Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Anthony Capps Interview Response

cartoon about standardized testing

Great question choice! ;) As I was listening to the interview, I found myself agreeing with most of what Mr. Capps was saying, but there was one thing he said that alarmed me. Before I get into that, I'd like to commend Mr. Capps for being a pioneer in his school with the PBL method. I think it's a great way to engage students and to get them learning and using technology in meaningful ways.

I don't feel really comfortable expressing opinions about PBL because I have had no formal training or experience teaching with this method, but I do see a lot of benefits to it and am very interested in learning more about it. 

Mr. Capps' answers to the questions asked were very informative and well thought out. I especially liked his response about making the connection between "not responsive students" and assigning material that was overwhelming to them. Often times, this is why students misbehave in class or shutdown. I also liked the "video pal" program that helps foster the development of a second language. Wow! That will definitely have an impact on the community and the world! Lastly, I liked that he stated the need to, "set up a community of learners." I believe this is crucial in any classroom. Students need to be taught that they are on the same team and that helping one another is beneficial to everyone. 

Now, here's my problem with the interview. I don't blame Mr. Capps for his thinking because this is the way our education system is currently designed, and, I think partly to blame, why we as a nation are falling behind in educational rankings (which I'm not sure is a fair and totally accurate representation of what's actually going on). Be Glad for Our Failure to Catch Up With China in Education.  We aren't comparing apples to apples with these tests. Our students are being educated in completely different environments in some cases.

Mr. Capps said, "Some students can handle a really open question, and they just wanna go dig, dig, dig, dig. And they know exactly how to dig, but those students aren't the ones that you really need to teach anyway."  

"Those students," are probably the brightest in the class! And, yes, they do need to be taught just as much as the student with learning disabilities. This is why I despise standardized testing. Standardized testing leads to an overemphasis on test scores and not the children. Our brightest kids are sitting in classes whizzing through assignments and basically being left to educate themselves while teachers are hyper-focused on the group of students whose scores need to be raised in order to meet the state standard. If we paid half the attention to our brightest kids that we give to the underperforming students, where would that get us? Hmmm.... No one wants to talk about it because that would be politically incorrect and "no child left behind" is/was our motto. Well, some children aren't getting "left behind", but they are certainly getting "left out" because they got it a week ago the first time the teacher said it.

Not all children learn at the same pace just like not all babies learn to sit-up, crawl, or walk at the same pace. We all mature and learn at different rates and trying to force little brains to master a skill that they are just not developmentally ready for isn't doing anyone any good. Meanwhile, star student, is sitting over there starving for the next lesson to be taught because he/she has already mastered the current standard. I don't have all the answers to the problems, but I do know we have to start making our brightest students a priority as well. They deserve just as much of our attention as the students who are struggling.

Standardized testing is doing nothing for our educational system. We need tests that show the growth of the individual student. A test that can show the achievements made over the course of the school year. Many students make huge strides in a school year and still fail to meet state testing standards. How defeating is that? Instead of being upset over not meeting a rigid standard set by the state, we should be celebrating with the little person all the accomplishments that he/she made in the school year! Encouragement, in this way, will lead to a better attitude toward learning and a stronger desire to learn which will ultimately lead to more productive members of society. Isn't that the goal anyway?

"What are the things you have learned from watching this video?" I learned that our educational system is still in need of a major overhaul, and teachers like Mr. Capps are out there trying new ways of doing things. But it's not enough. We need to make bigger changes; meaningful changes that will affect the growth of students in a positive way.

Interview with Anthony Capps


  1. Hi Chea! I agree with you about the brighter students. I heard Mr. Capps make the comment and I was shocked. As a parent of two children who will be entering the school system in a few years, I don't like to hear that my probably brighter children don't need to be taught. I also don't have an answer other than maybe the brighter children can help the others. This also reminds me that a child's education should not solely depend on their school teachers. A child has to be educated at home as well as at school, and parents must be involved if they want their children to succeed.

    1. Sarah, my son will be entering kindergarten this year, and I am truly concerned to the point that I have considered home schooling him. I want him to be challenged just the same as the struggling students. I agree with your points about peer tutoring and parents being involved, but, in my opinion, more needs to be done to meet the needs of our brightest students.

      As a teacher, I often felt I wasn't able to meet the demands of teaching such a wide range of abilities in one room. I constantly felt like I was neglecting one group or another, and a tremendous amount of guilt came along with that. Hopefully, if I return to the classroom, I will find some advancement in technology that will help me truly challenge and keep all students actively engaged.

  2. "Meanwhile, star student, is sitting over there starving for the next lesson to be taught because he/she has already mastered the current standard." Not in Anthony's class. they are always involved in their own learning. What Anthony meant is that you do not have to teach some students how to learn or to want to learn. They eagerly do it as long as the opportunity is there which he makes sure that the opportunity is always there.

    What are the "bigger changes" we need? I have a good friend who was VP of the MacArthur Foundation whose position was we must wait for the whole educational system to crumble before we can correct the problems. Is that your position? I think Dr. lee has a better than 50% chance to create a much better world in Baldwin County. What are the major stumbling blocks? Entrenched teachers, with entrenched attitudes, some parents, and far too many politicians. If change happens and we address many of the current problems it will be the Lees and the the Anthonys of the world will be largely responsible.

    Thoughtful. Interesting.

  3. Dr. Strange, thank you for taking the time to read my post and for leaving such a thoughtful comment.

    I have so many ideas on what I think should be done, but I do not feel comfortable publishing them on this platform. I need to research, find supporting studies, and refine my thoughts before I publicly share them. However, I would like to have a discussion with you about some of them and maybe you can help by pointing me in a direction to get some things changed. I'm very passionate about children and their education. I have been observing the teaching and learning process my whole life and taking mental notes on what I think does and doesn't work.

    I can say that I do NOT think we should wait for the whole system to crumble. Although, sometimes, as in life, real changes don't take place until everything does crumble, but we can't afford to wait idly by and fail the students who are currently in this system. They are worth our efforts!

    I like what I'm reading in TEACHING DIGITAL NATIVES, and the information in it has sparked new excitement in me! I would really like to observe in a classroom where this type of "partnering" and learning are taking place. I truly think new approaches like this are part of the answer to our problem. So far this has been my favorite quote from the book, "We are all learners, we are all teachers!" Wow!!! What an amazing and true statement! I love it!

  4. To clarify, I admire the work that Mr. Capps and Dr. Lee are doing. I feel that, with some changes to our current system, their hard work and efforts could be a lot more effective and produce even better results! Unfortunately, their efforts are confined to producing results within the parameters of our current system.

  5. Chea,
    While I agree that the "brighter students" need to be taught as well, I also believe they have a role in helping their fellow students achieve. In a community learning environment, all students and teachers are responsible for the success of all. This means that the "brighter student" needs to help their fellow students become successful. I realize that some may say that this isn't their responsibility but they can't move ahead until the other student is on board (as it stands today). So, isn't it their responsibility? I believe all students should have the same opportunity for success and just because they don't learn as fast as another student does not mean that they should be left behind. This also does not mean that the fast learner should be slowed down because they are learning so quickly. This is where PBL and group work will benefit all. So, let's come to a (which to me is a no-brainer) better compromise where everyone will benefit. It is truly best for all.

    1. Ramsey,
      I haven't been in the classroom in 5 years now, so I am sure that a lot has changed in the advancements of technology. I think the purchase of a device for each individual student in Baldwin County was one of the best investments the county has ever made. After reading Teaching Digital Natives and knowing I will have the technology available to fully implement "partnering," I feel much more optimistic about being able to keep all my students engaged.
      Thank you for your comment.

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  7. I am the mother of a gifted child, and actually taught gifted students for about four and a half years. What I have learned over the last 20 years is our educational system, by and large, takes these students for grated in more ways than one. One of the most disheartening things I ever witnessed was during spring standardized testing weeks when the counselors and administrators would make special efforts to ensure the "gifted" students didn't miss any testing dates, so much so they would go to their homes and pick them up if they were absent, or encourage them to come to school even if they didn't feel well, and tell them they could check out when the test was over. I am not making this up. Additionally, I saw so many gifted students with social, and emotional needs, but because they were "gifted" or because they didn't cause disruptions in the classrooms, many times those students' needs were pushed to the back burner because teachers and counselors were so busy trying to deal with students who were behavior problems or failing classes. On top of these student observations, I am also a parent to a gifted child. He is a junior in high school, and this year he has gotten very frustrated with teachers doing a poor job managing the class, or a poor job challenging him beyond the regular curriculum. In fact, he has begged me to home school him his senior year for those reasons because he feels like he's wasting his time. I met with the headmaster just this afternoon to discuss our concerns, and we have decided Tyler will take independent study and dual enrollment classes his senior year so he can accelerate at his own speed. Thankfully, he is at a private school where we do have some flexibility in helping make those decisions, however, the norm in public schools often times is to feel the brighter students will be OK because they're going to "get it" anyway.

    Thank you for making your comments known, and without an open, candid discussion about how to reform education for not only those who are falling behind, but for those who already excel, things will continue to be stagnant with regard to our "brighter students".

    1. Angel,
      I hope everything works out for the best with your son, and I have also witnessed many of the things that you mentioned in your comment, even the part about making sure gifted students were present to take standardized tests. Have we no shame? That's just one of the ugly things that over emphasis on test scores has lead to.
      I also taught gifted students when I was a teacher in Texas. These students were placed in a class of their own giving them the freedom to move at a faster pace and work on more advanced assignments without the fear of leaving others behind. Classes in high school are designed this way. You have more highly skilled students who will pursue an advanced diploma taking advanced classes. Why isn't that system good enough for our younger students? How far could they go if we put them on an advanced track earlier?

  8. Lets talk. Call me and we can work out a time - after my semester is over. I would like to hear your thoughts about Mobile County.

    What a great set of comments!