Tuesday, September 12, 2006


A Typical Situation

When kids registered for school this year, in that week before school started, they checked out English and Math books. Of course, with the sort of transitional populations you find at an inner city school, you can imagine that there are plenty of kids coming late (entering school during the first week or two). These kids did not get books.

If you didn't teach one of these two subjects, you arranged a trip to the library with your kids to check out social studies books, or art books, or whatever. If you did teach English or Math, you were directed to advise your "late add" kids to check out a book from the library before school, during lunch, or after school. By "directed," I mean ordered to do it this way, and not take your class over as a group to the library, or send individual "late add" students to the library during class time. Hold that thought.

There is a law in California that governs access to materials. Someone sued over not having a textbook. It was ordered that every student must have a textbook. If every student does not have a textbook, then no homework can be assigned from the textbook. If there is only a class set of books, kids can only be given work from the book during class time.

The state keeps track of this by sending review teams out to schools. These teams visit classrooms, and their expectation is that they will see a textbook on the desk of every student. If they do not see that, they will ask why not. It does not matter if you are even using the textbook; the kids must have textbooks on their desks.

Today, the relevant AP asked for headcounts of how many kids have books, and how many don't. I will grant that he was not angry; however, he was surprised that not all of our kids have books. We reminded him of our orders not to send any kid to the library during class time.

We have been given a new directive. Tomorrow, the day before the visit, we will be sending our kids to the library to check out books. All day long. From every English and Math class. It'll be a mess. This is the sort of thinking ahead that goes on, and it's the sort of thing that our administration would not like us to share with the review team.

That's a dilemma in and of itself. Last year, the review team didn't happen to come into any of my classes. I understand that they do ask students about their books. I do not know if they ask teachers anything. If they do, I do not know what I will say. I'm sure I could tell them plenty of truthful things that they would not like, and that the school would like me not to say. I could also, by being selective, remain "truthful" while hiding our flaws. I suppose I know what I should do, but it's always the tall grass that gets cut first, and I'm not interested in looking for a new job. But how will our district ever change or improve if we simply cover up our flaws and hold our breath until this or that review board or commission has moved on to someplace else? Sigh.

The kicker? We never got a list of kids who had checked out books during registration. The teachers don't really know who does or doesn't have them. For the headcount, I just had to take the kids' word for it.
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