Friday, February 9, 2018

Throwback to March & April in My KY Teaching Days; Of Course, It's Only February

Since I've arrived to Connecticut, I've taken part in the Joel Barlow High School Junior Year Portfolio Assessments - one of, if not the only, writing portfolio assessments I've encountered since leaving Kentucky in 2007. Each and every year I attend the two-day scoring session, I am in awe of what their kids can do with writing, what their teachers assign, and the style of preparation they're getting for college achievement.

My argument will continue to be: IF A SCHOOL IS NOT REQUIRING SCHOOL-WIDE WRITING PORTFOLIO ASSESSMENTS, CHANCES ARE THEY ARE NOT BEING PREPARED FOR POST-HIGH SCHOOL: CAREER, COLLEGE AND COMMUNITY LIFE. The kids at Barlow remind me of my kids in Kentucky; that is, the incredible, voice-filled, energized writing that comes from a system that supports them. The administration, faculty and students should be proud of the tradition they carry forth at the school, despite the State's irresponsibility of not supporting such writing. Heck, even the nation is negligent for promoting portfolios and writing across the curriculum.

At Barlow they achieve. At Barlow I'm impressed. At Barlow, I simply state, "This is what should be occurring in every school."

I think back, too, that from 1998-2007, while I was teaching, the State of Kentucky had my back. By this, I mean, that most of my professional development, the training I received at my school, in my district and at the state level, was in support of writing excellence. As a result, I knew the best of what students could do in their senior year. I've had to adapt my expectations through understanding NYS's Regents program, Connecticut's CMTs, and now the nation's Common Core. The standards may look good on paper, but writing has definitely fallen to the wayside.

Yesterday, reading the portfolios I did - hearing the voices, seeing the analysis, connecting to the creativity, and acting in awe of the voice - miss my KY days. Every spring, I coached the senior class for their own assessment (there, by the state at the time) and all my juniors for the district evaluation. In my preparation, I had to get all my colleagues ready to score, too, as I wasn't allowed to give an evaluation of my own students. The entire experience was heavy for many of us, but so rewarding in the end. I would put a KY senior from that time against any senior in CT or NY (two states stereotypically celebrated for excellence over a state like KY). Of course, those days are gone and there's no longer a portfolio process.

Bottom line is this: I have nothing but positive things to stay about the tradition that continues to exist in Redding, CT. There's a story there about how they've maintained it, and I imagine that schools across the nation could learn from them. I've said it once, and I will say it again, "This school offers the best writing instruction in Connecticut." Why? Because they have an entire infrastructure to support it!"

The evidence from the portfolios I've read are all I need. I don't see students in other schools writing at this level or in the variety of genres they expect.

I leave the school missing my KY days. That's how I know it is magic.

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