"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bubble Fillers or Thinkers? Izzo Knows

We now need 4 million more Marguerite Izzos:
April 26, 2007, 9:52 PM EDT

WASHINGTON -- New York State's Teacher of the Year, a fifth-grade instructor at a Malverne school, was honored by President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony Thursday, as her union got ready to lobby Congress on changes to Bush's flagship education policy.

The teacher, Marguerite Izzo, 52, said after the ceremony that she was less than enthusiastic about the testing requirements imposed by Bush's No Child Left Behind Act.

"I don't think we want a nation of bubble-fillers," she said. "We want a nation of thinkers."

Bush praised award-winning teachers from across the United States as "some really fine public servants and great Americans" before urging the reauthorization of the act, which he first signed in 2002.

Bush said the law, which tracks student performance through standardized tests and imposes sanctions on poorly performing schools, was working. "Measurement is not a tool to punish," he said. "Measurement is a tool to correct and reward."

The law rates Izzo's school, Howard T. Herber Middle School, as successful, but Izzo said she would rather see fewer tests, with students assessed through individual work portfolios.

Her students are tested on social studies in November, on language arts in January and on math in March. "One snapshot of a child, one standardized test, doesn't tell us how that child has progressed from September to June," she said.

Her union, New York State United Teachers, is calling for changes in the law to "acknowledge different rates of student learning."

Still, Izzo said, it's "possible to keep the magic" in teaching. She credited her school district with helping her find creative ideas that also meet testing requirements. She said she taught about branches of government by having students move into different corners of the room representing legislative, executive and judicial branches. They learned a song to explain nouns and verbs.

And after research on Michelangelo, paper and art supplies were put under students' desks where they lay on their backs, replicating Michelangelo's painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. "We're so busy teaching reading and writing that we sometimes leave out the arts," she said. "These are the magic moments that they'll never forget."

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