Thursday, February 21, 2008

Butt Wut About The Childrens?

I briefly mentioned "JeffersonMSlbadwritersGate" earlier today (irritating viewing of ancient Journal sports ad required), but did not anticipate the shocking news that 6th graders can't write well would eclipse Obama/Clinton, McCain/Shady Lobbyist Lady, and Burning American Embassy/Serbs in news coverage, at least in Albuquerque.

Having returned home from a day spent in the cesspool of inadequate editing that is Jefferson Middle School, I now see a highly commented thread of indignant folks over at DukeCityFix, an updated "story" from KOAT-TV featuring quotes from aghast parents, and the following email response from equally aghast, bothered and bewildered Superintendent-in-Waiting Linda Sink:

February 21, 2008

Dear APS Community Member,

I was troubled by a page of letters from middle school students that was published in the Albuquerque Journal yesterday. Their content didn't bother me; indeed, we ultimately want our students to be able to think critically and express themselves. What I found unsettling is that the letters appeared to be in "first draft" form.

We need to set the expectation by showing our students examples of strong writing and working with them to improve. The final draft must exhibit their best effort of reaching the standard for writing expected at their grade level. They will be carried by the confidence that comes from knowing they have done the job well.

Teachers are expected to oversee and, where necessary, correct students' work before publication. When students engage in a writing exercise such as writing letters to the editor, in order for it to be a truly valuable learning experience, the writing process must be followed to its completion with a first draft, followed by review and proofreading, followed by a second draft with perhaps more editing, and finally, production of a final draft for publication.

Linda Sink, Interim Superintendent
Albuquerque Public Schools

We also have unconfirmed reports of the U.S. Military moving to Defcon-1, millions fleeing to underground bunkers, the grounding of all commercial airplane traffic, and closure of the interstate highway system nationwide in response to these ineloquent middle schoolers and their atrocious spelling/grammar.

President Bush is planning to address a worried nation on the subject later tonight. Stay in your homes. Repeat: stay in your homes.
Citizens are urged to monitor local civil defense broadcasts for further instructions on dealing with this urgent grammatical/syntactical crisis. Not to mention the spelling. Oy vey! The spelling!!!!

P.S.: I just noticed Superintendent-in-Waiting Linda Sink needs some remediation help with her use of commas. Or maybe her email's poor use of multi-comma sentences is, in itself, a profound teaching statement on the power of the editing process.

As demonstration of this, let's use one of her sentences and plug it into a standardized test question format:

Question 1: In the unwieldy sentence...

"When students engage in a writing exercise such as writing letters to the editor, in order for it to be a truly valuable learning experience, the writing process must be followed to its completion with a first draft, followed by review and proofreading, followed by a second draft with perhaps more editing, and finally, production of a final draft for publication."

should the sentence be corrected to read:

A. "...more editing, and, finally, production...."
B. " a writing exercise, such as writing letters to the editor,...."
C. Both A and B
D. The unwieldy sentence is, just that, unwieldy, but needs no correction.
E. None of the Above, as there are just too many damn commas in that sentence as it is.

Answer: You tell me.


Evan said...

That is more than a little disconcerting. However, I don't think the solution to either problem - the problem of dropping test scores or the problem of kids not knowing how to write coherent sentences - lies in remedial classes. Perhaps we should examine the people who actually teach these kids Sexuality, Self-Esteem, and Socialism- I mean, 'Riting, Reading and 'Rithmetic. A teacher I had last semester (I won't mention names) didn't even know basic capitalization rules; how can she be expected to teach them to us?

Anonymous said...

For years I've noticed the 3 Rs are a thing of the past.
Elementary school is all about math and reading. Kids are writing, but most teachers aren't correcting it or teaching it. I was told they are trying not to discourage their writing. Science and social studies is left for "if they have time" after playing/teaching Everyday Math games and reading, reading, reading.
I wasn't shocked at all by these letters to the newspaper. Linda Sink seems to think that kids should know better than to send a rough draft. I'm guessing some kids don't even know what "rough draft" means.

ched macquigg said...

"I was told they are trying not to discourage their writing"

It is a very old argument. It began the decline in holding students to reasonable performance standards.

If student egos are really "crushed" by pointing out their grammatical errors; we have a bigger problem than their grammatical errors.

And finally,

"appeared to be in "first draft" form."
We probably shouldn't overlook the possibility that they were in fact, final drafts.

Anonymous said...

Let's consider, for a moment, that like ched suggested, the letters were in final draft form. a brilliant move by the students and teacher (?) to get attention focused on the craziness of remedial classes. hmm... i wonder who the brilliant teacher is who emailed the letters to the journal. maybe s/he will have an audience with the superintendent-in-waiting?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like someone pushed the send button instead of the save button and the journal jumped on it while the super in waiting stirred the tempest in a teapot.

Anonymous said...

I read all of those letters and I think they speak for themselves. Linda Sink's reaction is fair warning that we are in for a continuation of education Everitt style with a Supt. Sink. Her "draft" argument doesn't explain why the same word appears with a different spelling in the same letter.

history said...

The students deserve an "A" for their ideas, since that was probably the assignment's original intent, with a "good job!" thrown in for getting their work published and "awesome!" for knowing their audience. Way to go Jefferson MS. teacher for teaching your students how to communicate effectively. Frannyzoo deserves an "A" for putting this whole thing into perspective.

Anonymous said...

"Childrens is learning!" George W. Bush.
'nough said?

Anonymous said...

Should Albuquerque Public Schools search within the district for its next superintendent?
Thanks for your vote.

Yes, I'd prefer candidates with institutional knowledge. 33% 19 votes
No, I'd prefer candidates with outside experience. 66% 38 votes
57 total votes

Anonymous said...

My eldest son attends JMS and is in 6th grade. His favorite subject is Science, yet his favorite class is David Whaler's Social Studies class. I cannot speak for David or why the letters were sent. I can tell you that David is an exceptional teacher. Critical thinking is key to success in today's workplace and rarely taught in our schools. David pushes his students to question consensus and formulate their own opinions. Spelling and grammar aside, David is part of the solution to our educational system.

ched macquigg said...

Please forgive the back door email.
Please take a look at this post.

I would like to know if there are students at Jefferson Middle School who sag regularly.

Thank you for your time and attention.


Anonymous said...

Funny that the Journal today (2/23) discusses the "shock" or some other code word for racism, that the letters came from Jefferson--a school which usually makes AYP and, unspoken in the article, is predominantly white and native English speaking students.

So, would Sink and the other APS "officials" actually give a shit if the letters came from a school, which is, say, predominantly populated with students of color? Or, populated with high numbers of students who speak English as a second language? What would the conversation be like then? What kinds of crappy excuses would be provided to the public?

Anonymous said...

Author Anonymous

1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
32. Who needs rhetorical questions?
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
And finally...
34. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.