Budget Cuts Affect the Classroom
At The Schools with Audrey Linden
I was at an elementary school all last week, and at the faculty meeting, the budget for xeroxing was discussed. The dilemma was "to xerox or not to xerox". That was the question. At this school, the teachers are allowed 250 copies a month. I was in a lower grade and the weekly assessment was coming up on Friday. It would have been 5 double sided pages to test the comprehension, vocabulary, grammar skills, spelling, etc. we had covered. Multiply these 5 pages by 24 students and you get 120 copies. That leaves 130 more copies for the month.
The homework packets are copied as weekly packets, and there is a page for each day double sided which also comes to 5 or 6 pages. The monthly xerox quota is filled with just homework. Presently the homework is shared by two teachers. I asked how these young students' progress can be monitored if they do not do the weekly end of the chapter tests or at least do these progress monitoring tests twice a month. The other grade level teacher did not give the weekly tests or bi-monthly tests, but instead is giving the bigger mid-way assessment, which is cumulative as to skills, vocab, spelling and it is very long. She said it was hard for kids to sit through. Of course it would be hard to sit through, especially if these young children have not been testing weekly or at least bi-monthly. Part of this testing is is for children to learn how to take tests, to prepare them for testing in the next grade, and to prepare for the State Standardized Testing, and part of it is for a teacher to effectively monitor their learning.
We were told to use the duplo as much as possible instead of the xerox machine.That makes sense. I asked my aide to use the duplo. Apparently, the duplo can be used for copies over 20 or 25. I am not sure if she used the duplo or the xerox. I was told there was a problem with 2 sided copying on the duplo. I did give my weekly test on Friday, and judging from their scores, these kids do need the weekly tests for a while and can switch to twice a month. About half the class had scores that were not passing. It was the same with the spelling which I had dictated. Though we had gone over the spelling with blends daily, more than half the class got did not pass.
Keep in mind that teachers' evaluations in the future will be based on test scores. It will not be the Treasures Language Arts or Envisions Math tests, (in elementary schools), but the CAT 6 and Core Math and Language tests, that are taken into account in evaluating teachers. But if the children are not used to taking tests, and their knowledge is not built up week to week by progress monitoring or even bi-monthly, this is bad for the children and also bad for the teachers who will be held accountable. The bottom line is that student learning is at stake due to the budget issues.
I suggested some booster club fund raising be done to raise funds to be able to xerox more copies or to buy a xerox machine. I have been at other elementary schools where they were not so restricted as to xeroxing, because they they have done some incredible fund raising. Yes, it does take time to organize and plan an event for successful fund raising. These teachers were on committees and each had to contribute some time. And, it worked as the necessary funds were raised.
As a substitute, if on a long term, it would be cost prohibitive to be spending money weekly for substitutes to be paying this xeroxing out of their own income. It also can be a hardship for teachers to have to take the time to drive to a Staples or Kinkos and to have to spend their precious out of class time to xerox and to use their own funds.
I had asked to laminate the Treasures vocabulary papers, which are reuseables and on very flimsy paper. These vocabulary words come in a work-book and are to be torn out. The idea was to cut them in half and use them yearly. In Open Court, these vocabulary words were on hard stock glassy cards and could be saved and reused easily. The teacher who I was substituting for had taped all for 4 months on the walls and some papers were torn. When the taped papers are removed form the walls, they will be torn also. My request came back with "We do not laminate these. Do it on your time at your expense." The coordinator agreed the vocab. papers do have to be re-used and it is a very expensive component of Treasures. Fortunately, the coordinator had a book of them for next years teacher class to use. There are always the plastic sleeves that can be used.
If these weekly tests are not given weekly or bi-monthly, how will a teacher give a grade? I was told some teachers grade by the scores on the bigger less frequently given tests, the standardized tests, and by classroom observation. Homework factors in at something like 20%. I guess one could do this. I feel it is balancing the school budget on the kids's backs.
How does one teach effectively without the use of xerox, etc. and how will the children learn good test taking skills?
I'd go for the duplo and do the progress monitoring, even bi-monthly. And, as some schools do, I would do fund raisers for xeroxing. In schools in wealthier areas, this is not so much as a concern. Parents do the fund raising. And in some schools, they find a corporation to aide them. I was at a school on the south west side and a car dealership's manager had adopted the school and provided books, etc. It would seem another important duty is for principals to know how to do public relations, recruit, and do fund raising.
Central Calling Area Chapter Chair
HOR Voting Member