Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of Carol Jago
biography of speaker


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When Nothing is New, by Carol Jago

Ms. Jago: All right. Yes. I'd like to address the point that Janet Nicholas made earlier, which is in California, we have the Standards in place. Standards that other states across the country are looking at as models. We have an assessment system now. It is developing, it's moving. What we don't have is that giant middle piece of instruction in order. And I'd like to take the time to talk about that middle piece. I think we have learned (Inaudible) a couple years ahead of Los Angeles Unified School District in terms of holding students accountable based on standards, based on assessment. And many people, as they start holding students back, not allowing them to go to high school or middle school based on scores, said wait a minute, something's wrong here, because you are holding students accountable for something they have never been taught. And that's exactly what was going on.

Pacing Slows Down Dramatically in High-Poverty Schools

Note: These two groups represent the highest and lowest quartiles in terms of percent low-income enrollment in the CPS. The mixed-income schools have less than 50 percent poverty. High-poverty schools enroll greater than 90 percent low-income students

This chart, the straight line is for your standards, your assessment tools, they critique logically -- second grade more difficult than third, third more difficult than fourth, on a continuum. The top line are suburban schools. Suburban schools, urban schools -- low socioeconomic status and largely racially isolated schools. In your suburban schools, instruction matched your standards as well as your -- what were testing for. But look what happened in your urban schools. About 4th grade, instruction pacing so slows down that you are holding students at the 8th grade level accountable for material they have never seen. A consortium on school research went into classrooms and said we want to see what is going on. And what they found over and over again was that there were simply repeat offenders -- that some things were being taught again and again. And I know I'm on dangerous territory because I've been in the classroom for 25 years. I know learning is recursive. That you must return and move forward. My students are working on a paper in which they have to bring back all 20 books -- think about the 20 books we have read since September, write a paper, analyze characters who are torn asunder. They have to remind themselves of what they have read. But what we can't do is what is shown on this chart -- simply change the literature and the student is doing the same thing, reading out loud, simple who what where why questions. Writing a one page paper... I believe this is educational malpractice. And there are lots of reasons why it happens. Teachers love their students. I know that I can't just go out and teach and pay no attention to the skills of the children in front of me. At the same time, if I asked those children, though there's not 16, 17 years old, they are still children -- if I ask them what they think I should be teaching and what they are ready for, we would be watching movie versions of everything. And (Inaudible) their math home from school. I do not ask my students what should we be doing today. You think they would have said, great, at the end of may, let's write a 5-page culminating paper. No, this is not what a teenager wants to do. But what we must do is make sure the instruction does increase in complexity.

For example, our 10th grade standards in literature for California read that students will (Inaudible) by what a character says about themselves in narration, dialogue, monologue or soliloquy -- analyze interactions and explain the way those interactions affect the plot. That is a long way from answering who, what, where, when, why, questions. And goes a long way to explain why our students will do poorly on these base-level assessment. They have not been taught at the level of complexity that both our standards and our assessment tools are expecting them to.

One of the things that the Chicago group found was that there were repeat offenders, things taught again and again and again. One of them was parts of speech. One of the problems with pieces like this of curriculum that appear everywhere, is that they appear nowhere. No one is then responsible for doing them. Again, our standards point out what things should be taught. What we need now, what I'm recommending is that we need a coherent curriculum in California. We do not have a coherent curriculum. We tell teachers, well, 9th grade, it's Romeo and Juliet. And 10th grade it's Julius Caesar and just go do it. That's not enough. We need to be very clear about what should be going on inside those classrooms and what standards -- at a classroom level, what they should be doing to demonstrate their learning. I know I'm guilty of a lot of things I'm right now going to decry. But I'm creating a mural of orations in Julius Caesar is not good enough. It takes up too much instructional time and does no good in terms of reading in college and beyond for demonstration of learning. We need to regard every instructional moment as absolutely precious. I can't control what happens with my students (Inaudible). I can control those 55 minutes. And I want to make sure that every one of those is -- goes right to the heart of what will take them to meet these world class standards.

I feel very strongly that we have so many new teachers coming into the profession, and to ask them to make, the return to that quote about teachers being the composer as well as the instructor -- this is setting off not only the students' failure but also the teachers'. Not every teacher wants to give up their lives to be a teacher. For me, yes, I did. But we have to stop assuming everybody wants to go into the classroom and give it your whole life. That's not realistic. He said to me to provide teachers with a coherent curriculum.

Now, in many districts, teachers are being asked to design curricular maps. They don't need to do this. The map is here (Demonstrating). It's already been written in the Standards. What teachers need to do is to find ways to implement the Standards and make sure that what happens is a deepening of complexity in how they are using literature, not simply the same old same old -- summary paragraphs, that -- to demonstrate learning.

Just to conclude this consortium on school research, their concluding remark, we find no connection between slow pacing and improved student learning, a finding echoed in the recent Third International Math and Science Study. All we can say with the evidence in hand is that steady exposure to slow pacing left Chicago students farther and farther behind.

You can't let that happen in California. Thank you. (Applause).

Go to transcript of Richard Colvin


Contact the organizers

Postal and telephone information:

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K12 Education

College of Science and Mathematics

California State University Northridge

18111 Nordhoff St.

Northridge CA 91330-8235

Telephone: (Dr. Klein: 818-677-7792)

FAX: 818-677-3634 (Attn: David Klein)