Progressive educator and Brown department head Ted Sizer is surely cheering from the grave. Last week, a Providence schoolteacher named Stephen Round, fed up with teaching students how to take tests, quit his 13-year position as a 2nd grade teacher. Unable to read his resignation at a committee meeting, Round did what any relatively hip middle-aged teacher would do and posted a video of himself reading the letter on the YouTube. While a middle finger might have sufficed, Round’s condemnation of the “demeaning education” provided for students in Providence Public Schools is a more eloquent, and more brutally honest, alternative.
Round, depicting the lack of “enjoyment” in daily classroom life, describes a dystopian learning environment that seems more like something out of Orwell than a classroom in the same city as our beloved Brown. Students never socialized, recess was a privilege, and teaching focused on standardized testing rather than developing students’ interest in subject matter. The school’s culture of adhering to curriculum standards at the policy level had robbed Round’s students of all valuable education, and as a teacher he could literally do nothing to intervene. Moreover, Round claims that educational higher-ups forced him to stop offering additional reading support for dyslexic students simply because it was outside of the curriculum.
Such a “one-size-fits-all” education was exactly what Ted Sizer hoped to eradicate at the high school level by starting his Coalition of Essential Schools in 1984. In a final FU to Providence schools, the teacher claims he’ll be leaving his well-paid position to tutor for free in Connecticut. Many, including plenty of Brown students, will talk about how test-focused curricula are ludicrous, but Round’s simple and bold actions, which have since found national coverage on Gawker (yes, it’s Gawker…but still), have potential to move the issue forward.