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News, schools, and views from a uniquely Lowell perspective

It’s Being Done

It’s Being Done
By Karin Chenoweth
Reviewed by Terry Trout, Daley School math teacher
As a math teacher, I had a chance to share this book with one group of teachers during the summer. Now I’m sharing it with you. Here’s what I’m thinking. How much time and energy (at a school or district level) is spent seeking to learn from other schools that have already achieved what we want? My fear is that we’re trying to reinvent some wheels that others have already produced (students achieving state standards at an impressive rate) and would gladly share if we were willing to learn from them. Every school described in this book has accomplished something admirable. They are taking children who are considered “hard to teach” by many in the education world, and with thoughtful hard work, they are producing academic success. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by falling back on the tired old excuses that many other schools use – that “these kids” can’t be expected to do much academically because they are poor, because their parents don’t support their education, because their home lives are chaotic, because they don’t speak English at home, because they didn’t get the proper foundation at earlier ages, because they don’t eat breakfast, because they don’t have a culture of academic achievement, or any of a number of other excuses. At none of the schools included in this book did I hear any of that kind of language. The teachers and administrators know that the children in their schools can learn, and they know that it is up to them to figure out how to teach their students. The book is definitely worth a read. Here’s some comments from author Karin Chenoweth:
“The two years I spent visiting schools were a revelation in a lot of ways. I began this project not knowing at all what I would find. I was identifying schools solely on the basis of their student achievement test scores, and for all I knew (and feared), I would find the soul-deadening test-prep factories that we are told characterize high-poverty and high-minority schools that do well on state assessments. Perhaps, I worried, I would find schools where the teachers and principals were worn to a frazzle, burnt-out and bitter with all the expectations that have been placed on their shoulders. Or even worse, maybe I would find schools where the teachers were robotic automatons robbed of all their creativity. I found none of that. Instead I found dedicated, energetic, skilled professionals who talk about the needs of children and who care deeply about whether all their students have access to the kinds of knowledge and opportunities that most middle-class white children take for granted. That means they care about and include in their teaching art and music and physical fitness and field trips and science and history and all the things that some people say must be cut out of schools in order to focus on the reading and math skills tested in state assessments. That doesn’t mean that the people in the schools I have visited don’t care deeply about reading and math and about doing well on state assessments, but they know it is a mistake to ‘narrow the curriculum’ and ‘teach to the test’-–two epithets that are floating around the educational world.”

There is currently one response to “It’s Being Done”

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  1. 1 On December 29th, 2007, Karin Chenoweth said:

    I want to thank you for reading my book and passing along your comments. I would hate to think it acted as a discouragement to teachers. To some extent, I think it is important for people to invent their own wheels so that they exactly fit the vehicle being used and the terrain being covered. That said, it is always useful to at least have an idea of what other people’s wheels look like. That is in essence what I tried to do in It’s Being Done–give a sense of what the wheels other people have invented look like.

    Karin Chenoweth

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