|Banner at the entrance to our school reads: "Welcome to Langston Hughes Elementary"|
|Fourth graders created some Haiku as a "secret assignment"|
we completed on a day when no substitute was available
Due to the destabilization of the school closing and consolidation process, Langston Hughes saw a decline in their test scores and attendance rates which led to receiving the lowest possible rating, a Level 3. Our administration and Network reacted with an obsessive focus on improving test scores. They asked me to begin the year filling a special education position until they could hire a replacement. Our staff spent countless hours pouring over test score data, creating lesson plans aligned to a meticulous test-prep focused pacing guide, and shifted most after-school programs to either a remedial or test-prep focus instead of enrichment activities such as art or dance. If you were to walk into our classrooms, you would see kids doing often content-free, skills-based, tedious work. There are no projects, science experiments, or even the study of history. The fights continue and there is little joy in our building for students or staff alike.
And so, in the name of higher test scores, the Japanese Program has been discontinued. I never taught a day. At first, the hope was that it was only a temporary break, but it is looking more and more like the program is gone forever.
I had such high hopes...
|A small portion of the Japanese curricular materials |
|Flashcards, projects, and lesson plans have been |
sitting unused all year
|A small fraction of games/materials|
I had ideas around examining critical issues in both countries such as race/racism/xenophobia, testing mania, and bullying. I was planning a cumulative video project with each class contributing a small section entitled "Our Community, Our City, Our Country" that we could bring on our annual trip abroad to share a more complete view of Chicago and The United States. Students could take pride in their community as they shared who they are with our partners in Japan.
I was genuinely excited to teach this subject, to continue this truly special program, to bring kids-some of whom have never left their neighborhood-across the sea.
But, no. Thanks to the school closings, thanks to high-stakes testing, thanks to Common Core, all of that is shattered. This program is lost forever to these children, only to be replaced by joyless, motivation-killing test prep.