"Class Warfare" by J. Martin Rochester and Seattle School Reforms

The following is testimony by Patricia Bailey, an elementary school teacher, to the Seattle School Board about school reforms discussed in the book Class Warfare (J. Martin Rochester) and seen in the Seattle Schools. Ms. Bailey has also testified to the school board about the TERC mathematics curriculum in Seattle and about Integrated Math in the Seattle Schools.

Class Warfare and the Seattle Schools--Testimony to the Seattle School Board, Sep 1, 2004

My name is Patricia Bailey and I am a second grade teacher here in Seattle.

I want to talk about a book called, CLASS WARFARE, BESIEGED SCHOOLS, BEWILDERED PARENTS, BETRAYED KIDS AND THE ATTACK ON EXCELLENCE by a Missouri Professor, J. Martin Rochester. He is a self-described liberal democrat whose children attended public schools. He started noticing questionable assignments which began his inquiry into the current school reform movement. He noticed that with every so-called reform, academic achievement was always the loser. Experimental practices were labeled "best practices" with lip service given to "rigor." But the effect was always a "dumbing down" of students.

As a Seattle teacher, I have seen virtually EVERY school reform practice he criticizes in his book, practiced or advocated in Seattle professional development classes. They include: disparaging of factual literacy, lack of a systematic approach to spelling, block scheduling for high school, constructivist math, disparaging of teaching the algorithms, disparaging of drill and practice, use of calculators for young students, "cooperative learning," rampant therapeutic curricula, elimination of grades, elimination of homogeneous groupings, excessive hands-on emphasis, teacher as facilitator only, excessive process oriented education at the expense of content, inflated rhetoric regarding "critical thinking," etc.

This book contains a searing analysis of the current school reform and helps us realize, we must follow our own common sense and not let the reformers guide education in our district. The consequences are disabling for probably 80% of the students and especially disastrous for disadvantaged students whose parents can not remediate their children at home. It is my opinion that the integrated math fad has been one of the most troubling disasters of school reform closing the door to many a career involving math.

There are those who would say, "The WASL will keep our standards high. It's a rigorous test." But you have to be in the top 28% in the nation to pass the specious WASL test. What better way to discourage high academic achievement than to unfairly label 70% of the students in the state as substandard at an early age.* The WASL teaches children they are not high achievers starting in 4th grade (soon to be 3rd grade unless we vote a bold change in the State Superintendent Office) and it's a well-know axiom that children usually live up --or down-- to the labels they have been given.

I sympathize with the huge job you board members have taken on. Curricula have been adopted in this district which promised so much, but delivers so little. It's more difficult to cut an expensive program than a cheap one. The so-called reformers seem to know that and their programs are outrageously expensive. I commend the questions I heard being asked at your Board retreat earlier this summer and I encourage you in your quest for fine education for Seattle students.

*based on 2003 WASL results

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