The county I’m in gives the teachers a pacing guide for each subject and each quarter. For those of you not in education, they take the objectives issued by NC in the Standard Course of Study and they divide them up across the first three quarters. Quarter 4 is generally a review. Most counties do this.
What’s a little different in this county is that they produce and score quarterly Benchmarks. These are tests that are aligned with the objectives from the pacing guide for that quarter. It takes a week to give them. Since we have to test (NC EOG) at the end of the year, I like the Benchmarks for several reasons:
- The students understand testing mode and are more comfortable with it.
- Benchmarks give everyone a gauge of who is learning and that the objectives are really being taught.
- Benchmark scores help the kids make choices. If they don’t like their current scores, then they still have opportunities to improve.
What I don’t like is that it gets us off schedule. For some students, school is the only place they have routine and it’s really difficult on them to be off that routine.
I teach at a school situated blocks from a downtown area. Nearly everyone is on free lunch. Nearly every child is a minority. College is pushed as low as kindergarten (each grade level even makes an annual college visit) to help kids break the mindset families have about going. They can go, but it starts as young as kindergarten thinking about doing your best, not getting sucked into the junk that others bring to school with them, and determining that cycles can be broken.
So, now the topic of college has come up. (In one of my favorite arenas – biblioblogs – Jeremy, Joel. Interesting discussion in the comments btw.) Opportunities are available for all. On that I cannot disagree. And I’d venture to say that we almost all know someone who has looked the bad odds of a poverty stricken background squarely in the eyes and gone to college and been highly successful in life. But there is so much to overcome. And it’s not just the poverty, but the mindset and attitudes that go with it. It’s the constant moving that makes success difficult even in elementary school. It’s the in-and-out relationships that occur with adults. Is your case worker a good one? How long has your dad been in jail? Who will get you to school when it’s raining and you have to walk and you are already behind?
So, back to benchmarks. I am very happy with the second quarter benchmark scores. There is room for growth still, but the students have grown from 1st quarter. Together, we’ll keep teaching and learning and trying.