Thursday, September 10, 2009

Anne Giddings on the campaign and schools

I had a chance to speak with Anne Giddings (Council, at-large) after Tuesday's Council meeting:

As well, I know some people have asked about the views held by Anne Giddings on schools. And since she posted this very thoughtful comment on this week-old thread on the schools' NCLB non-compliance, I decided to front page her comment:

This retired educator (Full disclosure: former high school math teacher, math department chairman, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, curriculum supervisor, assistant superintendent) cannot resist adding her two cents to this topic.

I strongly agree with retired teacher* that standardized tests can be helpful if they test what is being taught. Each district sets its own curriculum, and although most districts follow the outline the state provides for its tests, there is no guarantee that they match. And, though there is some cognizance of spelling and other writing “conventions” on the CMT, important since these conventions help the reader to understand the intent of the writer, students are still not always taught spelling rules. They should be, although this senior citizen was taught spelling rules and lots of phonics back in the dark ages, and I remember my 4th grade teacher telling my mother, “Anne spells phonetically, not necessarily correctly.” One has to give some attention to spelling, and check for typos; take some time to look at what has been written; that should be taught, also. (Similar to checking math work for possible errors, rather than just writing an answer and rushing on to the next problem…..)

There is a problem in using standardized tests to judge school systems, since particularly in districts such as Cheshire, many students enter school having had a variety of excellent learning opportunities at home: literacy rich homes with parents reading and using large vocabularies when talking to their children; private pre-kindergarten; travel; exposure to theater, art and musical performances; restriction on TV watching; etc. Historically, CT state testing, CMT and CAPT scores, tend to show a correlation with town demographics.

Also, one test a year will not show growth made by a child. A pre-test in the fall and a post-test in the spring would come closer to showing the effects of the schooling for that year, but would still not show the cause of the student achievement. Cheshire has generally good CMT/CAPT scores, and we would expect that to be the case.

I do know that NCLB has helped to nudge some school districts to pay more attention to the % of students scoring below goal, rather than just congratulating themselves on the % that score above goal. Attention should be paid to individuals who could achieve more, not matter where they score.

What does decent research show is the single most important factor in student learning? Not turf. Not smartboards. The factor is the teacher. We want playing fields to be safe for users and technology can make learning less tedious—help to motivate students. But technology is not the silver bullet. There is no easy answer.

Tim White

* "Retired Teacher" was the name of an earlier commenter on the thread to which Anne replied.


Anonymous said...

A problem, as I see it, is that what is being taught is dictated by the test. So if you have a standardized test, then you have a standardized curriculum (the test dictates the curriculum). On the surface this may not seem like a bad thing, but when too much focus is placed on the results (as it is now), then I feel real learning suffers (maybe disappears).

So now I think when kids say school is boring; I wonder is it? I also wonder how we compare on a global basis in eduction, not just with the United States (I kind of know the answer). I think if Cheshire was compared on a global scale, parents would be a lot more interested and involved in their kids eduction.

Also a quiz for Anne the math teacher:
Which one does not fit with the group and list one that can replace it?

Anne Giddings said...

Oh, you are nice! You gave an easy quiz question to someone who used to teach all the geometry classes in the school (a small central school in upstate NY).

Three of these are abbreviations for methods of proving triangles congruent: SSS (3 sides of one triangle congruent to the corresponding 3 sides of the other), SAS (2 sides and the included angle of one triangle congruent to the corresponding parts of the other triangle), ASA (2 angles and the included side of one triangle congruent to the corresponding parts of the other triangle).

But, AAA (3 angles of one triangle congruent to the 3 angles of the other) does not prove the triangles congruent, just similar--same shape, but not necessarily the same size.

The fourth abbreviation should be AAS (2 angles and a side of one triangle congruent to those of the other).

As to state testing, many educators think that the state is using standardized testing to promote a state curriculum by default--districts have to prepare students for the tests, so they follow the topics the state includes in the grade the state does. Thus, the tests dictate the curriculum.

I will add that I think the state tests are MUCH better than earlier standardized tests. If you are not familiar with the types of questions, you might like to check the state department of education website (, they have redesigned the site again--good luck finding the sample questions--I have never thought this site was user friendly; click on "student assessment," then CMT, then CMT Resources for Educators, then Fourth Generation CMT Handbooks)for samples.

There are various ways to prepare students for these tests. Some are boring ("drill and kill") and others are less boring.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your response and it was nice meeting you at the fall festival.

You definitely have my vote!

Anne Giddings said...

You are most welcome.

Thank you for your confidence in me.

I think we need counselors who have the time to consider, plan and follow through, and that may be difficult for those who work full-time and have children at home. The major reason that I never ran for office before is that I knew I could not devote an adequate amount of time while working from 6 am till 6 pm 1/2 hour away. Now, I can devote the time needed.

And, I hate to sit around doing nothing!

Anonymous said...

I think the TC should be paid, 20 to 25K per year and they would be required to spend an average of 15 to 20 hours per week working for the people of Cheshire. We could also cut down from 9 to 7 members.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:59
I'm no math major but here goes. AAA is the triple A, ASA is the American Society of Arborists or Anarchists,SAS is back talk and I'll get back to you on SSS...I'm still working on that between Town Council meetings.

We have two this week...about 7-8 hours worth. The pay is about right As to the number on TC as long as it's an odd number, 7 or 9 works but we're chartered at 9. Seven may make the meetings shorter.

Tim Slocum

Anonymous said...

Tim S. and Tim W.,

Do you think you should be paid?

Tim White said...

No. That's unnecessary.