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TWOS By Debbie Franks

  At every faculty meeting we discuss: how to get the Twos to Three? That’s what it comes down to in AYP. We hardly even whisper any more: it’s all a bunch of crap. It’s meaningless. By 2014 every public school in the country will have Failed, not having moved a large enough percentage (100) of Twos to Threes, of “nearly proficients” to “proficients.”

Proficient at what? Why? For how long? Compared to whom? Stop asking! We teach the steps to Critical Thinking Skills, One-Two-Three-Four, but we’re not meant to practice them: just do your job, moving Twos to Threes, so that we can achieve our AYP. No, of course we don’t teach the test, we teach to the test. This we must do, it has somewhere somehow been agreed.

That AYP drives (should drive!) curriculum, drives Education, drives every choice and word and assessment, so every day, as you plan what to do, you must be able to show: what have you done for those Twos? One block of time at a time, each day, you hand your students a block, and you work with them until they have “mastered” it. Students build with their blocks each day, and before you know it, you will have raised the Twos higher, expanded their foundation, to prop them up so they can reach: Three! The Fours can fend for themselves, no help to AYP, so—well, we have no time to discuss them. The low Threes? A little shoring up: make them master those blocks again, for practice, to widen that block foundation. In English class? Be able to find that Theme and Rhyme Scheme, support that Thesis, three points to support, three to persuade, Restate: the formula for moving Two to Three, to improving AYP. Push so they will plod; condense and nudge so they will grasp and place that block; and those who move from Two to Three, reward! A gift card? An assembly? What reason can we give them for learning, could there possibly be, to insure more Threes?

But there’s a teacher who offers skeins of color with no specific ends: a twist of a poem to ponder without conclusion, until the hundredth reading and one dark day by a river to bring the meaning into the light. An old tale that troubles the heart, or prompts forgiveness, or just an unmeasureable shiver. An essay that persuades, by countering one argument with a million, or a million with one shining Reason. A formula that must be drilled, manipulated, recalled, and applied, until the moment it sends stars skidding off in vectors, and suddenly all the other formulas fall into place. A challenge that must be struggled with, cursed, prevailed upon, and triumphed over, every bit of hard-won understanding and disciplined conformity and brilliant alchemy required to succeed. This teacher’s lessons don’t look like blocks, but like a yearning brain, synapses and dendrites grasping for each other in patterns unique to each student, reinforced and multiplied and pruned and expressed, more like a mosaic if they are blocks, more like a tapestry if threads and yarns, no Two ever alike. With her, some Twos glide into Threedom without noticing; some petulant, perpetual Ones find Reason, nonetheless, to search and to speak. And here and there a Four learns to be unsatisfied, deciding: here I go, here I am, in a strange and wonderful, awful world, and she snorts at the barren numerals, plunging into unmeasured Life!

This teacher is a Two. This teacher has not mastered the daily building of simple blocks. This teacher, it seems, did not care enough about moving Twos to Threes! This, then, must be why all the schools are failing, why fewer every year reach AYP, why more and more children hate school, cringe at tests, or tolerate boredom and shiny gifts and the building of blocks all day, smiling simply as they await the promised rewards for having shifted from Two to Three. Or else they say goodbye to school forever: refusing to invest another single day in simple addition. We must drive out these teachers who fail to join the ranks of calculated block-building, replace them with others unquestioningly driven, passionate and boundless in their smiles and energy, to change the Twos to Threes.


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