Gary recently published a new children’s book, “The Cat Burglars.” Congratulations, Gary! Here, Gary talks about teaching in his own words: “Teaching is a second career for me after starting out in the marketing research field. I actually wanted to be a teacher for a long time before I actually went back to school. I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to teach. I had done a lot of mentoring and training as a marketing researcher, and had taught economics on an adjunct basis at the community college. My wife was an elementary school teacher and I saw how she was affecting the lives of kids every day and making a positive impact and difference. Being a 3rd degree black belt in the martial arts, I had an opportunity to teach my art to kids, some as young as 5 years old. I fell in love with teaching them and helping them learn. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be an elementary school teacher. With the help and encouragement from my wife, who always told me that I had natural teaching ability, it became a reality and there’s been no turning back. My wife was truly my inspiration. I only regret that I didn’t do it sooner.”
“I teach because I want to instill a love of learning in my students! I believe that you need to put the time into getting to know every single child,” says Jessica. “Making a connection with them will help motivate them and let them know how special they are. I like to think of my classroom as a little family. We are here for each other. Once the kids start to feel comfortable, they will open up and become more motivated to grow and learn. Every child is important and they need to feel that!”
For this #TeacherTuesday, we are focusing on Ray Riley, a health and physical education teacher at Warwick Elementary School and member of the Central Bucks Education Association. Teaching is Ray’s second career – he worked as a television journalist for almost a decade, which he enjoyed, but it never felt like a calling. He decided to do something meaningful with his career and turned to teaching. The moment he stepped in front of his first class, he says, “I knew I was in the right place. Even more so now almost 10 years later seeing some of those kids graduating college and starting successful lives is just awesome.” Ray is quick, though, to credit his colleagues. “I’m always leaning on and learning from other teachers in my building and in the profession. I think what my students get from me is what they get from every teacher I know. We all care very deeply for our students and their well-being. We all try our best to make lessons fun and engaging. What they get from me is a teacher who tries real hard to make their experience in my class the best it can possibly be.”
For #TeacherTuesday we’re highlighting Janine Briggs, a member of the Spring-Ford Education Association. In her free time, she works closely with Mostly Muttz Rescue. Last year, with the help of some of her students, she started the Animal Rescue Club. The club builds community relationships with various rescues and brings volunteer opportunities to her students. “We’re hoping to have more students join in the fun and help us support our community with many new volunteer projects!”
Today is #TeacherTuesday! We’re highlighting Jen McAndrew, a special education teacher and member of Pennsbury Education Association who recently completed dyslexia training to help instruct her students. “I felt there were many students I was unable to help. Now that I have this certificate, I have seen tremendous gains in my students’ reading levels. Approximately 20% of the population is dyslexic, and approximately 85% of students receiving special education services in reading and writing are dyslexic. I look forward to using my training to help these students become better readers and writers.”
This week’s #TeacherTuesday highlights the third grade co-teaching team of Jacquey Tofani and Patty Werdt of North Wales Elementary School who are members of the North Penn Education Association! Their co-teaching experience allowed them to collaborate and find the most effective strategies and methods to meet a wide range of needs in their classroom. Jacquey explained, “Our students benefited from small group instruction during almost every lesson, and grew into an incredible community of learners.”
This #TeacherTuesday, we’re shining a spotlight on these five educators, all members of the Central Bucks Education Association, who attended the Philadelphia Educator Summit in early July. They spent time learning about students’ curiosity, how to launch a culture of kindness and growth mindsets. Shoutout to Mary McDonald, Lisa Mancini, Catherine Mooradd, Mike London, and Matt Freed for dedicating a portion of their summer to this important work.
It’s #TeacherTuesday! And we’re highlighting Mindy Rubinlicht from Hatboro-Horsham School District. Mindy recently visited NYC for a Broadway Teaching Workshop. There, she explored collaborative outlets for students who may not fall into the “musical theatre world.” She attended 4 shows, 10 professional development sessions and is heading into the next school year with many new skills to share with her students.
This week’s #TeacherTuesday highlights Andrea Roney, an English & Drama teacher from North Penn High School! Andrea also leads the NPHS Thespian Troupe. Andrea’s shift to teaching came after a career in professional theatre. She says, “Working with high school students daily is a blessing and a joy.” She loves to see students make discoveries about themselves through her lessons in the classroom.
Nominate a teacher you know in the comments to be featured for #TeacherTuesday!
In a special report released last week, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the commonwealth’s taxpayers are unnecessarily spending millions of dollars every year on the Keystone Exams, which have not been required since 2015, when the federal No Child Left Behind Law was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act. “Pennsylvania should aggressively explore using a nationally recognized test that can open new doors for students rather than continuing to spend money on an exam that is no longer required,” the auditor general said. “For less than what Pennsylvania spends on the Keystone Exams, it could instead pick up the tab for every high school student to take the PSAT or SAT.” He suggested the ACT as another option.
DePasquale has been an effective and energetic auditor general, rooting out wasteful spending in state-funded entities — including school districts — across the commonwealth.
But he’s not an educator. Educators — not politicians — should figure out what secondary-level standardized test is employed in Pennsylvania.
DePasquale is absolutely right, though, to call for transparency from the Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding its contracts with Data Recognition Corp., the Minnesota-based company that developed, administers and scores the Keystone Exam.
The Keystone Exam has been something of a boondoggle.
Originally, the exam was intended by lawmakers as a graduation requirement — the thinking being that students should prove they had mastered certain skills before getting their diplomas.
But educators including Solanco Superintendent Brian Bliss pointed out that the graduation requirement was a logistical nightmare for students trying to complete career and technical training. And some students simply don’t fare well on standardized tests.
So the graduation requirement first was delayed and then scrapped entirely by lawmakers, who approved alternative measures of graduation readiness — a move we welcomed.
Nevertheless, as DePasquale’s report points out, the state education department continues to pay Data Recognition Corp. tens of millions of dollars to administer Keystone Exams.
“Between 2015 and 2021, Pennsylvania will have spent nearly $100 million on the Keystone Exams” and associated pre-testing tools, the report states.
That math makes no sense to us.
Why pay such an exorbitant sum to a company for a state-specific test that’s no longer required?
We’ve long argued against the disproportionate place that standardized testing has come to occupy in public education. In our view, and that of many parents, the imperative to teach to the test had squeezed out subjects such as music, art and history.
Now, it may be time to replace the Keystone Exam. But probably not, as DePasquale suggested, with the SAT or ACT, standardized tests that measure students’ aptitude for college.
The auditor general’s report says that at least 12 other states now use the SAT or ACT to meet the federal requirement of administering some secondary school exam.
“Research has shown that having all students take the SAT or ACT increases the rate at which students attend post-secondary education of some kind, particularly lower-income students who might not otherwise realize they could fare well in college,” the report maintains.
That may be true. But even colleges are moving away from the SAT and the ACT.
As the digital media company Inside Higher Ed reported in June, there’s been a surge in recent months “in the number of colleges dropping requirements that applicants submit SAT or ACT scores.” This trend is born out of the recognition that a student’s potential cannot always be captured in a standardized test. And that a student’s future shouldn’t be waylaid by his or her performance on a single, one-size-fits-all exam.
Which is not to say that standardized testing should be eliminated completely. As we wrote in April 2018, “We believe it can serve to alert school officials to struggling students — and teachers.”
Replacing the Keystone Exam with the SAT — even at an estimated saving of at least $1 million a year — strikes us as a bad idea, though we’d defer to educators on this.
Bob Hollister, superintendent of the Eastern Lancaster County School District, said he agrees with DePasquale “that the Keystone Exams need replacing and that there is likely a more cost-efficient state testing system to be found.”
But “requiring all students to take a test specifically designed as a predictor of college success makes no educational sense whatsoever,” he added.
Hollister likened it to a future nurse taking an entrance exam for a welding program.
Penn Manor Superintendent Mike Leichliter said switching tests could be destructive to classroom instruction already geared toward the Keystones.
“Our schools, students and teachers need a reliable statewide exam that will stand the test of time and will not be subject to a change in the political climate of the moment,” Leichliter said.
Bliss expressed the hope that “we will see increased stability regarding testing and graduation requirements moving forward.”
The Keystone Exam has been anything but stable. It went from being a proposed graduation requirement to a delayed graduation requirement to one option among graduation requirements. Whole classes of students were caught up in the mess, as lawmakers tried to figure it out.
The task of what should replace it — if anything should — now must be left to educators, not politicians, DePasquale included.
And at least one politician agrees: State Sen. Ryan Aument, of Mount Joy, tweeted last week that Leichliter, Hollister and Bliss “are exactly right. Elected leaders in Harrisburg would do well to listen to them.”