”                    

 Perky: ‘So don’t you find that when you confer using the guidance of the rubric and the checklist both you and the student can find common ground for generating next steps?’                                                                              

Me: (nodding wisely) “Well, naturally, we continually refer to the anchor charts generated during each mini-lesson to identify the key areas for continued growth.”                                                                                                    

Perky: So don’t you think that its imperative to continually develop more rigorous assessments to insure comprehensive student growth across all domains?”  (Perky seems to start every sentence with “So”.  I think its in the Perky Standards and noted on the Perky Rubric.)                                                                                                  

Me: “While I’m totally sure that you are right, I’m having a little bit of difficulty decoding the main idea of the body of your thesis, given that your supporting details were framed using non-specific word choice.  I mean, from the voice in your persuasive comments I can infer that you support the idea of more rigorous assessment, both formative and summative, to inform our teaching, but I am not sure that your transitional phrases led me toward the correct conclusion.”                                                                                                                      

Perky: (blinking rapidly): ‘I, ah……’                                                                                                                                                  

Me: (giving my most warm and engaging smile) “I’m sorry! What I meant to say is that I believe in the intrinsic value of self-reflection as students dig deeper into the texts to infer the author’s purpose, and I know that it is essential for me to adhere to the best practice of providing models of grade level comprehension strategies, but how do I maintain a focus on authentic assessment while attempting to integrate cross-curricular units while continually providing the correct individual reading level for each student? I mean, gosh! (I widen my eyes and grin) how many just right books on the Articles of Confederation can there possibly be in one classroom?”                                                                                                                                                    

Perky’s mouth opened and closed, but no sound emerged.

See?  I did my best!  I tried to sling the shit, but the truth is none of it actually means anything and no matter how I try to hide it, I know that.   Fifth graders fall in love with great books when teachers read them out loud with passion, and then talk about them with interest and knowledge.  They learn to write when they are inspired to say something.  Truth? They don’t need to be told what their reading level is: they need to be surrounded by books and they need to play around with them.  Truth? They don’t need a rubric to learn how to craft a story where “the dialogue moves the story forward on the story arc” (Seriously? Whoever wrote this crap never read Vonnegut).  They know that a story is good when their friends tell them, “This was great!”

I did my best with Perky Girly. I don’t know if she accepted my nonsense, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.  All you really have to do to appease these folks is to use all of the latest jargon from the latest shiny box of    up-to-date curriculae.

How sad is that?


40 responses to this post.

  1. Oh man! I must be seriously out of practice speaking “eduease” because I could barely follow any of that! 😉


  2. Too funny (and sad), especially the “Perky Standards” and the “Perky Rubric”. I (and the rest of the staff) don’t like the R word either. My principal has caught on. She just commented at the last meeting, “I think rigor has become a dirty word.” Yes it has, because (on some levels) it means embrace the latest fad… as you noted.
    I know it’s unlikely, but Pearson (we use them too) and others could stand to train their staff in affirming the wealth of knowledge teachers already possess. It would go a long way in building their credibility and make the content they pass on easier to swallow. Great post!


    • Thank you!
      I guess I’d feel slightly better about Pearson if they didn’t write the standards, market the tests and market the curriculum materials. Talk about your conflict of interest…..Thanks for reading my rant!


      • Posted by trouvera on February 12, 2014 at 8:28 am

        This. When you are essentially creating a monopoly situation in order to profit off of children, and you can leverage the highest profits when children *fail* (parents in a panic! schools have to buy more product!! flailing muppety arms of despair!!!) there is a serious, serious undermining of the idea of all of the words in the phrase “free public education”.

        And, are you aware that at least in New York state, Pearson is also moving in on teacher certification processing? They really look to be running the entire system before long.

      • I know, its so incredibly frustrating and awful!!! A friend of mine recently took the GMAT for her MBA. Yup. Pearson product. Trying so hard to get the word out there to the public, who literally have no idea.
        By the way “flailing muppety arms of despair” may become my favorite quote of all time!

  3. Posted by Michelle B on February 12, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Sounds like Perky got Rigor….Mortis!


  4. Posted by Matthew on February 12, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Excellent. I did a similar thing a few years back to the differentiation consultant the district brought in to give every teacher in the district 3 days of workshops. She was talking about Vygotsky and had a quote on the board that essentially paraphrased Marx. When I pointed out those two things to her (in a room full of Social Studies teachers) she gave me the “big blink.” Maybe she works for Pearson now, they don’t care about “historical context” either!


    • Hahahaha!!! This former Russian Studies major loves this story!
      Seriously, I am tempted to just make up a word and insert it into the jargon. Let’s see if everyone is using the word in two years at PD workshops.


  5. Posted by Tara on February 12, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    I just say, “Talk the talk, and do what you’ve always done!” Lol


    • Trying hard, my friend! And I know that you are always striving to achieve a rigorous approach to differentiated instruction and formative instruction as you seek to use best practices in achieving maximum student growth!


  6. Posted by Paul Pugh on February 12, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Excellent, my school a 7-12 grade Mid-High was deemed an “At-Risk” school due to many things including poor test scores, we applied for an received the trecherous “SIG” or federal School Improvement Grant. Little did me know that the particular turn-around model (intervention) that was chosen included nearly round-the-clock consultants in our classrooms from both Marzano and Pearson for almost 3 years. I have lived with the type of nonsense found in your blog and much, much more for way to long. I just want to thank you for the smile on my face and the chuckle in my heart after reading this, believe me I will share it with the other teachers who have hung in there for the kids.


    • Oh, my heartfelt sympathies to you! I was actually the Chair of my local School Committee (yes, a teacher achieved such an exalted status) when our district was labeled the first Underperforming District in Mass. We had the honor (gagging sounds) of a face to face meeting with Gov. MItt Romney, and then an onslaught of consultants for years. Luckily for me and my three children, the teachers were focused on reality, not smoke and mirrors, and it all turned out well.


  7. Posted by Madelaine on February 12, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    You’ve become my heroine by voicing my inner feelings to Little Ms. Knows It All. I teach in NYC, Middle School, and had the unfortunate experience to host a group of Ms. Perkys Girlies during the whole month of May 2013 and part of June from 8:00 to 3:00. What a freaking thrill! I’ve been a teacher for 25 years k to 12, I’ve taught them all. Now Pearson has reinvented the wheel and here we go! Ioved the way you managed the Pearson instructor. I am just sorry I wasn’t there. ; )


    • Well, truth to tell, I’m not sure I managed her all that well. This is mostly what I was THINKING while I gritted my teeth and tried to be polite.
      I did tell her that I was pretty sure that in 50 years our libraries will be filled with literature written by home schoolers, and that Sharon Creech’s work wouldn’t do well on these stupid rubrics.
      Honest to God, she’s just lucky I didn’t have that extra cup of coffee before I met with her……….


      • Posted by Michael Fiorillo on March 4, 2014 at 10:16 am

        “… I gritted my teeth while trying to be polite…”

        Loved your post, but it’s time to stop being polite: these perky frauds and parasites should be met with either derisive laughter or total silence.

      • I know…..I walk a fine line between wanting to be a good team player (I love my colleagues and my school) and wanting to strangle someone.
        “Perky” will be back on Friday, so I’ll get another chance to speak up.

  8. Posted by Sue on February 12, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Loved your piece. Somehow I started thinking about singing “Let’s get rigorous, rigorous” to the tune of “Let’s get physical, physical”! Thanks for the rigorous humor.


  9. Posted by Diane on February 12, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Still laughing. It’s obvious that we’ve been “doing” wrong all this time. How have we survived


  10. Posted by Caihlyn Tatsu on February 12, 2014 at 10:10 pm

    Started taking the required SEI course for re-certification. It felt like there was way too many ‘rubrics’ to understand just how we were being assessed. Whatever happened to simple grading? Will I be considered ’emergent’, ‘proficient’, ‘progressing’ or ‘distinguished’? I am more used to being an A, B or C student.


    • And why can’t we just be “students”? Without the whole measurement/data/areyougoodenough bullshit?


      • Posted by Michael Fiorillo on March 4, 2014 at 10:21 am

        Because, as the famous management guru Peter Drucker said, “That which can be measured, can be managed.”

        In other words, so-called education reform is all about power, control and money.

        The kids are data, and data is for sale. Teachers and their unions are the biggest institutional obstacle to this regime, thus all the scapegoating and attacks.

  11. Posted by Ramona Lowe on February 12, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    Loved this. Whenever I mention Pearson, the word is always followed by the phrase “the great Satan.”


  12. Thank you – after a week of meetings I was starting to question my own abilities – do I really know how to teach? Your post reminded me whose abilities I should question. (still mine, of course, because teachers always try to do better, but, you know, that’s different)


    • Ah, but “thinking about my teaching” and “questioning myself” are too very different activities! It strikes me as odd that those in power don’t seem to see the difference….


  13. Good for you! Because of Common Core, I think all children should be Home Schooled.


  14. […] This post was written by a veteran teacher who knows how to get students to love literature. […]


  15. Posted by Jason O'Brien on March 4, 2014 at 9:49 am

    The most powerful line in this truly entertaining piece was “Fifth graders fall in love with great books when teachers read them out loud with passion, and then talk about them with interest and knowledge.” I taught fifth grade for four years. The highlight of each day was the 30 minutes of reading that I did to students. We read a variety of books, but the clear favorite was Harry Potter. Students went through a “sorting ceremony” and were placed in their respective houses. For 30 minutes every day I would read (using horrible accents and quirky voices) to the kids. I knew I was doing something right when Austin (who was a struggling reader) had a copy of “The Goblet of Fire” in his hands (the book is 872 pages). I asked “What are you doing reading our book?” He said, “I can’t wait that long to find out what is going to happen.” It’s amazing what modeling passion for reading can do for kids. I read to first graders yesterday for Dr. Seuss week. The first question I asked was “Boys and girls, why is it important to be a good reader?” A child raised his hand and said “So you can pass the test.” This is what we’re becoming…a nation of school children who think that the goal of reading is amassing AR points, DIBELs scores, or the all-important STAR reading proficiency. Momshieb, I applaud your courage to advocate for students and teachers. Keep up the good work.


    • Thank you!!
      Like you, I am holding on to my beloved “read alouds”. In our school we are now supposed to use “read aloud” to create “mini-lessons” on specific reading/writing strategies. Very structured, very scripted and they are supposed to be short picture books.
      How ’bout “No”. This year I have read four novels, and the kids love them. I won’t give that up!!


  16. […] This post was written by a veteran teacher who knows how to get students to love literature. […]


  17. Posted by laMissy on March 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I can translate that “So” which begins every sentence among a certain subset of perky girlies and perky guys. It’s shorthand for “you’re so old, I’ll do you a courtesy and explain it to you. After all, how could you possibly know what I do since I am so much more perky than you?”

    I’m glad to know I’m not alone in finding this turn of phrase both irritating and condescending!


  18. Posted by 2old2tch on March 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    She was trying to lead the old horse to water, pulling on the reins with each “so.” No one seems to understand that old horses have a wealth of experience in telling horse s**t from water. I came here from Diane Ravitch’s blog and my side trip has been well worth it. As I have been put out to pasture, (at least I wasn’t sent to the glue factory!) I wish you the best with Perky this Friday.


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