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Until the Last Day

Donnie Dicus Assessment, Education, Education Policy, Elementary, Life in the Classroom

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Every year, there is a point in which I think, “I have done everything I can for my students. I don’t know what else to do?!” This usually occurs during the weeks after our standardized test. I teach third grade in Arizona, and the law states that third graders must pass the state reading test or they’ll be held back. Knowing this, I make sure that my students are prepared for the test. I make sure that I cover every educational standard required for my grade level. This requires a few weeks of intense cramming prior to the test. I know this is not effective teaching and I despise the idea of teaching to the test. But there is no time to cover every standard to a level of mastery which I would like to do. I once read that most students need 20-30 opportunities practicing a skill before they master it. I struggle to give my students 10 opportunities some years. It’s really easy for teachers to feel defeated at this time of year. Test data is beginning to role out. Our state has a 43% passing rate on the ELA standardized test and my district has a 23%. Those numbers are incredibly discouraging!
However, I still have several weeks with my students. Even though I feel defeated and worn out, I have learned over the years that these weeks after standardized testing are some of the best weeks of the year. Once standardized testing is done, most districts relax on strict schedules. Teachers are no longer expected to cram content all day long. Students are no longer pulled for intervention groups. Teachers are allowed a little more freedom in choosing what they teach and what time of day they teach it. This includes selecting a book that students are highly interested in. This year, my students are reading Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. They love curling up around the room to read the next chapter! And they are much more engaged when we have discussions about what they read.
These last few weeks are so special because my students have one last opportunity to display how much they have developed in my classroom. I need to make sure that I am present enough to see that. My students have worked so hard this year. They deserve the best education they can get. This requires that no matter how I feel, I MUST keep doing the best I can for them until the very last day.

 

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master's Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center. I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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  • Mike Vargas

    Donnie, I only wish my kids could have you as a teacher. The fact you are still standing with those young pups, I take my hat off to you.. What you do for kids matters. What you do to keep our profession strong matters even more. Thank you for being a teacher to the last day of school

  • http://www.leadfromINtheclassroom.com/ Jess Ledbetter

    Way to make every day count! :) It’s so sad when fear-based, high stakes testing influences the culture we can create in our classrooms every day.

  • Angela Buzan

    Thing is, we all do a bit of cramming before those tests because the reality is prep for standardize exams doesn’t look like authentic application. Essentially, we have to translate real world stuff into Pearson stuff.