I've tried to give it my best effort, truly I have. But it all came to a head for me one day last week when one of my students (an engaging, interesting 8th grader) said to me, "Mrs. L., why are they doing this to us?" The "this" she was talking about was the "Corrective" reading and math programs that many School District of Philadelphia schools are now forced to use. Philadelphia Magazine reported inaccurately last month that the corrective programs are used in after school remedial programs. The truth is that the "Empowerment Schools" must use these programs for EVERY STUDENT two periods per day. That is 90 minutes of scripted, rote programs, and many students are feeling punished by it! My student asked "what did we do to deserve this, are we that horrible?", and she is not really a drama queen--she truly feels that these two programs (corrective reading and math) are sucking much of the creativity and interest out of her day. My student--an 8th grader from a semi-poor neighborhood in North Philly--could clearly see what the PhD in charge of the district apparently cannot: these programs are not helping her learn, or engaging her interest, or helping her with higher order thinking skills that she will need to fulfill her life goals. When I had this student for social studies last year, she participated enthusiastically in discussions about the problems of disease and colonialism in Africa! This sort of teaching--which students actually find engaging--is being swept aside for robotic scripted programs that most students find mind-numbing.
For years, the district has been telling teachers we need to engage students and differentiate instruction. All of that is true--kids learn better when they are interested, and not every kid learns the same way! So, what are we doing now? Pushing every kid into a scripted program! As usual with large corporate-type entities, the District is talking out of both sides of their collective mouth! We need highly-qualified, innovated, committed, dedicated teachers. Yes we do! And we have many! However, highly-qualified, innovative, committed, dedicated teachers DO NOT want to read from scripts. We know how to teach, we know how to remediate, we know how to raise test scores! LET US DO IT!