My school district has told the high school English Department to create an assessment system like CollegeBoard’s SpringBoard program or else it gets the SpringBoard program.
My department’s resistance to the SpringBoard program is, in part, as follows:
- expectations for kids will be lowered,
- vocabulary and grammar are not emphasized,
- it could negatively affect our AP numbers and scores,
- our honors program will be eliminated,
- poetry is not a primary component,
- it’s scripted,
- the classics are almost non-existent,
- it’s based on excerpts rather than full texts (and students struggle with stamina), and
- the kids tells us how little enjoyment there was with it at the middle school level.
This morning I searched for other people’s takes on the SpringBoard program, and I definitely saw a mixed bag of responses but I read much of what we saw too.
“The meat’s not there,” according to one teacher.”There is no grammar. There is no vocabulary.” Out goes Beowulf and the poetry of Shelley and Yeats. In come TV and film clips and excerpts from other literature.
Another teacher called the program “Orwellian.” This teacher says, “a program whose chief product is culturally illiterate students actually calls itself a literacy program? It’s not that the College Board people don’t try to help students become more sophisticated readers; it’s just that they have them read so very little.”
On another site a teacher notes that “some of the stories and poems use to be in the middle-grade classrooms. Guess what? I teach 9th grade honors. I don’t believe that placing lower level literature in the honors classroom is one of the best practices…Most teachers believe it should be a tool for the classroom, not obligatory to the extent that it is. It is sad that the only people in the classroom everyday are the very people that are not listened to and are afraid to speak up. It speaks volumes about the climate of this county.”
Another teacher used an analogy: “I once felt like a gourmet chef serving up 5 course, 5 star meals to my hungry students. I put my heart and soul into each and every one of customized recipes, and always took special requests when necessary. Now, with Springboard, I feel like a cashier at a fast food drive thru, dishing out pre-cooked, re-heated meals that are quick, easy, and ready to serve, but not all that filling or healthy in the end.”
What I fear behind all of this is what another teacher mentioned: “SpringBoard has essentially broken my spirit and my love of teaching.” Teacher voices in my district seem to be getting quieter too as more and more of the programs eliminate the originality and personalization of the instructor. Pre-packaged lessons in a can are replacing the lesson designs based on the diversity and needs of the students before the teacher, and those farthest away from the classroom appear to be making more and more of the classroom decisions.
Does a teacher really need to build a relationship with a student and learn his interests when the lessons are already pre-determined?
Does a teacher need to research anything or look at modern or immediate supplemental materials when the lesson is pre-generated?
How does a teacher succeed in a classroom where she feels she is giving the students less than what she could and that the child’s future may be negatively affected?
Ultimately, when the creativity, autonomy, and passion of the teacher is exchanged for teaching sameness, what happens to the “art” of teaching?